T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

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get_g0ing
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T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by get_g0ing » Mon Sep 16, 2019 7:45 am

Hi Bogleheads,

T-mobile is a great option for Americans traveling abroad:

Your phone automatically works where ever you go.
Free international data (the speed is slow, but works great for email, basic browsing, uber, etc).
Free international texting, even outside US (send and receive).

Has anyone looked into how this compares with Google Fi? Please share if you have.

Thanks.

02nz
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by 02nz » Mon Sep 16, 2019 7:55 am

Fi’s main disadvantage was limited support for iPhones, which is largely a nonissue now. Advantage is much faster data overseas, not throttled like T-Mobile, which I found only usable for maps, email, messaging, but not really for browsing. Another issue is that the throttling eats through battery life much more quickly (as the antennas are working more of the time).

You’ll pay more if you use more data with Fi, how it compares with T-Mobile depends on which T-Mobile plan. For occasional travelers T-Mobile is fine, for those who are constantly on the road and want high-speed data Fi is a better choice.

bberris
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by bberris » Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:00 am

Google Fi:

4G almost everywhere, even in the mountains. Data is the same price as US, but it is never really free unless you get wifi. $10 per GB
Regular calls in or out 20 c per min in another country
Free texting everywhere
Making calls using data (Hangouts Dialer) are less, 1-2 c / min, + cost of data if not using wifi
It's a little tricky getting the phone to use wifi when receiving a call.
Whatsapp and similar are free (but data costs if not on wifi). Of course, you can only use whatsapp to call people you know, if you want to make a hotel reservation, you have to use a paid method.

Fi takes a few minutes to connect when landing in another country, and when returning.

28fe6
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by 28fe6 » Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:47 am

I would recommend staying far far away from Google Fi for your primary phone service. My experiences can be found elsewhere. Please, stick with a "real" phone company. In the states, when I had Fi I was connected to TMobile towers 90% of the time anyway. Except the service was terrible.

Fi is actually good for international, IF you don't use a lot of data (because Fi data rates are not competitive), and IF you use you regular voice number a lot internationally. It is not actually good.

essbeer
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by essbeer » Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:54 am

Had 3 weeks driving in Europe this summer and T-Mobile's One plus plan on two phones and it really exceeded expectations. Data speeds weren't an issue at all, in fact my kids could stream YouTube videos with no noticeable quality difference from US. We had a 3rd phone with a local sim and it wasn't anywhere near as reliable as the T-Mobile phones. I think we used about 26GB of data between the two phones.

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by oldcomputerguy » Mon Sep 16, 2019 9:02 am

If you are contemplating using T-Mobile while travelling internationally, be very sure of how your account is set up before you leave.

We took a trip to Europe a couple of years ago, and I approached T-Mobile before we left for a SIM that allegedly had international service in all the countries we were to visit, and would be a month-to-month deal (so no long-term commitment), which seemed ideal. We landed in Europe, I turned on the phone with the T-Mobile SIM -- no service. (I could see the access points on the phone, it just wouldn't connect and activate.) Reaching out to T-Mobile, I discovered that, since we had our credit reports frozen, T-Mobile wasn't able to do a pull, so they silently set us up as prepaid, which did NOT include international service.

I should note that, since then, we have addressed this issue, and have used T-Mobile in Europe, St. Lucia and Jamaica with no problems.

Caveat Emptor.
"I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people; and if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you." (Aaron Sorkin)

student
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by student » Mon Sep 16, 2019 9:13 am

My experience with t-mobile is good. Data speed is slow for international but I only need it for text messaging.

THY4373
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by THY4373 » Mon Sep 16, 2019 9:15 am

28fe6 wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:47 am
I would recommend staying far far away from Google Fi for your primary phone service. My experiences can be found elsewhere. Please, stick with a "real" phone company. In the states, when I had Fi I was connected to TMobile towers 90% of the time anyway. Except the service was terrible.
Just to add a counterpoint my son and I have both been using Google Fi for three years and the service has been flawless for us. I love it. I have been a little less happy with the hardware especially the older Nexus phones a number of which had hardware flaws that resulted in class action lawsuits but the service itself is great.

