Friday, December 23, 2016

A Year on Google's Project Fi

This is part of my #1YearOfViz series! Check out the archive here:
Most of you that know me know that I drink deep of the Google Kool-Aid... I've been a nexus 10 owner for years, I've beta tested apps from the Googs... you name it. That's why, about a year ago I was thinking about switching my cell phone service when I realized that they had a no-interest payment plan on their latest phone! I figured I would give the service a shot and see if it was everything it was cracked up to be. This is not as much a DataViz post as it is a Quantified Self post about what I learned while changing cell phone providers.

Also I just SUPER wanted a new phone, again if you've known me for a few years I carried around a Samsung Galaxy S3 with a screen that was more often cracked that normal (thanks alcohol!). Anyway the Nexus 6P was about the sexiest phone I've ever laid eyes on and I figured if Google held up their promises of using multiple networks to boost speeds it might be pretty amazing. I ordered my phone and was going to wait until Jan 1st to turn it on... it arrived and I had it in my hands for a cool 2-3 days (using wifi only) when my Galaxy S3 gave up the ghost and had a major problem with it's motherboard. To this day I think it was just jealous of the new phone. =D

What I hadn't really thought too much on was exactly WHEN and HOW I used my cell service. I kept thinking "I shouldn't really use much 'real' data because I'm always at places with wifi" my apt, my office, etc. This is where I was WRONG. After getting the phone that first day I was really wanting to run speed tests all the time and see exactly what this combined network signal would mean as far as speeds on the phone... but to test speeds do you know what you need? Large data files to transfer. I burned through almost 1/2 a gig in a few hours... I'd only allotted myself 2Gb a month (though it's not a problem if you use more, it just adds to your bill). You see I was coming from an UNLIMITED Sprint plan that I'd had forever and it was pretty rad. Anyway... I've logged my wifi connections via IFTTT for years so I figured I would give it a solid year to look at the differences. Let's get into the data:

Let's just take stock of the positives and negatives:
Super fast = Super Pricey!

  • Positives
    • It's AH-MAZING-LY fast! (see screenshot to the right!)
    • Reception is better in most previously "dead" zones
    • The build-quality of the Nexus/Pixel line of phones is impeccable
    • Initial cost of entry is very low ($20/month)
    • Integration with Google Services (like Google Voice/Hangouts) is GREAT
  • Cons
    • Actual phone call quality (particularly on Wifi) is kinda janky
    • $10/Gig of data is TOO DAMNED HIGH
      • Ex. I spent $5 in a few hours just running speed tests around town the first day or so.
      • I could burn through 1/2 Gb of data A DAY walking to work watching YouTube which, if I continued doing, would have cost me approximate $100/month in data
    • Really paying per gig is almost impossibly hard when you're used to unlimited data
    • Have I mentioned that fast network speeds really only matter when you feel that you're not paying for every Mb that flys to your phone at Mach 6!?

How I feel after trashing a Google Service
What does all this mean? Well... have I had good network speeds? Yes. Has my call quality been good? MOSTLY (drops sometimes, particularly in Wifi calling). Have I had to SUBSTANTIALLY alter the way I think about my phone being online? HELLS to the YES. That to me is the big flaw in Project Fi... The fast access just means that ultimately you're going to pay them more because you're going to pull down larger data and more HD video, etc. If they said something like "OK, all Google-related services are going to be FREE to access..." I could subsist on YouTube and Play movies/music etc while walking around town. Now I see the draw to places like T-Mobile who are bundling things like Netflix and Hulu in as "Unlimited" as far as data usage goes. Don't even get me started on things like image-heavy Instagram and other services that are no longer text based but image/video based only... ugh.

Bottom Line (literally)... Can I recommend Project Fi as a service to most people? Yes. Only if you're not someone who likes to constantly have your phone out. If you're a super nerd like myself and live on the Interwebs... you're going to hate Fi.

As always hit me up on twitter @wjking0 with any comments or questions!

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