The search giant’s consumer-friendly service isn’t for everyone
Cheaper. More flexible. More convenient. These words are like catnip for consumers, making them stare saucer-eyed and salivating at whatever possibilities come next. And that’s the promise of Google’s new wireless service, Project Fi.
But should you jump ship from your current mobile plan into Google’s boat? First read up on everything we know about the radical new plan, then consider these factors before making the leap.
If you’re an iPhone person, thanks for clicking on this story — you can move along now. That’s because to take advantage of Google’s wireless plan, you’ll have to use a Nexus 6 handset, co-developed by Google and Motorola Mobility and running Google’s Android software. So, no iOS users allowed, for now — but that leaves approximately 46.7% of mobile users for Google to woo, which is still an enormous market.
And running the latest and greatest version of Android, the Nexus 6 is an excellent smartphone, but it sure is a big fella. Actually, the technical term for a phone of its stature is “phablet,” and being part phone, part tablet, you might find the Nexus 6 a tight fit in your pants pocket. So, if that’s your preferred method of stowage, you’ll also want to pass on Google’s killer deal, at least until other phones are allowed to participate, too (Google’s offering is Nexus 6-only for now because it packs new tech making it capable of running on the plan).
Google (along with partners Sprint and T-Mobile) has done a commendable job of bringing the monthly cost of service down, but the up-front cost is fairly high compared to carriers that provide subsidized phones. To get in on the new plan, you’ll have to shell out for the Nexus 6, which starts at $649. If you already own a Nexus 6 free-and-clear (meaning you’re not contracted through another carrier), congratulations — you’re already eligible to switch over to Google’s new plan. But if you got your Nexus 6 through a deal from your current carrier, expect penalties, fees, and other financial wrangling to impede your cellular freedom. Google isn’t offering to pay switchers’ early termination fees, either.
This is where Project Fi shines. While its $10 per gigabyte rate is on par with other carriers, the key to the deal is how Google refunds users for unused data. Applying the reversed charges to the next month’s bill, Google can save you a good chunk of change on your mobile phone bill.
To find out how much you’ll save, just log into your mobile provider’s website and look at the summaries they provide. For instance, my wife and I have a 10 gigabyte Mobile Share Value plan from AT&T. But we only use six gigabytes of data, on average. (Full disclosure: I intended to sign up for their six gigabyte plan, but a promotional rate gave me 10 for the same price.) If I switched us to Google’s Project Fi, we would save $40 per month on our combined bill — that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Project Fi is refreshing because it seems to come with no strings attached, but they could have called it the Bachelor Plan, because to use it right, you really need to fly solo. Take a family of three, for instance. Sharing that 10 gigabyte AT&T Mobile Share Value plan between three off-contract phones would cost for $145 per month. But if this family was to take Google up on its offer, it would cost $20 per line for voice service before the 10 gigabytes would add an additional $100 to the bill, for a total of $160. (And that doesn’t take into account the up-front cost of three Nexus 6 phones.)
Still, there are some flaws in this math. Since Google’s new plan only charges users for the data they consume, this family might get a refund. For instance, if the family uses just seven gigabytes, their net bill would only be $130. Still, this is also a fantasy because at this time there is no Project Fi family plan, so these people would actually need three separate plans.
In other words, for people who share data, Google’s new plan might save you some money, but not enough to offset the hassle of switching, or the upfront costs of the new phones.
The game-changing feature of Project Fi is how it uses Wi-Fi as much as possible, even for making phone calls. But when you’re out of Wi-Fi range, you’ll be piggybacking on T-Mobile and Sprint’s networks, and this could be a concern for some users. In rating the four major carriers late last year, Consumer Reports gave Sprint’s network poor marks, but noted how T-Mobile had improved its service. Still, these rankings have to be considered on a case-by-case basis depending on where you live, work, and spend the most time. If you have access to Wi-Fi in those places, this plan could be great for you. But if Sprint and T-Mobile perform poorly there, it’s not worth making the switch to Project Fi — at least not yet.
See the place Mandela was held for nearly two decades
All online tourists are welcome: Google has launched a virtual tour of the island prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years.
