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Google wants to kill your phone

Mike Elgan | July 3, 2017
Every smartphone is both a phone and a computer. Google is working to get rid of the phone part.


Project Fi is Google's gateway drug to the post-phone world

Google this week announced G Suite compatibility with Project Fi. (To sign up, your G Suite administrator needs to enable Project Fi in the C-Panel.)

While great for small businesses or small departments, the feature isn't ready for enterprises -- yet. The plan is limited to six users. But it does indicate likely future enterprise-scale support for Fi on G Suite. More on that below.

Project Fi, if you recall, is Google's mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which uses the T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular networks. (It's not clear how a possible Sprint, T-Mobile merger might affect Fi users.)

Google Fi represents a revolutionary idea: phones that automatically switch both voice calls and data connections between different carriers, and between voice networks and VoIP over WiFi. It does this using a purpose-built antenna structure and custom SIM card, plus special software. That special hardware is why you can fully use Google Fi only on Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel and Pixel XL phones, although that lineup is about to change.

Google's Project Fi Twitter account this week promised a "new Fi-compatible device at a mid-tier price from one of our partners later this year." Google no longer sells the Nexus 6, and intends to phase out support for the Nexus 6P and 5X next year.

When Google Fi launched two years ago, it gained a reputation for offering clear, flexible, low pricing ($10 per GB) and easy, inexpensive international roaming (via T-Mobile). Fi enabled users to "pause" and "resume" both service and payment. Users like the power and flexibility of its multiple carriers and seamless Wi-Fi support. As a bonus, Wi-Fi calls are automatically routed through a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Since that time, however, the world has changed. Nowadays all carriers offer unlimited and lower-cost plans, so consumers are souring on Project Fi.

Google's launch of Project Fi raised the obvious question: Why would Google want to be a carrier? After all, Google is all about the internet, not the phone system.

The answer is clear: Google's mission is to transition communication to a post-phone world.

Google offers a data-only Project Fi SIM card for free, as long as you're a Fi customer. That means you can order more SIM cards (up to nine free cards), and put them into your laptop, iPad, iPhone or any device, and use it just for data, with the cost charged against the main account. These devices are by definition in the post-phone world, because with the free data from the Fi SIM, they can only make calls and send texts over the Internet; there's no access to the cellular phone system.


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