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by RickBoglehead » Mon Sep 16, 2019 9:30 am

No experience with Internatioanal calls, sorry. :shock:
Avid user of forums on variety of interests-financial, home brewing, F-150, PHEV, home repair, etc. Enjoy learning & passing on knowledge. It's PRINCIPAL, not PRINCIPLE. I ADVISE you to seek ADVICE.

jucor
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by jucor » Mon Sep 16, 2019 9:32 am

THY4373 wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 9:15 am
28fe6 wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:47 am
I would recommend staying far far away from Google Fi for your primary phone service. My experiences can be found elsewhere. Please, stick with a "real" phone company. In the states, when I had Fi I was connected to TMobile towers 90% of the time anyway. Except the service was terrible.
Just to add a counterpoint my son and I have both been using Google Fi for three years and the service has been flawless for us. I love it. I have been a little less happy with the hardware especially the older Nexus phones a number of which had hardware flaws that resulted in class action lawsuits but the service itself is great.
Another Fi user here. I'm in the midwest, and find that Fi works great -- even in rural locales that T-mobile and At&T (my two prior carriers) were poor in servicing -- this has also been my experience in the rural western US. This weekend I was at an event in a rural area with about 30 people -- most of whom had a very hard time getting a signal on their phones -- I had full access and LTE data on my Fi. YMMV.

We signed up for Fi two years ago for the international service -- and I've been really happy. It is completely seamless, and in various parts of Europe, in Central America, and in Japan I have yet to have a connectivity issue. It just works, with fairly fast data.

If you're a heavy data user (streaming not on wi-fi, etc) in a major US metro are then Fi might not be ideal for you as there are better data deals available, but if you are a low to moderate data user who also does a reasonable amount of international travel I think it is great. I do not at all miss the ritual of locating and setting up local sim cards on each trip (or even several times on a trip) at all!

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by flyingaway » Mon Sep 16, 2019 9:43 am

The good thing about T-Mobile is that there is no additional cost for international data plan, which is unlimited in theory. It says after your 4G quote is used, it becomes 2G, but I did not notice the difference. Sometimes older phones do not work well with some other country's network.
I found T-Mobile data plan did not work in Andorra, Vietnam, and Morocco. You can check if the country is covered before you go.
Frankly speaking, I found T-Mobile works better in other countries than in the U.S. where I live.

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by bob60014 » Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:04 am

+1 for Tmobile. We're on the 55 plus plan that has unlimited data/text internationally. It's worked flawlessly in Germany, UK, Dublin, Prague, Australia, Aruba, Canada etc... No issue with speed and the only spotty service was in Australia between Sydney and Canberra. We're very happy with it.

jeroly
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by jeroly » Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:26 am

If you just want to send occasional emails or check a quick stock quote, t-mobile international as a $10 add on to their basic package works fine in most countries. The problem is that it’s only 256kbps so web pages load sloooooooooooooooooooowly. You can find WiFi almost everywhere these days, though, so it’s not really much of a problem if you download the destination’s google maps in advance.

My current go-to is the following: I use a T-Mobile account in conjunction with a google voice number. I give everybody my google voice number. When I am in a foreign country on holiday (and I travel a lot, approx. 6 countries/ year, and this always has worked for me) where the local cell service is cheap or there are cheap tourist packages, I buy a local SIM card to get high speed data service, and I use the local sim card for local calls and google hangouts for free calls to the USA. Where the local service is pricey I just settle for low bandwidth T-Mobile international service (if there’s a true need you can pay extra $$$ for high speed service on a daily basis, but it’s not cost effective for a long trip).

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by BuddyJet » Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:37 am

This is a question where there are advantages with each service and the best choice depends on your individual use case.

For me, the decision to go Google was the availability of data only sims (no extra cost other than data used) that I use in my iPads and an older phone repurposed as a hotspot.

The Google free data sims strongly pushed my cost advantage to Fi.
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by Artful Dodger » Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:51 am

+1 for T-Mobile. We switched from AT&T four years ago heading out for a three week trip to Europe, and both daughters were planning some extensive international travel. After four years of multiple international trips, I have no real complaints. I usually get a text on arrival, as soon as I switch off airplane mode, letting me know calls and texts are covered at no cost as well as basic data services. I recall an offer for upgraded data services, but their basic plan plus wifi has met our needs.

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by xb7 » Mon Sep 16, 2019 11:30 am

One more mostly positive for T-Mobile. And the "Mostly positive" comment should be taken in the context of "none of the options are perfect".

