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Google Fi: High-Speed International Data without the Hassle

You think you are covered with free international data as part of your phone plan, but fail to realize it's at 2G speeds, didn't read the fine print that only 0.5 GB is at high speed or come back home to find out your bill is three times what you thought it should be.  If you have international travel plans coming up, you know exactly what I mean when I say all of the voice, text and data options, add-ons and choices seem endless and reading all of the fine print can leave you dizzy.

Hopefully the information below can help you decipher the options available for you and enlighten you on a relatively newer option that most people may not be as familiar with.
After trying out my mobile carrier, T-Mobile, internationally and running into problems with slow 2G speeds and other issues with a plan I added - I decided I needed to look elsewhere!  After researching my options through my mobile carrier, T-Mobile, and considering other options from other carriers or getting a Local SIM card, I settled on Google Fi.

T-Mobile 2G Speeds Comparison (Picture captured in Costa Rica while using Google Fi)

Note that my mobile carier, T-Mobile, does offer free international coverage for data on my current plan, but it is pretty much useless internationally based on my experiences.  And while it does give you international coverage, it is the data speed I had back in the 90's as a kid using dial-up internet.

When you're in an place you haven't been to before and you're trying to pull up Google maps, reserve an Uber or use your phone like you do back home, the last thing on your mind should be how long it'll take for the information to load.  So now whenever I travel internationally, I always use Google Fi due to its simple to understand pricing and having access to the same high-speed data abroad that I am used to having here.  Since I last used Google Fi, they have added another Unlimited option, but essentially the two plans are very similar - the one that best suits you would depend on how you use your phone and the amount of data you use.

The how and why I settled on Google Fi is explained below after the comparison of T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Local SIM cards.

International Coverage Options
Before I take a look at Google Fi, it's best to explore your options for international coverage if you have T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon or plan on using a Local SIM card.

The following information below is accurate of November 2019 and while I won't go into the details or merits of each plan, it is quite easy to see which carrier offers reasonable plans and pricing for international coverage and international high speed data, but I'll leave that conclusion for you to decide upon.

Depending on your particular plan, you likely have unlimited texting and data at up to 2G speeds in 140+ countries and destinations, all at no extra cost - but have you ever tried using your phone at 2G speeds?  If not try it out and let me know how it went!

If you pay a little more, you can an International Pass added to your plan in one of three flavors:
  • International Pass: 512MB of high-speed data at up to LTE speeds and unlimited calling, to be used up to 24 hours, for $5/day.
  • 5GB International Pass: 5GB of high-speed data at up to LTE speeds and unlimited calling, to be used up to 10 days, for $35.
  • 15GB International Pass: 15GB of high-speed data at up to LTE speeds and unlimited calling, to be used up to 30 days, for $50.
If you have T-Mobile and international data speeds of 2G work for you then look no further.

AT&T has a few options for their customers as well that include:
  • International Day Pass for $10/day
    • Add it to each device before you leave for your trip and pay a daily fee of $10 (be sure to read the Terms & Conditions closely!). 
    • During the 24-hour period, use your domestic data, send unlimited texts, and make unlimited calls back to the U.S., and unlimited calls within and to all International Day Pass destinations.
  • AT&T Passport 2GB for $70 month/per device (One-time charge or recurring. Overage: $30/GB)
  • AT&T Passport 6GB for $140 month/per device (One-time charge or recurring. Overage: $30/GB)
If you already have AT&T, then the options above are somewhat okay, but the price will add up fast for data coverage, but be sure to read the terms and conditions very closely as there are a lot of limitations and speeds can vary)

Verizon has the worst options and highest prices, in my opinion, for international data coverage:
  • TravelPass
    • With TravelPass your wireless plan travels just like you do.  If you want to use your phone like you do at home with unlimited calling and texting along with 4G LTE data, TravelPass is for you. You’ll only be charged on the days you use calls, send texts or use data on your device abroad. And so there’s no need to remove it when you get home.
      • Mexico & Canada for $5/day
      • 185+ Countries for $10/day
    • Data speeds are reduced after the first 0.5GB of daily session?! 
  • Monthly International Travel Plan
    • For occasional use when you travel in more than 185 countries, add a one time monthly bundle of minutes, texts and data.  Or, a monthly bundle that remains on your line until you remove it for longer or multiple trips. 
      • $70 for 0.5GB monthly 
      • $130 for 2GB monthly 
From the three big carriers, you can see that T-Mobile offers the most reasonable plans for international high-speed data, but the terms & conditions have a lot of red flags.  And I'd hate to outside the United States and relying on my data plan/coverage and learning that it wasn't what I though it was.  I can say this because I've experienced it first hand and I've had family members experience it as well.

