Google's Project Fi has now been rebranded as 'Google Fi' and nearly any Android smartphone can now be used in conjunction with the mobile carrier services, according to a new announcement from the search giant. Now devices from Essential, OnePlus, Xiaomi, Nokia, Huawei, HTC, Motorola, LG, and Samsung, in addition to iPhones can be set up with the carrier -- although extra steps are required to set the latter of those up. The only prerequisite is that smartphones from those OEMs need to be compatible with the carrier's network bands across GSM, CDMA, and LTE. Google is also offering promotions for new customers in celebration of the move to open things up to other phones. For those who bring a phone over to Google Fi, a $200 service credit will be applied to their bill. Buying a phone directly from the provider will similarly net users a credit but in the form of a travel gift card for Airbnb, Delta Air Lines, Hotels.com, or Southwest Airlines. The value of the gift card will be set to match the cost of the device a new customer buys.
Background: Project Fi was launched back in 2015 as an MVNO that utilized T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular towers, offering service at a low monthly cost plus $10 for every gigabyte of data used. Depending on where a user was, a smartphone operating on Fi would automatically reroute to the strongest network regardless of the fact that the carriers use different underlying technologies. Initially, only Google Pixel or Nexus-branded handsets would work on that network but it didn’t take too long for Google to begin branching out.
At the same time, Google has consistently been adding new features to its services. One of the more prominent of those is a "Bill Protection" feature that protects user's bills from becoming too high. For a single line, that works by capping off total plan costs at $80 -- once a user surpasses 6GB of data. From there, mobile data use can continue unhindered all the way up to 15GB before services slow down or users can pay extra to speed things back up. Less than one percent of Google Fi users ever hit that point. Google introduced enhanced networking features that automatically route traffic via VPN through Fi-associated Wi-Fi hotspots automatically. With the new announcement, that particular feature has been extended to "all connections," helping users maintain an even higher security and privacy standard than ever. Free roaming also works in more than 170 countries while customers can purchase budget-friendly data-only plans for tablets and computers too. Features like those are most likely a big part of how Google has earned its current 90-percent customer satisfaction rating.
Impact: Fi certainly isn't a new service and not even close to being one of the larger competitors when compared to the 'big four' in the US. That's certainly not for lack of trying since its cost is similar to that of T-Mobile once unlimited data plans and other factors are weighed in. This latest move shows that Google is committed to changing that and that it is apparently approaching the service at least as seriously as it does its other consumer and enterprise projects.