My wife and I too are on the 55+ plan, and grandfathered in to a lower rate than new people signing up, which --- while, yes that's sort of a golden handcuff thing I guess --- I appreciate.

We were in Greece and France and Spain and a couple of smaller countries in Europe earlier this year and had no problems, system lived up to the billing, and it was so much easier and overall better than getting a local SIM card and having to have an unlocked GSM phone to use it in, and then periodically adding money (and running out of money unexpectedly) with the SIM, plus with T-Mobile I call and receive calls using my own phone number. Excellent.

The surprising thing there was that we ended up using the phones more than we expected --- calling someone at home occasionally, calling about local lodgings, calling each other to connect (yes, texting is free, but sometimes a call works best, and only 25 cents a minute, so ...). The result was that we were surprised at how high our monthly bills were. 25 cents a month adds up if you're not paying attention.

The other more general issue with T-Mobile is still about coverage at times. It's gotten overall definitely better, and they claim that they plan to build out more rural coverage. But we were in the Idaho panhandle last week and even right on a major freeway (I-90) I was getting zero reception, including in a sizable town (sizable for that area ...). Yes, you can wi-fi call, but in my experience, hotels and motels in general still find it incredibly complicated to offer wi-fi that's sufficiently fast, reliable, and doesn't require odd and sometimes disfunctional hoops to jump through in order to connect and stay connected, and often when I want to call or look something up on the internet, I'm in the car.

So, caveat emptor there.

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by msi » Mon Sep 16, 2019 12:26 pm

jeroly wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:26 am
If you just want to send occasional emails or check a quick stock quote, t-mobile international as a $10 add on to their basic package works fine in most countries. The problem is that it’s only 256kbps so web pages load sloooooooooooooooooooowly. You can find WiFi almost everywhere these days, though, so it’s not really much of a problem if you download the destination’s google maps in advance.

My current go-to is the following: I use a T-Mobile account in conjunction with a google voice number. I give everybody my google voice number. When I am in a foreign country on holiday (and I travel a lot, approx. 6 countries/ year, and this always has worked for me) where the local cell service is cheap or there are cheap tourist packages, I buy a local SIM card to get high speed data service, and I use the local sim card for local calls and google hangouts for free calls to the USA. Where the local service is pricey I just settle for low bandwidth T-Mobile international service (if there’s a true need you can pay extra $$$ for high speed service on a daily basis, but it’s not cost effective for a long trip).
I think T-Mobile only sells unlimited plans (on postpaid) these days. People who had other plans were grandfathered in.

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get_g0ing
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by get_g0ing » Tue Sep 17, 2019 5:20 pm

The main takeaway I see is:
Google Fi is cheaper
Google Fi does high speed international data (T-mobile only does 2G international by default)

gtd98765
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by gtd98765 » Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:27 pm

The main takeaway I see is:
Google Fi is cheaper
Google Fi does high speed international data (T-mobile only does 2G international by default)
Fi is cheaper if you get most of your data via wifi rather than the cell network. For example, if you have wifi at home and at work, and don't generally watch videos on your phone when you are out and about using data. If we are not travelling we almost never spend more than $60 / month for our two lines, but we meet this ideal use case.

Fi has been great during our frequent international travel, since the phones just work a few minutes after the plane lands, without any effort on our part. Of course, the data the phone is consuming as the plane is taxiing to the terminal is being charged to us at $10/GB - but it is fast, whether we are in London or the US.

Fi is not a good choice for people who consume a lot of data via the cell network.

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by BuddyJet » Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:43 pm

Fi now has an unlimited data plan at $70 for one line down to $45 per line for 4 to 6 lines. The unlimited plan also includes Google One cloud storage.
People say nothing is impossible. I do nothing all day.

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get_g0ing
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by get_g0ing » Tue Sep 17, 2019 9:07 pm

gtd98765 wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:27 pm
The main takeaway I see is:
Google Fi is cheaper
Google Fi does high speed international data (T-mobile only does 2G international by default)
Fi is cheaper if you get most of your data via wifi rather than the cell network. For example, if you have wifi at home and at work, and don't generally watch videos on your phone when you are out and about using data. If we are not travelling we almost never spend more than $60 / month for our two lines, but we meet this ideal use case.

