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Project Fi

Posted: November 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: android, AT&T, Companies, Google, Tech Help | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

project-fi-logo

I found out about Project Fi early on, when a few of the blogs began talking about it.  At the time I was skeptical not about Google’s ability to pull the project off, but more about whether people would be able to accept routing their voice calls and SMS through Google’s data centers.  A couple of weeks ago, I did a ton of reading on Fi and decided based on what I had read to go ahead and sign up for the beta. It took a couple of weeks to get my invite, and even then it took me a few days to think through what it would mean to be a Fi customer.

My thought process went through three distinct gating concerns.  The first was whether I felt that my calls, SMS, and network traffic would be safe being piped via VPN from anonymous access points through Google’s data centers and to their ultimate destination.  If I could get through the first gate, I felt that it was time to think through the second.

The next gating concern for me was if there was enough value over T-Mobile for me to make the jump.  I was already frustrated with T-Mobile’s default opt-in “binge on” promotion, so I felt it was a good time to move.  My experience with T-Mobile for the past two years has been nothing but good, and I’m going to keep the rest of my family lines with them, but I use very little data so I figured that I could save a good amount of money by using Project Fi, and I haven’t been wrong.

fi-on-phone

The final gating factor was whether Google’s customer service would be adequate for my needs.  On this I had some of my largest concerns.  Google isn’t known for their legendary service and while I don’t typically need a lot of help, with wireless service, you never know.  On this front, I haven’t had to use their service yet, so the jury is still out.  Their self-help has been excellent so I decided to give it a shot.

I was able to get over the first hurdle, surprisingly easily.  I do not believe it is in Google’s interest to do anything untoward with their users’ data as it would destroy their business, so I’m actually not that worried about Google doing anything nefarious with my calls or texts ( if they can even access them ).  As far as turning my data over to the government, that wasn’t really a worry as T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon will all turn over the same data on demand, so that was a push even if Google cooperates.  Finally, VPN technology has been around for quite a while, and it is well regarded as secure.  So going through a VPN to Google’s data center is much safer as far as I’m concerned than going through some coffee shop network, or Comcast back end.  In addition, the quality of service over Wi-Fi would probably exceed most of the spotty coverage I’ve had in some areas with T-Mobile so … gate opened…

Projectfi-account-home

After looking through my records for the past few months, I found that I typically use far less than 3 GB of data per month since I am typically in solid Wi-Fi coverage.  I was a little worried about how many hotspots there were around me in general and how well the Nexus 5x would traverse the networks, but this, so far, hasn’t been an issue, there are a number of affiliated Wi-Fi hotspots around the bay area, even more in San Francisco, so where I roam there are a number of options that will not cost my precious gigabytes.

I chose the 2 GB of data, bringing me to a total of $40 a month plus tax.  So far I have used .19 gigabytes and I’m about forty percent of the way through my plan period, so I’ll be getting a refund at the end.  This brings up one of the better things about Fi, which is that they will refund you for any data that you did not use.  They also will charge no overage for months in which you surpass your estimated limit.  That means that if I need to tether for work one month, I won’t be stuck paying extra during all of the other months.  On my line alone, after buying a Nexus 5x and selling my Galaxy S6 Edge, I was out about $45 up front, and I will save about $60 / month on my line alone.  So it is definitely a value for me, however YMMV as for some heavy mobile data users, Fi will end up costing you more.

Overall, I have been extremely happy with Fi and would heartily recommend it.  It has been stable and with great quality.  Using the Nexus 5x has been pretty good, the phone is laggy occasionally, however I think that is owing more to lacking a few optimizations than any inherent limitation in the hardware.  Other phones with the same specs running Android 5.x are smoother so I believe that things will get better on that front.  The Nexus 5x has had outstanding battery life for me on M and on Fi.  Granted I’m always in a good service area, and I am not a “heavy” user.  I tend to get around 48 hours of battery life from it.


Why I Am Not Switching to Verizon ( And You Shouldnt Either )

Posted: January 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, Verizon | Tags: , , | No Comments »

There have been a few times recently that AT&T’s
network has saved my bacon, recently, once in San Diego, a couple
of times in Denver, and a few times in San Francisco. AT&T is
definitely faster on downloads than Verizon, and often faster than
the hotel broadband. Not only that, but Verizon actually costs more
than AT&T, which is ridiculous. Android phones that are wildly
more complicated to use are not a useful proxy for how much
bandwidth the average iPhone user consumes. I think I’ll stick with
the carrier who has experience dealing with the iPhone’s load.

The other thing that bugs me a bit about the whole AT&T sucks thing, is that it is so market dependent. Typically which carrier “sucks” in a given market is whether or not, and how much sub 1 GHz frequency they have in the given market. Since Verizon has a bunch of 700 MHz spectrum here in the bay area, they typically have better signal indoors, etc… Leading people to believe that Verizon is the second coming. It is a similar situation in many markets, but not all so your milage may vary.

As far as voice is concerned, Verizon may have a bit of an edge, but with data, the jury is still out. Technically Verizon should perform marginally better on voice traffic in large markets due to the efficiency of CDMA, but since both carriers are moving to LTE, this is a largely insignificant difference. The real difference maker will be latency, and the size of the backhaul. AT&T has spent the past 3 years or so constantly upgrading it’s back hauls in all of their markets, I haven’t heard anything about Verizon upgrades.

Verizon might do a bit better in their packet latency, but I’d wager that it isn’t enough of a difference to really make anyone switch. AT&T’s latency isn’t that bad for a mobile provider, and it has actually been getting better here in the Bay Area.

I think that everyone who leaves AT&T for Verizon will be complaining the same way they were when they were on AT&T. The smartphone market caught all of them with their pants down, let alone tethering. The rumor is that Verizon will offer an unlimited data plan, firstly, this is unlikely, secondly, if they do I’m sure there will be some ridiculous throttling they will do which will make power users wish they could pay for full speed.

At the end of the day, I’m glad that Verizon is going to finally get the iPhone it will keep AT&T honest. I hope that T-Mobile gets it too so we can have some decent competition. All phone companies are the same, they all want to get the most for the smallest amount of capital invested. Verizon will probably try to louse up the iPhone with their “apps” and end up screwing up the experience in some way. Starting off by reducing the time users have to return their phones is s great way to reduce confidence in their ability to deliver the service level that they claim.