Using Google Fi abroad for 5 months straight

Google Fi is a Google phone service (Formally ProjectFi) that allows you to use multiple carriers in your area by dynamically picking best carriers.

The catch is it’s designed to work on Google Android Phones and iPhone is not officially supported. However if you do want to make it work with your iPhone read my how to set Project Fi on an iPhone guide. The hardest part of the process is that you have to activate Project Fi SIM card on an Android phone first. I’ve been using Project Fi on an iPhone 7 while traveling the world. Your experience will most likely be better if you are using any of the Google phones.

If you don’t have time to read, then my verdict is still that it’s totally worth it.

Ease of use and Support

After an easy set up (more cumbersome if you are on an iPhone) you can pretty much forget about it. There is no activations or dialing US country codes. You will magically have phone and LTE data service in 135 countries as soon as you land. If you do choose to use a local SIM you can still receive phone calls and text messages on your phone since it’s connected through the internet. Oh and while you are using local SIM you are not billed for your Project Fi data. The overall experience is much better then any cell phone company I’ve used so far. The website is clean and transparent, bills are easy to read and things are easy to figure out. When you call support you get a live agent right away without going through phone menus and wait times.  It’s so great in fact that you will never want to go back a traditional company ever again.

Ease of use and Support: 10/10

If you use a Google Phone you are greeted when you land


I wish I could say that using Project Fi overseas on an iPhone has been an experience with no hiccups. The more infrastructure a country has the more likely things will go smoothly. There will be times like in Bali when service would suddenly drop and the only way to get it back was to reboot the phone. I’ve been using it on iPhone 7 which was originally bought through T-Mobile which is known to have poor Intel chipset (more on this here). My fiancé’s iPhone 6 Plus experienced far less issues and I think that’s the main culprit. In some other countries like Singapore (which is known for one of the best cell phone networks in the world) some carriers would simply stop working after a few days. Thankfully you can go to settings and just switch to a different network. In the end I was never in a place with no reception. It’s hard to figure out if the issue is just location, carrier, Project Fi or a phone.

Reliability: 7/10



Overall the service was good and I got decent LTE speed in every one of the 11 countries I visited. It still felt that the speed of the network was about 30% slower compared to using a native SIM. I think this is because the networks give priority to their own subscribers. Speed is good enough to have Skype meetings with screen sharing as well as Facetime Video and Audio calls. You will get a minimum of 200kb/s up and 200 kb/s down in most countries.

Compared to T-Mobile

I used to have T-Mobile just for traveling because of their unlimited global plan. This is much better than T-Mobile global plan where it’s almost unusable (they cap you at 2G speed) for anything other than texting, some email and some slow Google maps.  I don’t think there will ever be a time where you will get the same speed as the local carriers since they will be always prioritized over guests. At the end of the day you will get a usable data connection that you won’t notice any slow downs.


Speed in Singapore. Local SIM card will get you better speed. This is not a scientific test here, but I have consistently noticed faster speeds with local SIMs

Speed: 9/10


Half of the countries I visited had a cheaper local SIM option and sometimes by a lot. It’s great that Project Fi charges you only for what you use. So when you switch to a local SIM your Project Fi bill becomes only $20/month. If you don’t want to get your calls and texts on your old number you can pause it completely. There were still some countries like South Africa where Project Fi was cheaper than using a local SIM. On average the cost for 2 people was about $144 a month (UPDATE: since January of 2018 google now caps the amount of data they will charge you for, see the update at the bottom) depending on how much hotspot and data you are using. If I am not using hotspot I was using about 4GB of data whereas Vanessa used 6GB which ended up being about $170 for both of us (including the $10 Nexus phone fee)

You can see a big spike when I used a hotspot
Average monthly usage with no hotspot


You also have to remember that if you are keeping your current service and traveling you will be paying your standard monthly fee plus the cost of the local SIM card that you will buy which start at a minimum of around $15. Overall I feel it’s a little expensive yet fair.

Cost: 8/10



Even though hotspot is supported out of the box and works in US it was hit or miss world wide. In most countries hotspot just wouldn’t work on the iPhone (both iPhone7 and iPhone 6 plus). Fortunately, this seemed to only apply to iPhones. As soon as I installed my Project Fi SIM back into Nexus 5x hotspot always worked. The hotspot functionality is probably the number one reason why it’s worth it to have Project Fi services. So many times I would be stuck in a place with poor or no WiFi connection and a trusty hotspot would save the day and make a meeting possible.

Want to work on top of a rooftop in Malaysia? No problem with a Project Fi hotspot


Final thoughts

If you travel once or twice a year and stay in one place most of the time then you might be better off getting T-Mobile. Sometimes all you need is just Text, Chat and email on the road, since your hotel will most likely have WiFi.