Fi has been great during our frequent international travel, since the phones just work a few minutes after the plane lands, without any effort on our part. Of course, the data the phone is consuming as the plane is taxiing to the terminal is being charged to us at $10/GB - but it is fast, whether we are in London or the US.

Fi is not a good choice for people who consume a lot of data via the cell network.
I agree. I was thinking that for someone with 2GB or less data use per month, Fi would be much cheaper than T mobile.

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by MathWizard » Tue Sep 17, 2019 9:09 pm

Google Fi worked great for me when visiting the UK.

I didn't have to do anything, it just worked. I lost service in tunnels and part of the way when we were traveling by train to Gatwick airport,
otherwise it worked everywhere else. Google maps was great for navigating in an unfamiliar city.

I use a Google Phone. A Nexus5 and now a Pixel 3a XL.

I can't compare with T-Mobile.

It has worked everywhere in the US that I went. I like that I can use it as a hotspot without any charge except for data used.

I average about $27/month, counting data and fees.

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by msi » Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:18 am

BuddyJet wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:43 pm
Fi now has an unlimited data plan at $70 for one line down to $45 per line for 4 to 6 lines. The unlimited plan also includes Google One cloud storage.
Seems to me you're better off with T-Mobile Postpaid at $70, so you don't have to pay taxes/fees, and you get in-store support, free Netflix with multiple lines, etc. The advantage of Fi Unlimited would be if you want faster data overseas.

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by Iorek » Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:55 am

get_g0ing wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 5:20 pm
The main takeaway I see is:
Google Fi is cheaper
Google Fi does high speed international data (T-mobile only does 2G international by default)
TMo says it only does 2G by default but IME the speeds are faster

BuddyJet
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by BuddyJet » Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:49 pm

msi wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:18 am
BuddyJet wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:43 pm
Fi now has an unlimited data plan at $70 for one line down to $45 per line for 4 to 6 lines. The unlimited plan also includes Google One cloud storage.
Seems to me you're better off with T-Mobile Postpaid at $70, so you don't have to pay taxes/fees, and you get in-store support, free Netflix with multiple lines, etc. The advantage of Fi Unlimited would be if you want faster data overseas.
Other Fi advantages are price drop to as low as $45 with multiple lines and the availability of free data only sims for ipads or laptops.

Winner depends on personal use case.
People say nothing is impossible. I do nothing all day.

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msi
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by msi » Wed Sep 18, 2019 1:09 pm

BuddyJet wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:49 pm
msi wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:18 am
BuddyJet wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:43 pm
Fi now has an unlimited data plan at $70 for one line down to $45 per line for 4 to 6 lines. The unlimited plan also includes Google One cloud storage.
Seems to me you're better off with T-Mobile Postpaid at $70, so you don't have to pay taxes/fees, and you get in-store support, free Netflix with multiple lines, etc. The advantage of Fi Unlimited would be if you want faster data overseas.
Other Fi advantages are price drop to as low as $45 with multiple lines and the availability of free data only sims for ipads or laptops.

Winner depends on personal use case.
T-Mobile Postpaid can be as low as $36/line, though AFAIK a standalone data-only SIM for tablets isn't available anymore. You have to already have service with T-Mobile or use T-Mobile Prepaid to get that.

meens888
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by meens888 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 1:26 pm

T-Mobile for me has been great for Canada and Mexico.

We recently went to Spain this past spring and the internet connection was sooooooo slow, one of us had to upgrade for $5 each day to get decent speeds.

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by Don_Qua » Wed Sep 18, 2019 2:29 pm

Had fi in the past and liked it but never had the opportunity to use it outside of the US. We switched to Tmo's 55+ plan because it was a better deal for us. Just got back from 3 weeks in the UK. Phones switched over to 2g roaming on a UK company called ee immediately and seamlessly, coverage was excellent. Wife found that 2g roaming was just fine for her, I bought an inexpensive 4g Vodafone sim, 6 gigs for £10 so we'd have speed when we needed it for maps and video uploads.

The sweet spot for us was the combo of TMo's 2g roaming and Google Voice. All calls back to phones in the States were free and connections were clean and clear, even at 2g speeds :D .