As part of Google’s tour of Robben Island prison colony off the coast of Cape Town, online visitors can roam the cells and explore guard towers from a computer or smartphone, Mashable reports.
Robben Island, which has served over time as a leper colony, a mental hospital, and a maximum security prison built to hold civil dissidents like Mandela, is now a United Nations World Heritage site. Mandela spent 18 years there for opposing Apartheid.
Google also features historical exhibits like the theater where Abraham Lincoln was shot, Aushwitz concentration camp, and the site of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
Project Fi is cheaper and more flexible than most wireless plans+ READ ARTICLE
Google is already an Internet Service Provider and a pay-TV operator. Now it’s expanding to become a wireless carrier as well.
Google unveiled Wednesday a new cell phone service dubbed Project Fi, which offers the same basic functionality as traditional wireless carriers, such as voice, text and Internet access, at a lower price than many common plans.
Here’s a primer on everything you need to know about Google’s Project Fi:
What exactly does Project Fi offer?
Project Fi offers a basic cell phone plan that includes unlimited domestic talk and text and unlimited international texts for $20 per month. International calls will cost $.20 per minute. Subscribers can add a monthly allotment of 1GB of data for $10 month, and increase the allotment by $10 per gigabyte.
One thing that makes Fi different from many mainstream carriers is that any data a customer doesn’t use shows up as a credit on their next bill — each 100MB is worth $1. There are also no overage penalties, as extra data use is charged at the same rate as data that is part of the plan. And, in a nice plus for international travelers, mobile data costs the same $10/GB in more than 120 countries.
How will Project Fi differ from what traditional wireless carriers offer?
Google’s service will switch between different high-speed wireless networks operated by Sprint and T-Mobile, depending on which is stronger in a given area. In addition to regular cellular coverage, phones on Project Fi will switch to Wi-Fi networks when available to place calls and access the Internet without using up customers’ data plans.
Using Wi-Fi for voice service is becoming an increasingly popular strategy in the telco industry — Cablevision recently unveiled a cell phone service that is entirely reliant on Wi-Fi connections and costs $30 per month.
What do I need to get Project Fi?
Right now, you can only use Project Fi with a Nexus 6, Google’s flagship Android phone. The Nexus 6 costs $649 for the 32GB version. Unlike traditional carriers, Google isn’t offering a subsidy on the phone in exchange for a two-year contract commitment (Project Fi is contract-free).
However, customers can pay for the device over the course of two years if they pass a credit check. And if you already own a Nexus 6, it’ll work on Project Fi.
How is Google able to build the infrastructure to offer cell phone service?
Google isn’t building its own cell phone towers for Project Fi. Instead, it operates on networks already operated by Sprint and T-Mobile. The big wireless carriers already make lots of money by effectively renting access to their networks to smaller carriers, who then resell that service to consumers using different branding.
Google, of course, could be a much bigger long-term threat to the wireless industry than the typical small-scale operator. But Sprint has reserved the right to renegotiate its deal with Google if the search giant gains a large number of subscribers, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Why would Google want to be a wireless carrier?
Google’s primary interest as a company is getting people on the Internet so that they can make Google searches and be served ads, which is how Google makes money. Developing new ways to make Internet access cheaper, faster or more reliable creates more opportunities for users to feed into Google’s core business.
Google likely doesn’t have aspirations to become the next AT&T or Comcast–those firms have incredibly high infrastructure costs and often contentious relationships with their customer base because of the high fees they charge. Rather, Google wants to tip the scales to force the giants in telecommunications to offer better service. This is already happening with Google Fiber, Google’s high-speed Internet service, which has prompted Time Warner Cable to boost Internet speeds for its own customers in places like Charlotte, N.C.
How will this affect the other carriers?
For now, any impact will be small, because Project Fi is only available on the Nexus 6. T-Mobile and Sprint will actually benefit financially because Google is paying them for their networks, and those companies will have the leverage to stamp out Google’s service if it develops in ways they don’t like. But in the long run, Google’s presence could force carriers to offer customers plans that are cheaper and more flexible. T-Mobile has already been filling this disruptive role in the telco industry through its aggressive Uncarrier plan.