You can always get an additional local SIM card for extra money to get that extra speed (although you will have to have unlocked phone and sometimes it might be a hassle). If however you travel globally often then it’s a no brainer to get Project Fi even if you are on an iPhone. The set up is a little annoying for multiple users, but once you are done you have a very flexible phone service that travels with you everywhere.

It’s just so convenient to not have to buy a SIM card every time you land, sometimes the process and set up can take up to an hour. If you have or willing to use any of the Google phones like Google Pixel then you should switch today no matter how much you travel as dynamic carrier switching works great. If you are on an iPhone expect a harder sign up process some quirks here and there and no dynamic carrier switching in the US. If you travel a lot I believe it’s worth it no matter what device you have.

Overall: 8/10

Update (1/18/2018): Project Fi announced that they now have a bill protection, meaning you won’t pay more after you go over a certain data usage. Project Fi’s data bill protection starts at $60 for individuals (reduced speeds after 15GB with the option to buy more highspeed at a penny per MB), $100 for couples, and goes up by $20 per person added.

Update (6/20/2019): Google now officially supports iPhone so activation is much easier now. Also iPhone service became a lot better in the states, with no issues mentioned earlier in the article. Oversees usage quality also improved. Also the newer the phone the better it seems to be working. For example on my iPhone 7 the data would dissapear randomly and force to reboot.


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8 responses

  1. Hey Alex, thanks for this informative article.
    I’ve been traveling around the world with my girlfriend and we’re looking for a “hassle-free” solution for staying connected.
    Local sims are great and cheaper most of the times, but as you said, making this process all over again every time sometimes make you feel like we’re still stuck in the 80’s – and we’d like to avoid that,

    Google-Fi seems like a great solution, and for this high-quality service, experience and transparency – I’m willing to pay the price (which isn’t that high for the value it gives you).
    Although I get along with Android devices just fine, I’m kind of an “Apple user” (works great with all of my other Apple’s products), so I rather not to switch.

    Staying connected all the time it’s something that is really important for us (having the ability to use Google maps, looking for places, be available for FaceTime calls, etc.), therefore I wonder if using Google-Fi with iPhone would be the best choice over switching to an Android device as it’s tailored made for one.
    Can you elaborate more on which countries have you been to and what was the overall experience while wandering around and use the internet as you go?

    1. Actually I’ve been using Project Fi only with iPhones. I used it with 6, 7, 8 and 6 plus. They all work pretty good and so far after 24 countries I didn’t have a single one where it didn’t work. I traveled a lot in europe, asia and africa. Some times it takes up to a day for it to fully start working (Taiwan). In italy it was working pretty spotty as well. I have a guide: https://fabriceleven.local/travel/how-to-activate-project-fi-with-an-iphone-for-travel/ if you are interested in using it on an iPhone. You can also just get an old android phone and have it as a back up just incase.

      1. Alex, hey! Quick question: do you think it would make sense to use Project Fi with an iPhone while in the US and then simply move the SIM over to an Android phone for international travel, to ensure that all features (namely hotspot) are available? I noticed that Google currently has a great deal on a the Project Fi-enabled Moto X4, and I was thinking I could pick up that phone to use when I travel, and then use my iPhone as long as I’m at home in the US. (Apparently you can only pause Google’s Project Fi service for 3 months at a time right now, so transitioning between T-Mobile and Project Fi doesn’t seem like a great idea unless I want to double pay…and I definitely don’t haha.)

        My biggest concerns, while in the US, are the issues with MMS and SMS to and from non-iPhone users, since I use the phone for business and have to interact with plenty of non-iPhone users, some of whom contact me directly via SMS even if we’ve never spoken before — I can’t risk missing their messages. Are there any reliable solutions so that I won’t miss their messages on an iPhone? That’s the one thing I’m a little unclear about.

        1. I used Project Fi for about 2 month in the US before I left and did not have any issues with sms or mms. If you install Hangouts on your iphone it becomes even more reliable since you can make calls and receive mms from your computer.

  2. Hi thanks for writing this review. I’m currently in Japan and can’t get my phone to connect with Fi, maybe you can help? I activated my fi SIM on my friend’s pixel phone in back the US, then flew to Japan. I’m here now, and when I put the fi SIM into my iPhone X, it says “Searching…” then “no service.” I’ve tried h2g2,, and for my cellular data APN, restarted the phone, turned on and off airplane mode… is there something I’m missing? Where could I find some help? Thanks in advance!

    1. Use h2g2, you can go to cellular providers and select different one. Usually more then one works. In Japan for me it took about a day for it to kick in. Maybe you can find an android device to see if it works in that.

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