One caveat about Tmo"s free roaming... Data roaming is included but voice calls are not. Voice calls when you're out of North America will cost you .25 a minute and you'll pay that even for spam calls. We just forwarded our TMo cell phone numbers to our Google Voice numbers before we left, missed no calls and weren't charged for any of them :moneybag .

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get_g0ing
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by get_g0ing » Wed Sep 18, 2019 7:58 pm

MathWizard wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 9:09 pm
Google Fi worked great for me when visiting the UK.

I didn't have to do anything, it just worked. I lost service in tunnels and part of the way when we were traveling by train to Gatwick airport,
otherwise it worked everywhere else. Google maps was great for navigating in an unfamiliar city.

I use a Google Phone. A Nexus5 and now a Pixel 3a XL.

I can't compare with T-Mobile.

It has worked everywhere in the US that I went. I like that I can use it as a hotspot without any charge except for data used.

I average about $27/month, counting data and fees.
BuddyJet wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:49 pm
msi wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:18 am
BuddyJet wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:43 pm
Fi now has an unlimited data plan at $70 for one line down to $45 per line for 4 to 6 lines. The unlimited plan also includes Google One cloud storage.
Seems to me you're better off with T-Mobile Postpaid at $70, so you don't have to pay taxes/fees, and you get in-store support, free Netflix with multiple lines, etc. The advantage of Fi Unlimited would be if you want faster data overseas.
Other Fi advantages are price drop to as low as $45 with multiple lines and the availability of free data only sims for ipads or laptops.

Winner depends on personal use case.
How was customer service with Google Fi? Any experiences?

With T-mobile one good thing is that you can reach a live human very quickly.

BuddyJet
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by BuddyJet » Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:17 pm

As a three year or so Fi customer, I will confess that their customer service is poor at best.

I am currently on a cruise and got an notification on my phone that the sim was not activated for voice. I was on the phone with Fi customer service for over an hour trying to fix with no success. They said they would refer to senior engineers and get back to me within 24 hours. Over 48 hours and two reminder emails, I have heard nothing.

As part of their fix, they asked me to erase my esim. I reminded that I was in the middle of the ocean and could I download the esim over wifi. They assured me it was OK but wasn’t. My guess is that I will be without voice service until I return to the USA.

Despite all this, their advantages for me mean I won’t be changing to T-mo but I will switch from an esim to regular sim.
People say nothing is impossible. I do nothing all day.

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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by MathWizard » Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:07 pm

get_g0ing wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 7:58 pm
MathWizard wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 9:09 pm
Google Fi worked great for me when visiting the UK.

I didn't have to do anything, it just worked. I lost service in tunnels and part of the way when we were traveling by train to Gatwick airport,
otherwise it worked everywhere else. Google maps was great for navigating in an unfamiliar city.

I use a Google Phone. A Nexus5 and now a Pixel 3a XL.

I can't compare with T-Mobile.

It has worked everywhere in the US that I went. I like that I can use it as a hotspot without any charge except for data used.

I average about $27/month, counting data and fees.
BuddyJet wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:49 pm
msi wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:18 am
BuddyJet wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:43 pm
Fi now has an unlimited data plan at $70 for one line down to $45 per line for 4 to 6 lines. The unlimited plan also includes Google One cloud storage.
Seems to me you're better off with T-Mobile Postpaid at $70, so you don't have to pay taxes/fees, and you get in-store support, free Netflix with multiple lines, etc. The advantage of Fi Unlimited would be if you want faster data overseas.
Other Fi advantages are price drop to as low as $45 with multiple lines and the availability of free data only sims for ipads or laptops.

Winner depends on personal use case.
How was customer service with Google Fi? Any experiences?

With T-mobile one good thing is that you can reach a live human very quickly.
I only had one call to them, when I changed from the Nexus to the Pixel3a XL.

That all went very well. Otherwise, instructions were very clear.

We also use tracfone. Very cheap. I've built up so many minutes that I bought an iPhone 5s for $200 new, and bought 3 years of service,
and an additional 1200 min, 1200 texts + 1.2GB of data to use over the 3 years, and the cost was only $200. So just over $10/month
all-in including the phone.

Very cheap as a backup phone, but customer service is abysmal.

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get_g0ing
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Re: T-mobile vs Google Fi for Internatioanal?

Post by get_g0ing » Thu Sep 19, 2019 7:23 am

Thank for all the input everyone

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