What Google's new Project Fi wireless service means to you

Even if you dont' subscribe to Google's just-announced Project Fi wireless service for smartphones, it could change the way you use and pay for wireless. Here's what it means to you.

It can save you gobs of money

If you're like most everyone else, your cellphone bill is too high. That's not just because even basic plans are expensive, but you probably buy more data than you actually use. The Wall Street Journal notes that Validas, a company that analyzes cellphone bills to help consumers choose the best plan, claims that users of smartphones on average spend $28 a month on data they never use.

With Google's new wireless service, the basic plan is inexpensive, and you only pay for data you use. For $20 a month you get unlimited minutes of talk and texts in the U.S., unlimited international texts, Wi-Fi tethering, and international coverage in more than 120 countries. As for data, you pay $10 per gigabyte --- for example, 1GB for $10 a month, 2GB for $20 a month, 3GB for $30 a month, and so on. And you get credit for unused data. So if you choose a $30 plan for 3 GB, and only use 1.4 GB of it in a month, you get back $16. Here are the details.

You likely won't use it -- yet

When Project Fi launches, you can only use it if you have a Nexus 6 phone. That's it. No iPhone, no other Android phone, no other version of a Nexus phone. It's Nexus 6 or nothing. That leaves out most people on the planet. Most likely it will eventually roll out for other phones as well. But Google isn't saying which phones or when.

Even if you don't use it, it might save you money

Project Fi's pricing and technology is a shot across the bow of all existing cellphone service providers. If existing providers including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint want to survive, they're going to have to take into account its price and technology in some way. That could mean no more charging for unused data, no more outrageous fees for data overseas, and so on. So even if you end up sticking with your current provider, Project Fi may end up helping you.

Its technology may be the future of wireless

There's a lot of unique technology under Project Fi's hood. Google didn't build its own wireless network. Instead, it made deals to use Sprint's and T-Mobile's network. It also uses Wi-Fi hotspots for routing calls and data. As you move, Project Fi senses which networks and hotspots to use, and automatically routes you to the one with the best-quality connection. So you may use multiple hot spots and two different cellular networks over the course of a day and not know it. You'll switch between them, even while in the middle of making calls or using data, and you won't notice it, at least, so says Google. Among other things, this could save on your data bill, because it would mean more Wi-Fi data use, and less cell service data use.

Not only that, in Project Fi, your phone number isn't linked to only a single device. In essence, your number lives in the cloud. You can make calls and do videoconferencing on it using Google Hangouts. That means making calls with your Wi-Fi only tablet, for example. Or starting a call on a phone and finishing on a tablet.

Don't be surprised if other service providers do similar things. It's probably the future of wireless, whether you use Project Fi or not.

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