After 12 years of expanding wireless bills and misleading contracts being slung by overzealous sales people, I decided to cut the cord with big red and head out on a new venture with the world’s most popular search engine. I’ve signed up with Google’s currently invitation-only, no-contract network phone service, Project Fi. At this point you’re saying to yourself, “Wait…what?! A search engine is now a mobile carrier?!” Yup, and a military robotics contractor, AI developer, drone designer, home automation company, and many other interesting entities. But for now, I’ll only be discussing Project Fi (unless I can get my hands on one of those four-legged, hill climbing, death robots…).
Google’s Project Fi relies mostly on WiFi for calls, text, and data. However, when WiFi is not available, the phone will automatically switch over to either Sprint or T-Mobile’s network. This requires a special SIM card that only works with Motorola’s stock-Android-running Nexus 6. Let me start here, you have a few options for acquiring the Nexus 6:
– You already own it through another carrier
– Buy it from Motorola, Google, or other retailer
– Purchase it during the Project Fi sign-up by paying in full, or if your credit is good enough, by making payments that will be added to your monthly bill
I decided to pay for mine in full, in part because I am sick of paying monthly for a phone that will be outdated in 2 weeks, and if I decided to walk away from Project Fi, the phone is mine without a hefty bill at the time of cancellation. If you buy the phone from Google, you receive a ‘Welcome Kit’. This kit includes, a USB 6000mAh battery pack (great for Ingress), a white Project Fi embossed phone case, and a pair of Project Fi branded ear buds with a built in splitter so that your friends can listen. If you are just switching SIM cards, the kit is well worth the $30 investment. So far, my only issue is with the white phone case as it is starting to take on a very noticeable rust color where it comes in contact with most surfaces. This is very off-putting as I’m sure most people assume I have filthy hands from touching red clay, or something worse. Also, this is not something I would expect from only 12 days of use.
The Project Fi plans are simple. $20USD for unlimited talk/text and $10USD per gigabyte of data plus taxes/fees. Mine comes out to roughly $46USD since I opted for only 2GB of data.
Now it is time for me to back up a bit. Probably one of my biggest concerns of joining Project Fi was going back to Android. I’ve only owned 2 other Android devices, the HTC Incredible and the original Nexus 7, however, I’ve had plenty of experience with Samsung, LG, and Motorola’s flavors. My experience with HTC Sense (HTC’s version of Android) was subpar, it was slow, not nearly as intuitive as they advertise, and pretty boring. That’s when I jumped ship and joined the S.S. iPhone, which was then followed by my wonderful Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone 8. My 2012 Nexus 7 with its stock Android, on the other hand, was a much better dish than any other Android entrée I had tried. It was light, fast, and it felt like a match of hardware to software made in heaven, that is, until it slowed to a near-dead stop. The tablet is practically unusable now (5 minute boot time, anyone?).
Whether you love it or hate it, Apple’s iOS has been one of the most rock solid operating systems known to modern technology, but for me, it got boring. That’s when the sexy Windows Phone 8 stole my attention, and honestly, I’d still be a user had it not been for my Lumia 928’s untimely death and too-long-of-a-wait for a Windows Phone 10 replacement. Seriously though, Microsoft nailed it with their mobile OS and how it syncs with your Windows desktop. Oh, and Cortana? The best OS assistant of the bunch (even if Bing is it’s search engine of choice). On the other hand, Microsoft, your delay in joining the race for mobile domination will probably have you joining BlackBerry very shortly (some will argue that you already have). Now for my latest Android experience…
…the giant (5.9″ screen!!) Nexus 6. It’s a gorgeous phone with its sleek, contoured, slim back and thin side bezels. The Nexus 6 is one of the only phones to have more height at the top of the phone than at the bottom, but it works well aesthetically speaking. Keep in mind, this phone is not for someone with small hands. I have average sized palms with long fingers and thumbs and even for me it is difficult to do some minor tasks, however, I have managed to text with only one hand. The huge 5.9″, QHD (1440p vs HD’s 1080p) screen is gorgeous. Vibrant colors and no-viewable pixel screen is as sharp as they come (though, on lower brightness, the image gains a slight pink but tolerable hue). As for the sound, it offers an impressive stereo sound field from its left and right speakers (when the phone is held horizontally). I’ve never owned a mobile device with more impressive sound. Seeing as how the device is of Google’s Nexus namesake, it currently comes with Lollipop 5.1, the stock-Android variant, or more specifically speaking, the non-bloatware variant. How does it stack up against the competition? It is much better looking with its simple color palette and updated app icons than 4.* or earlier. And wow, it is FAST. App load times are in the blink of an eye for lighter apps, and only seconds for heavier apps (think GTA San Andreas’ large 3.5 GB file size). To be honest, I don’t even miss the Windows Phone environment that I swooned after or the reliable iOS world to which the sheep flock. Google has nailed it with Lollipop, especially if you experience it in its delicious vanilla flavor tied to one of its newer Nexus devices.
I’ve been using Project Fi for 12 days now, and honestly, I LOVE it…well…as much as you can love a mobile network. The fact that it technically runs on 3 different networks just makes sense. The call quality over any one of the networks is top notch. The most glaring concern for me was switching from network to network during a call, Google says this happens seamlessly. However, I’ve experienced a few slight hiccups when switching from my home network to one of the carriers, or vice versa, such as the person on the other end not hearing one or 2 words during the transition, but this is definitely tolerable and may get better with time/updates. Text messages and MMS messages work almost instantly. Web browsing and music streaming is also near instantaneous as long as you are on a good WiFi network or on LTE. Google suggests keeping the wireless setting on at all times as it will connect automatically to the nearest, free WiFi. My biggest complaint here is that it isn’t always automatic. For example, my Windows Phone would automatically connect to a business’ guest WiFi even if it required an email address and/or phone number by simply providing fake information for both. My Nexus 6 can’t even automatically agree to the terms & conditions. This may be a minor complaint, and more specifically toward Android, however, it doesn’t work quite as advertised. There have been many times that I have ended up using my data instead of the nearest WiFi. On the same note, I have dual bands setup on my home network, I have my Nexus 6 so that it should connect automatically to the 2.4ghz band, unfortunately, it will randomly try to connect to the 5ghz band for which it does not have the password, leaving me using data instead (any suggestions for remedies would be greatly appreciated). Again, this is most likely an OS issue and less of a carrier issue.
Other than that, what can I say? I am thoroughly enjoying my Nexus 6 with Lollipop. Project Fi is proving to be an up and coming AA player that, with a little refinement and more hardware choices, is ready to play in the pros.
*This post was not sponsored by Google or anyone else.
Did I miss something? Have something to add? Drop a comment! I’d love to hear from you.