Best Phone for International Calls, Texts, and Data – Part 1: Introduction

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Many folks want to stay connected to family and friends while traveling.  I discovered an affordable new option to make it even easier!

So I thought I’d share my experience using Google’s Project Fi.  It’s one of the cheapest ways to get data for internet access, send and receive unlimited text messages, and make phone calls in 135+ countries.

Best Phone For International Calls Texts And Data Part 1 Introduction

Google’s Project Fi Could Be a Great Option For Staying Connected to Friends and Family While Traveling the World!

I’ll explain how it works and more details about the service!

Project Fi Index:

How Does Project Fi Work?

Link:   About Project Fi

Project Fi uses Google technology to provide cell phone and data service by partnering with with 3 US carriers including Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular.  And certain international carriers for when you travel abroad.

With Project Fi, you can use your phone to:

The network works in 135+ countries, including popular travel destinations like Canada, France, India, Italy, Australia, and many more world-wide.

Best Phone For International Calls Texts And Data Part 1 Introduction

With Project Fi, You’ll Have Cell Phone and Data Service in 135+ Countries

The best part is Project Fi automatically makes sure you’re on the network that provides the fastest data speeds, which vary between 4G LTE, 3G, or 2G, depending on your location and what networks are available.

You can also connect to safe and reliable public Wi-Fi hotspots, which doesn’t count against your data allowance.

What You’ll Need to Access Project Fi

To use Project Fi, you’ll need one of the following mobile devices:

And you’ll need a Gmail address to sign-up.  If you sign-up for Project Fi and already have a Google Account with Google Voice, there are a few things you should know.  You can:

  • Get a completely new phone number for Project Fi or
  • Transfer your existing carrier number or Google Voice number to Project Fi

Note:   If you get a new number or transfer your existing cell phone number, you will lose your Google Voice number and won’t be able to get it back.

If you’d like to keep your Google Voice number, you could make a separate Google account before you sign-up for Project Fi.

What Does It Cost?

Link:   Project Fi Cost

The monthly cost of Project Fi is very straightforward.  You’ll pay:

  • $20 per month for unlimited talk (within the US) and text AND
  • $10 per month per 1GB of data

The great part is you’ll only pay for the data you use and receive a credit for the remaining amount.  For example, if you pay for 1GB of data, but only use half the data allowance (0.5GB) in a month, you’ll receive a credit for $5 toward your monthly bill.

And if you use more than your budgeted data, you’ll pay the same rate of $10 per 1GB.  For example, if you use an extra 0.5GB, $5.00 will be added to your next bill.  You’ll get an alert from Project Fi before you reach your data budget.

When you make calls while traveling internationally, you’ll pay a flat rate $0.20 per minute.  Like when you make a call from Italy to the US.

It could cost ~$2 per minute to make an on other US carriers, like AT&T or Verizon, depending on where you call from.

Best Phone For International Calls Texts And Data Part 1 Introduction

Save Money Using Project Fi to Make Calls While Traveling Internationally. You’ll Pay $0.20 Per Minute Instead of ~$2 Per Minute Charged by Other US Carriers

If you make a call to a US number while you’re connected to Wi-Fi, there is no charge.

And, there’s no annual contract required.  You pay your bill monthly based on the previous months’ usage.

You will have to purchase one of the eligible Nexus mobile devices which costs ~$349 to ~$399+, depending on the model.  There is an option to pay for the device over 24 months if you’re approved for financing.

Plans are only available for individuals.  There are no family or corporate plans.

You won’t pay a termination fee if you decide to switch from Project Fi.  But if you decide to pay for the Nexus device over 24 months, you will be required to pay the balance upon termination.

Are There Drawbacks?

Link:   How to Make Free Calls While You’re Overseas!

Link:   Our Experience Using T-Mobile’s Free In-Flight Wi-Fi & Overseas Texting and Data

The biggest drawback of Project Fi is you’re limited to using 1 of 3 Nexus devices.  If you have an Apple iPhone, or different smartphone, Project Fi is not supported.  There are reports of folks using iPhones and other unlocked devices with Project Fi, but not all of the features are available.

As mentioned earlier, Project Fi partners with Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular to provide coverage in the US.  If you’re in a rural area, high-speed data with these cell providers could be limited.

If you’re looking for alternatives, I’ve written about using using programs like Google Hangouts or Skype to make calls while traveling.

Or if you have T-Mobile, you’ll get unlimited text and data while traveling overseas.  Of course, the data speeds vary depending on your location.

Bottom Line

I signed up for Google’s Project Fi, which is a cheap way to use data and make calls while traveling internationally.  I like that it’s hassle-free without confusing monthly charges.

You’ll pay a flat rate of $20 per month for unlimited talk (within the US) and text.  And you’ll pay $10 per month for each 1GB of data.  But you’ll get a credit for any unused data.

The biggest drawback if you want to use the service is you’re limited to using 1 of 3 Nexus devices.

If you’re interested, keep reading!  Because in Part 2 of this series, I’ll explain how you can sign-up for Project Fi.

Have you used Project Fi?  I’d love to hear about your experience!

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18 responses to “Best Phone for International Calls, Texts, and Data – Part 1: Introduction

  1. I just used Fi for a week in the Canadian Maritimes. you have to enable the two switch settings under the billing section of the Fi App (available via wifi only) before the phone will access any of the 4 available Canadian cell services.
    It took two days with Google support to determine this, but otherwise it worked well.