Lastly, if you didn't want to add one of these options to your current plan when you travel abroad, purchasing a Local SIM card may be a good option to consider as well.  Just don't get swindled in the process at one of those airport kiosks!

Google Fi
After trying T-Mobile internationally and running into problems with slow 2G speed and other issues with a plan I added, I decided I needed to look elsewhere and since I already had a Google Pixel phone, I turned to Google Fi.

Google Fi is offered in 200+ destinations and you're automatically covered with data and texting abroad at no extra charge, plus affordable voice calling - basically you land, step off the plane and you're ready to go!

With Google Fi, you are getting more features, fewer fees and an upfront understanding of what you get for what you will be paying.  The plans are designed to fit your data usage and give you all the good stuff, like high-speed data abroad, without contracts, cancellation fees or other hidden terms.

What is unique about Google Fi?
  • Unlike other phone plans, Google Fi offers cellular coverage across three leading networks (T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular) and Wi-Fi hotspots, for phones designed for Fi.  Phones that are not designed for Fi, but are still compatible, have nationwide access to the T-Mobile network.
  • Also, you're automatically covered abroad, meaning there is no setup required, no visit needed to your local store or a long phone call to add features, so you just land, step off the plane and you're good to go. 
  • With the recently announced Fi Unlimited plan, international data and texting are included at no extra charge.  With the Fi Flexible plan, international data costs $10/GB, just like in the US, and there’s no extra charge for texting abroad.
Going to Croatia?  Google Fi has you covered!

What is unique about Google Fi’s network?
  • Through new technology developed with Google's partners, phones designed for Fi put you on the best available network among three leading networks from T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular as well as a network of Wi-Fi hotspots.  This means you get access to more cell towers and 4G LTE in more places.  Phones that aren’t designed for Fi are covered by T-Mobile.
  • Google Fi's network also extends to 200+ countries and territories so you're automatically covered abroad at no extra charge.  No setup required - you can just use your phone as you would at home.
How much does a Google Fi plan cost?
  • It depends on which plan you choose: 
    • With the Fi Unlimited plan, you get unlimited data, talk and text for a fixed price that comes with free international calls from the US to 50+ countries and territories, unlimited data and texting abroad, and 100 GB of storage from Google One - all at no extra charge.
    • With the Fi Flexible plan, you pay only for the data you use.  It’s $20/month for unlimited talk & text, plus $10/GB for data.  And if you worried becasue you are a heavy data user Fi has you covered with Bill Protection.  Once Bill Protection kicks in for your plan, your data is free for the rest of your billing cycle, so you can keep using your phone worry-free, knowing your bill is capped at a maximum price you already know of.

When I used Google Fi, the Fi Unlimited Plan wasn't available so I used the Fi Flexible plan and paid $20 for calls/text and then $10/GB of data up to a capped price amount for 6GB.  Anything above that data usage amount had a price cap and I still had high-speed international data.  In other words, I knew exactly what I was paying for, how much data I had, the speed of the data and that were no hidden fees involved.

I've used Google Fi in the United Kingdom, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzogovina, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and more.  

For a fully list of countries covered by Fi, check out the Google Fi site here.

Other FAQ about Google Fi
What phones are designed for Google Fi?
  • The current phones designed for Fi are Google Pixels, Moto G7, Moto G6, LG G7 ThinQ, LG V35 ThinQ, and Android One Moto X4. 
  • They are built to support multiple cellular networks, and they have a state-of-the-art cellular radio tuned to work across network types. 
  • Other Android phones and iPhones do not have the same network switching technology but still get many of the other benefits of the Google Fi plan.
What is an eSIM?
  • If you have a recent Google Pixel phone you may be familiar with eSIM.
  • An eSIM is an embedded SIM that lets you set up your connection on screen the moment you power on your new device. 
  • With eSIM, you can set your phone up with the tap of a button with no physical SIM card required.
Google Fi Referral Credit
If you're interested in signing up for Google Fi, be sure to use the referral code below for a $20 credit!

The Google Fi referral program rewards any Google Fi members for sharing Google Fi with their friends, up to 10 referrals.  Both new and existing members will earn $20 in service credits applied to their next bill once the new member has been active for 30 days.

Here's a referral code to get a $20 credit when you join Google Fi!

Redeem it here: Google Fi $20 Credit 

Spend more time relaxing and not worrying about your international data plan (La Cruz, Costa Rica)