It’s no secret that GSTP is a big fan of Google Fi, and there’s lots of love for the Pixel phones too, even with an occasional service hiccup or two when traveling “too” much. This week, the international service got even more attractive for Apple fans.
We’ll spare the super in depth analysis about the service, in case you’re already an expert, but essentially it’s a cellular plan by Google that treats data used domestically the same as it does abroad in over 200 countries, making it a really attractive plan for travelers. You arrive in another country, and your data is just like you’re at home, surfing the web and using apps like nothing changed.
It’s good value for the money whether you’re a heavy user – there’s an Unlimited data plan – or for someone who is almost always connected to w-ifi there’s a pay-as-you-go Fi plan called “Flex” that costs $10 per gigabyte of data, regardless of where you use the data in the world, provided you’re in one of the 100’s of included countries.
Historically, it’s been a service optimized for Google Fi approved Android devices; leaving many who can’t leave the Apple iOS ecosystem with slight disadvantages in terms of the operability and full use of the benefits from Google Fi. Chiefly among them: network switching. Google Fi uses a mixture of T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular and automatically chooses the best network for your location using the eSIM capability for Google Fi approved phones. Without it, your coverage just isn’t quite the same.
One of those pain points got some relief this week with the introduction of eSIM for iOS devices.
Up until this week, Fi was only allowing new subscribers to the service using Apple iOS products to be eligible for eSIM usage, but a recent update to the Fi App for iPhone now allows the setup of eSIM for iPhones for current subscribers too, as long as your iPhone has eSIM capabilities…think iPhone X onward.
Now, why is this a big deal?
Well, in short, because local SIMs are still going to be a better deal in the long run, and if you plan on living abroad for an extended period of time, Fi does have a portion of their contract that states that extended/long term use abroad could be a potential violation of their terms and conditions and grounds for termination.
Having eSIM capabilities with the iPhone mean that you can run two numbers or two SIM cards, one being a physical SIM, and one being eSIM at the same time (Dual SIM, Dual Standby or DSDS for short).The solution: you can turn off the data portion of your Fi account while keeping your number for calls and SMS active from Fi, while relying on a cheaper, local physical SIM from which you pull data.
Having zero data usage brings your Fi bill to $20 a month for the Flex plan users, so if you intend on studying abroad, or taking an extended vacation, you can definitely opt for a local SIM while keeping your US-based number active. Nice to have options right? If for nothing else, at least you won’t have to wait for a SIM card to arrive or have to go find one to start service if you’re curious about Google Fi.