Awesome concept. Google Fi disrupts the US mobile biz "rip off the customer and confuse them while doing it" model.
It's a great concept, and perhaps more than what you might realize from a quick read. Everything in it has been done before, yes, but not in combination, and not by a company with the deep pockets of Google. Here's what's in it:
1. A "Network of Networks". No, not roaming in the sense we normally think of it. Instead, Google Fi mobile voice and broadband data combines the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile, the USA's number 3 and 4 carriers, into one virtual network.
2. WiFi calling right from your smartphone, without having to switch to some other app or service. No going into Skype, Line, Viber, RingTo, GrooveIP, or Google Hangouts. You just dial, or you just answer the call you get.
3. Roaming internationally in 120 countries at no extra cost for data (reduced speed 3G but still faster than 2G/2.5G EDGE speeds). Your bucket of data GB applies whether you're in USA (where you get LTE and HSPA+ 4G speeds) or in other countries (where you get that 3G speed).
4. Roaming internationally for voice at 20 cents per minute, far cheaper than what regular cell plans cost.
5. International calls even cheaper, priced using Google Voice/Hangouts calling rates (which are lower than what Skype charges to call telephones in the same country) when on WiFi calling. For example, Google Voice/Hangouts/Fi calls to Uruguay landlines from anywhere are only 7 cents/minute, while Skype used to be 13.5 cents and recently dropped to 9.5 cents.
5. Voice and texts unlimited, no big overages on data. If you bought 1GB of data for $10 and used an extra 350MB, you get charged only the extra $3.50. If you bought 2GB for $20 and used only 1.35, you get credited back the $6.50.
Some companies have done some of these things before.
1. Virtual Network?: America Móvil, in their Bring Your Own Phone plans of their Straight Talk (sold at Walmart) and Net10 (sold everywhere for a few dollars more) have had a "virtual network" of ATT+TMobile (or if you requested a SIM that gave priority to TMobile frequencies and towers for locked-to-Tmo phones, of TMobile+ATT). You don't even know if you're on a T-Mobile or an AT&T Tower, it just shows "Home".
2. WiFi calling?: T-Mobile did it on their locked cells since 2010 when I got the 3rd-ever Android model, the T-Mobile G2 (HTC Desire Z variant). Republic Wireless' entire business model has been based on WiFi-primary calling, and the customizable no-contract Moto X phone (now owned by Lenovo but the entire Moto X concept created while Motorola was owned by Google) is the cheapest of all the no-contract Moto X phones. Google clearly worked out some WiFi vs cell calling plan concepts with Republic's experience.
3. International Roaming Data at non-punitive costs? T-Mobile has done this in some plans.
4. Really cheap international cell roaming costs? Been done by various "International roaming SIM" services, and as add-on paid plans to some of the big cell-companies.
5. Even cheaper international calling rates? Google themselves, on Google Voice ever since they acquired it years ago (and pretty much hid it for half a decade until merging it into Hangouts). I've been using it for years, including as how I make paid calls from outside of Uruguay back to Uruguay (an expensive destination compared to some) when I'm back in the USA. Made even easier due to Hangouts Dialer but do-able since around 2010 via calling into your GV number. Now with Google Fi smartphone plans, it just works without any of that.
Yes, each item has been done before. Nobody has put all this together into one plan, ever before.
That's the disruption.
1. You need an invitation to get the service.
2. You likely need to be in a Sprint-native- or TMoble-native-coverage area for your service address. Which excludes a lot of US rural and some suburban areas.
3. You can only use Google's ridiculously over-sized and over-priced (compared to prior Nexus models) Nexus 6 "phablet" - sized phone. Built by Motorola, and in many ways the 2015 model successor to the normally-large Moto X.
They say that restriction is because of unique features in the Nexus 6. That's actually pretty unlikely as the real reason. Any phone that has the LTE bands of both Sprint and T-Mobile USA would likely work technically. Which is not by any means most LTE phones, as there is ridiculous fragmentation of LTE frequency allocations in the USA: But there are still quite a few upscale, but cheaper than Nexus 6, smartphones that have at least most of the required bands.
Certainly the Moto X should have worked, because it's really the same phone in a smaller size, and as I mentioned earlier, there's already a model that does seamless cellular/wifi calling, the one they sell for Republic Wireless. They have the technology, they just don't own the brand anymore so probably don't want to use it.
It's more likely that Google wants to control the rollout on only its own-design own-brand hardware, initially. In a very Apple-esque move. Also, the Google Nexus 6 has totally bombed in the market, unlike the prior Nexus phones, especially the well-received Nexus 5 and Nexus 4 of prior years. The 6 is considered both too darn big to be Google's flagship phone (given Google only has one Nexus phone at a time), and too expensive at 700 bucks, compared to the older Nexus pricing model of well-below unlocked top-end non-contract phones.
Remember, USA folks, your free or $99 or $199 smartphone really IS a $400-800 smartphone and you're paying for it in high contract rates! Rest of world, you can laugh now at those silly Americans!
So Google has stopped being disruptive in cell phone hardware pricing. But only months after doing that, they've become disruptive in cellphone plan pricing and features, combining what was never before combined. Now, if only they could combine both plan and device pricing disruptively at the same time!
But well worth looking into, if you want a high-end, and large, non-contract smartphone and a non-evil plan. Let's hope this is just the start! #cellphones #GoogleFi #smartphones #shareall #Nexus6