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Is Google Fi’s network worth the premium vs. T-Mobile?

Unlimited

T-Mobile



Pay for what you use

Google Fi



T-Mobile really is the better service for most smartphone users with its cheaper plans, which offer data speeds and video quality that will be good enough for most. While Google Fi's network has better coverage thanks to sharing service from Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular, and it works internationally, if you use a lot of data the cost will balloon rather quickly. Still, a lot of people will prefer the flexibility and simplicity of Google Fi.

Google Fi vs. T-Mobile Unlimited has its limits

Screen showing data usage

Screen showing data usageSource: Android Central

I know it can be confusing to see the word "unlimited" written so often, only to be followed by a paragraph describing limits. When it comes to smartphone plans, unlimited just refers to the amount of data you could potentially use measured in gigabytes per month. This rather raw number masks the things that truly cause network stress, such as long HD streams and huge downloads during peak times.

Peak times are, unfortunately and unsurprisingly, when most people want to use data. Your data will be deprioritized on T-Mobile after 50GB of usage during these peak times but really, that's a lot to hit for most people.

Essentials Magenta Magenta Plus Google Fi Flexible Google Fi Unlimited
Data Networks T-Mobile T-Mobile T-Mobile T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular
5G connection Yes Yes Yes Only on the T-Mobile network Only on the T-Mobile network
Data unlimited unlimited unlimited $10/GB unlimited (slowed at 22GB)
Talk and text unlimited unlimited unlimited unlimited unlimited
Travel Canada and Mexico Canada and Mexico Canada and Mexico 200+ countries 200+ countries
Video Quality SD SD HD No limit SD
Base Cost (1 line) $60/month $70/month $85/month $20/month $70/month

There's a lot that you could do to reduce your data usage to keep Google Fi's Flexible pricing competitive, such as ensuring your apps only update on Wi-Fi or having automatic backups wait until you get home. This can also improve battery life too, so it's not such a sacrifice. Not only that, most music and video streaming services offer download options so you can download once and keep the media on your phone for the future.

Still, if you find it's just not enough, you can upgrade your plan to unlimited through the Google Fi app.

None of this will be a concern on T-Mobile plans thanks to its unlimited data. While the lower-tiered plan will reduce your video quality, high definition will still be available on Wi-Fi and can sometimes be accessed by utilizing a VPN (although your mileage may vary).

Google Fi vs. T-Mobile How does it add up?

With T-Mobile, you know your bill at the beginning of the month since there isn't much that won't be served by the base package. International travel may lead to some extra fees but with service in Canada and Mexico, the travel plans for most Americans should be covered.

The Magenta and Magenta Plus plans on T-Mobile also have unlimited texting and 2G speed data in 210+ countries, which is enough speed to keep you connected. Calls are enabled for $0.25 per minute in most of these countries but the data speeds should be capable of voice chat on apps like Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger, which won't use minutes.

Google Fi's Flexible plan stops charging per gigabyte at $60 for data, or 6GB, which combines with a $20 service charge to reach $80 as a maximum cost for a data-hungry user. This may seem like a good deal for that heavy user since that cost is competitive with other unrestricted, unlimited plans. However, Google Fi will throttle your connection at 15GB. At 256kbps, this will feel like going back in time; it won't be fast enough for any buffer-free streaming.

If you need more than a few gigs each month, Google Fi's unlimited plan is a better value, although you'll have to give up HD video streaming. Still, with a 22GB throttle, heavy data users will still be more at home with T-Mobile.

Google Fi vs. T-Mobile What's up with coverage?

Google Fi Sim on map

Google Fi Sim on mapSource: Samuel Contreras / Android Central

T-Mobile's coverage has grown a ton in recent years with a huge focus on 5G

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. Its LTE network has also had some nice coverage upgrades such as band 71 support and general upgrades to the underlying connection. If you haven't checked your T-Mobile coverage, you might find it has improved.

Google Fi has two tiers of supported phones. The preferred tier will be phones Designed for Fi, which indicates that the phone will be compatible with Google Fi's network switching.

Recently, Designed for Fi phones have also gotten access to 5G as long as they support T-Mobile's 5G bands (n41 and n71 for sub-6). While quite a few phones support these bands, for now, the only 5G phones that support network switching are the Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5, the unlocked Samsung S20 series, Note 20 series, and A71 5G.

The second tier is Compatible with Fi. This includes all unlocked phones that work with the T-Mobile network and includes 5G support on the T-Mobile network. Nearly any unlocked 5G phone will work with this network. For most people, this network will provide more than enough coverage with solid speeds.

Google Fi vs. T-Mobile What if you just want a reliable connection?

For some people, having a connection is worth far more than the cost of service. For these people, Google Fi will likely be the better candidate. This is thanks to the large network available to it both in and out of the U.S. With the choice between a flexible and unlimited plan, Google Fi is a solid fit for just about anyone. Even so, Google Fi tends to be the more expensive option, especially for multiple lines.

For most of us, T-Mobile is the better value overall with plenty of coverage for most people and great savings if you're bringing more than one line. While its full network isn't as big a Google Fi's, it isn't far off. An unlimited 3G speed hotspot is another great addition if you want to keep your devices connected on the go.

Magenta unlimited



T-Mobile Magenta

Designed for most people

T-Mobile's Magenta plans make overages a thing of the past and offer the speeds and quality needed to make the most of a smartphone in 2020, including 5G.

More than a project



Google Fi

Focused on coverage everywhere

Google Fi keeps things moving when you travel with a price that makes sense. With the right phone, you get three networks in the U.S. to stay fast.

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