  2. Arlington Travler

    Sprint offers IMHO offers some great roaming options for its subscribers. It’s arguably better than T-Mobile in the America’s and much better than anything Verizon and AT&T offer outside of the America’s.

    Sprint Open World offers unlimited talk, text and 1GB of high speed data (per billing cycle) in just about every country in the Americas:

    Sprint Global Roaming offers unlimited text, unlimited 2G data, and 20 cents calls for much of the rest of the world:

  3. Just tried out Google Fi on a trip and it worked great! Had very good service in Sweden, Russia, Norway, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Germany, Denmark and Great Britain. No muss, no fuss…with each country the phone found service automatically. I did not make any phone calls but texts, email and data were excellent. It does not provide service at sea. My only quibble is that email is clunky. You can’t empty the entire inbox for example, you must swipe or check each message. But – it is a small inconvenience compared to the outrageous roaming fees charged on my AT&T international service. Over the course of 3 weeks I spent a little over $26 in data (2.64 gb). Loved it and this will be my travel phone going forward.
    I am not too savvy when it comes to phones so I have a question – if I buy an unlocked Galaxy Note, could I use Google Fi with it?

  4. Sorry, it looks like I did make one call in Great Britain. The hotel charge for local calls was $1.50. I used Google Fi and the cost was $0.03. Pretty nice savings!

  5. I’ve used project Fi for about 4 months but I dunno if you all knew this but you can have your project Fi number thru Google Hangouts and I haven’t tried it yet but the iPhone probably would work then you could just get the Hangouts app on it and use your iPhone instead granite it’s only on T-Mobile towers and your talk and text would be thru data I dunno guys just a idea

  6. I signed up for Project Fi for the excellent deal on a Nexus 5X phone. We are going on a 3 week South Africa safari soon. I hope to use this service wherever wifi is available. In the meantime, service in my town is no better but no worse than what I was using. The price is much better, though!

  7. Fi is great! I already use a Nexus 6 anyways, and it provides great peace of mind regardless if I’m going to Canada or overseas!

  8. I believe you’re only charged if you’re using the cell networks. If you’re on wifi, the calls are free.

  9. I loved Fi on my recent trip to Estonia and Poland. The data and texting worked great but I couldn’t make any international phone calls (even over WiFi). Local calls worked fine. I’m sure it’s something that I’m screwing up on my end….like not putting in the correct country code or whatnot. Not a concern for me since I don’t often make calls anyways. Highly recommend, loved not having to find a new SIM card in each country.

  10. We’ve traveled to several countries on two recent cruises. Our Project Fi phones worked great everywhere we went. I particularly like receiving Project Fi messages “welcoming” us to each country and letting us know what coverage to expect and how much it costs. As we sailed past the west end of Cuba, my wife received a message from Project Fi alerting her they had NO coverage there. Ha! That was in March. Who knows? Maybe they have it covered today?

  11. I bought a 5x from project fi but have not been able to connect bc fiber has no service in my area. Sprint is my current carrier and I’m paying over $100+ a month for unlimited data.

  12. @Mark – Thanks for sharing this tip!

    @peabody – Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m looking forward to using Project Fi internationally!

    @Sandy O – Enjoy your trip to South Africa! Let me know how the Project Fi service works.

    @Gerry – That’s right! You can make free calls when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

    @Jim – Great to hear Project Fi worked on your cruises!

  13. I live in US and was traveling to Europe, I used project fi there in Europe and it worked like a charm. I loved the service Google has launched. The internet and call services were spectacular and I haven’t faced any connectivity issue at all throughout my journey.
    Thanks Google for making it possible for me and other fellow travelers. Highly recommended.

  14. I don’t get it ? Why go to all this extra trouble and expense? I have been on T-Mobiles new plan and it offers all of this and also includes the extra benefit of unlimited calls to/from Canada/Mexico/USA, plus no need to buy a new phone! I even used my iPhone to teacher to my laptop while in the E.U. It worked great and I did not incur any additional expense! !!

  15. “It could cost ~$2 per minute to make an on other US carriers, like AT&T or Verizon, depending on where you call from.”

    Love how T-Mobile is omitted from that sentence.

  16. Works great. Love the 6p. Went to Japan took 4days to get the international things to work. They said i just needed to change 3 settings on my phone. Guess there was more to it. Make sure you use a g mail e mail address won’t work if you don’t.

  17. Glad T-Mobile is working for some. For me, I tried T-Mobile but service in my area was very unreliable and spotty. I live in major metropolitan area so this was a surprise. Gave it a month, than had to switch back to AT&T. On the other hand, Google Fi is working great for me at home and abroad.

  18. Have been on Fi for 5 months (switched from AT&T/iPhone), it’s been working fine for me. Fi is not for the heavy data users though as you’ll end up paying a lot more on data ($10 per gig). If you download the free app “FiSwitch”, you can see the network history and what you’re currently connected to (T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular, or Next Carrier); you can manually switch network if need be (never tried, it requires manually entering some codes/numbers). I’m in the Dallas area and are mostly on T-Mobile (sometimes Sprint).

    For international travels, I really like the fact that I can call and send/receive texts to U.S. #’s for free when I’m connected to Wi-Fi (didn’t not pay a dime when I had to call corporate travel card when I was overseas for work. I would’ve racked up a hefty international phone bill if I wasn’t on Project Fi). Haven’t had a lot of data point, but personally I was able to use Fi in Shanghai and Japan for minimal data usage. There are some mixed reports on international data coverage and how well it works (check out the Fi forum), but it sounds like there are more successes than fails.