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.

google-pixel-fiHistorically, 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.

Jason Kane

Jason Kane is an avid traveler who splits time between California and Japan. Raised by an American mother and a Japanese father, his ability to speak Japanese is one of his few marketable skill other than...

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  1. Any suggestions on how Google Fi can be leveraged for Amex Platinum new benefit for 2020 – 20$ per month back on Wireless Bill?

  2. I guess one thing that I’d be wary about for this is my concern about privacy considerations. Google not only doesn’t care about your privacy but will do what it likes to destroy your privacy even when you instruct your phone to do otherwise, provided that Google can profit in the process. While Apple is no angel, they have a serious commitment to customer privacy. Given these two wildly divergent perspectives, I’m not sure that I’d want to risk my iphone to Google.

    1. Christian, do you have any relevant reading on the subject? I’ve seen Apple equally if not more so in the firing line on this issue in recent times, but am happy to learn more.

      1. It isn’t google getting called out by the state and justice departments for defending their customers privacy.

  3. I use this currently living in Italy. eSim (Google FI) on my Pixel 3, and Vodafone Italia as my physical sim. Much much cheaper. My Vodafone plan is 60GB 4G LTE “+”, and I route my Google FI SMS/calls through Hangout, so I maintain complete isolation of FI/US #.

  4. I tried this and at first it seemed like it was working very smoothly. That was until I received a group text to my primary iPhone account that was not iMessage because there were Android users on the text. I was no longer able to respond to the group text using my primary account. I was able to use my Fi account, but it responded to everyone individually instead of as a group and most of the people on the text didn’t have my Fi number. So I decided to remove the Fi account from the iPhone and unfortunately it still didn’t work. I ended up having to factory reset the phone in order to get everything working again as it had in the past.

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