Tuesday, May 10, 2016

HOW GOOGLE WILL BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF AT&T AND VERIZON

We have been AT&T customers for as long as we have had cellular phones/mobile phones. In fact, we were their customers before they were AT&T Mobile (McCaw Cellular, in the beginning). To their credit, AT&T has always given us top-notch customer service, even though the actual phone coverage was not always the best.

But I have jumped ship, and I am now a customer of Project Fi. That's Google. It is mobile phone service using VOIP (voice over internet protocol). And so far, it totally rocks my boat!

Let me explain.

Project Fi service has a very simple pricing plan - yep, just one plan for everyone. Basic service is $20 per month; that includes unlimited calls and unlimited texting. Data is charged at $10 per GB per month, and you can sign up for as many GB per month, at $10 per, as you want. I rarely use 1GB of data per month, so guess what? Project Fi credits my account for whatever part of 1GB I don't use. If I use 0.5 GB in a month, they credit my account $5. If I use 1.5GB in a month, they charge me an extra $5. Nice! And, of course, I was able to port my mobile phone number over to Project Fi.

But Project Fi has also solved a problem I have had for many years; what to do for mobile phone service when traveling out of the country. This has been a very major issue for me, and lots of other people who travel a lot. The answer is simple: Project Fi works in lots of countries! For example, every European country we have visited is on the Project Fi list. The only difference in pricing is that phone calls using the cellular network are $0.20 per minute. That's a helluva lot better than the $1.00 per minute AT&T charges me after I give them an extra $30 per month for Global Roaming. And for that $30 per month, AT&T gives me 120MB of data - I can use 120MB in a day, especially if I'm navigating with Google maps.

Keep in mind, Project Fi is VOIP. Here is how it works, and what that means for the customer (me). The Project Fi SIM card monitors the T-Mobile and Sprint cellular networks, as well as available wi-fi. It determines whether or not the available wi-fi is trustworthy. It switches the phone between these three choices based on which offers the best signal. So if I have a good wi-fi connection, my phone calls use that, and it's charged as data, not at $0.20 per minute. I haven't tried it yet outside the USA, but we will be in Europe again this summer, so I will be testing it. I do have to say that so far during our travels in the USA, it has worked almost perfectly everywhere. And it worked great at the Oregon coast in a location where AT&T is always iffy.

And customer service? The best! I have a terrific and simple Project Fi app on my phone that shows me exactly how much data I have used for the month, has my billing info, and has customer support - you request support and someone calls you almost instantly!

Is there a drawback to Project Fi? Well, first, at this time it only works with the newer Google phones, Nexus 5X and newer. I had a Nexus 5, so I bought a 5X. And btw, the Nexus 5X cost me $250, compared to a new iPhone that costs $650 or more.

The second drawback, for some people, is that it is Google; the Evil Empire. Yawn.

I don't know what the Project Fi business plan is. Will it be available for all phones in the future? Will the pricing remain very affordable? Time will tell. I do know that, for me, it is kicking the crap out of AT&T! I think the difference is that Google has looked carefully at mobile phone needs and how the established providers dish out service. The biggies have so many plans it is dizzying. And they rack up costs for everything. I have changed plans more times that I can possibly remember with AT&T. So Google very likely decided; let's offer cell phone service that is affordable and very simple - one plan for everyone. Does this work for everyone? I don't know; maybe a family with a bunch of teenagers can get a better deal with ATT or Verizon, but maybe not. Maybe Project Fi is a better fit for business people who travel, or for one customer, rather than a family.

All I can say is, thanks Google, you have solved some major issues I've had with mobile phone service, and I can check that box on my wish list.

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