I just thought I’d share this; I still feel Google Fi is the best service for people living in the US but travel a fair amount. The service worked well for me until this happened, and always connected quickly when I touched down in new countries and had very few drops; I’d say, only as many as a local network SIM. I would absolutely pay a premium (within reason) for this kind of nearly worldwide service and hope they (or someone) will offer in the future. It’s so nice to turn your phone on when you arrive in a new place and have service instead of having to locate and buy a local SIM, which in my case, I’d have to swap out to get a text or make a call; more on all this below. Now, on to my story…
Before starting my journey, I had read of this happening to others with similar full-time traveling lifestyles , so I knew it would happen at some point. I even started out trying to avoid using the service at all. I originally signed up for service in Italy and only used the Google Fi line for texts. But after going through multiple carriers in Italy offering very limited roaming, and excessive charges without notice, I turned to Google Fi full time while looking for a solid long-term option. I couldn’t find anything straightforward, and Google Fi was working fine, so I guess I got complacent.
The day before heading to the US in February (2022), I received my first dreaded email with the subject; “Your international data roaming will be suspended soon.” It went on to point out the terms of service and how we are required to use the service primarily in the United States, and said if I didn’t use the phone in the US (territories not included) within 30 days my international roaming data would be suspended, but calls and texts will not be impacted; calls are at an additional cost. Being I was on my way back to the states, I knew I’d get a little extra time but not how much… this was especially tough being that I had ordered an Android phone from them to pick up during this stop in the US, only because they had (very quietly) cut off iPhones ability to be used as hotspots internationally, which I needed once in a while. I didn’t have much time to decide what to do on this or deal with returning it, so I kept the phone and was required to keep it active on my line for 120 days for the rebate terms. Which also sucked because I’m not an Android fan lol; I planned to only swap the SIM into it when I needed a hotspot. Anyway, when I left the US again, everything was good for a couple of months before I got the warning email again, and 30 days later my international roaming data was suspended; the day after my birthday; thanks for the gift Google 🙁
I had been on the Simply Unlimited plan, so I reduced service to the Flexible (pay for data as you use it). Luckily, this was fine for the rebate, and because of the previous warning, I started scrambling for an alternative data source and found Airalo. Airalo is an eSIM service that offers various data-only plans ranging from individual countries to a “Global” plan that covers 87 countries (at time of this writing). It’s far from the ideal setup because I feel the Global Plan is expensive for what you get; it doesn’t cover nearly as many countries as Goog Fi does, and other plans lock you into a specified quantity of data for a set number of days in a country or region. Plus, I still need to keep Google Fi for the phone number, calls, and texts. A nice thing about this setup is I can have both lines on one phone. On my iPhone XS, I keep my Google Fi SIM in my phone with the data turned off and have the eSIM connected to the Airalo data. The Airalo app walked me through this at setup, but I did have a little hiccup when I needed to change to a new eSIM. Just know that if you ever change eSIMs, you need to go into your phone settings to remove the old eSIM, then set up the new one. Overall I thought it was a pretty simple process.
Comparing the services from my experience using Airalo in Europe so far – Airalo is on (what I call) the Vodafone group (Vodafone is the primary where available), and Google Fi works with T-Mobile; T-Mobile seems more reliable, at least in Europe, and in just a few months, the service with Airalo has already dropped out on me more often than Google Fi had in a much longer time. But I want to clarify that it’s only been 4 or 5 times and usually not for all that long; though Google line does connect faster upon arrival to a new location. It was down for a few hours once, but most often, it’s been less than an hour. Enough to be frustrating and could be an issue, but I have to imagine it’s the same poor service many locals are paying for, so it is what it is; I guess; some of these providers need to step up their game!
I certainly don’t like the idea of wasting money on eSIMs or planning my travels too far out, so if you know of any other service options, please drop a comment. But if you’re interested in signing up for Google Fi or Airalo, please consider using this paid link and sign-up code that will give us both some credit*. Using this link to sign up for Google Fi will give us each a $20 credit after you sign up and are active for 30 days. With Airalo, using the code MAX3058 at sign-up will get me a $3 credit and you $3 off your first purchase.
- All rebate/credit details given are from the terms shown on the websites at the time of this writing.