It comes with a nifty little quiz
In 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to spread the message of environmental awareness, and in the process created the first ever Earth Day. To honor what has become a global observance, a new Google Doodle has been created for Earth Day 2015.
The brainchild of the late Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day 1970 garnered bipartisan support and is widely considered to be the beginning of the environmental movement. The campaign led to remarkable change — generating momentum for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passing of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.
In 1990 another big campaign was organized to honor the 20th anniversary of Earth Day and an estimated 200 million people worldwide participated in the celebrations. Afterward, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest honor a U.S. civilian can receive.
The doodle features a spinning globe with various animal animations inside the Google letters. With a click, the animation links to a fun quiz where people can find out “which animal are you?”
Who wants to go diving into that freezing, murky water anyway?
It’s one of the most persistent mysteries of modern times — does Nessie, the Loch Ness monster, exist? For those who are interested in finding out, Google is here to help. It has taken its Street View cameras on (and under) Scotland’s most famous lake.
The initiative, according to a post on the company’s official blog, is part of the anniversary celebration (including Tuesday’s Google Doodle) of the iconic “Surgeon’s Photograph” that began the legend. Taken in 1934, the photo showed what appeared to be a giant sea creature raising its neck out of the water, kicking off a series of conspiracy theories that linger to this day.
Google ditched its recognizable Street View car in favor of a boat in order to get the images, naturally, but also employed a team of divers to snap photos beneath the lake’s surface. There’s even a video showing how they did it.
Mobile-friendly websites will now get a big boost
Google has let the world in on a recent change to its carefully protected search algorithm. Starting Tuesday, the company is boosting the ranking for mobile-friendly websites and demoting those pages that don’t load well on smartphones.
The search giant first announced the change back in February, and the move has earned the moniker “Mobilegeddon” as anxiety over the algorithm tweak has grown in recent weeks. The end result should benefit users, who will less often be sent to hard-to-navigate websites designed for desktop computers.
The shift will also help Google, which is fiercely competing with apps dedicated to specific services (think Amazon for shopping, Yelp for restaurant reviews) that are siphoning away inquiries users could be typing into a Google search bar.
Google is ending support for the video app on many old devices
If you’re still clinging to your first iPhone from 2009, Google is giving you one more reason to upgrade. The company is ending support for its YouTube app on many devices manufactured before 2013, including a number of Apple gadgets, because of upgrades to YouTube’s platform. Here’s a quick guide to which devices are affected and what you can do to hang onto YouTube.
Apple phones will have to run iOS 7 or iOS 8 in order to be compatible with YouTube. If you have the original iPhone, the iPhone 3G, or the iPhone 3GS, you’re simply out of luck, since they don’t support either operating system. iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 users who have never upgraded their operating system can update to iOS 8 to get access to YouTube. iPhone 4 users who already have iOS 7 will still have access to YouTube, but those who never upgraded will be out of luck because Apple now only offers iOS 8, which is not supported on the iPhone 4.
On the iPad front, only the original iPad will no longer be compatible with YouTube. Other users with old iPads can just upgrade to Apple’s latest OS to use the YouTube app.
The third-generation Apple TV can be upgraded to support YouTube by selecting “Settings,” then “General,” then “Upgrade Software” in the device’s menu. First and second-generation Apple TVs, which were on sale before 2012, will no longer support the YouTube app at all.
Sony and Panasonic TV and Blu-ray players that use Google TV may not run the YouTube app. Devices that only support version 1 and version 2 of Google TV won’t be compatible with YouTube, while newer devices that support version 3 and version 4 will run the video app.
Even on devices that don’t support YouTube’s app, users can still navigate to YouTube’s mobile site in their web browsers to watch videos.
Here's how to find your search history—and delete it
Some of your deepest, darkest secrets have probably passed through the Google search bar. Now, you can download every last query you’ve ever typed into the search engine and see them all together in their raw glory (or shame).
The feature was first rolled out as an experiment last year but is now available to all users, according to the unofficial Google blog Google Operating System. To access the data, visit your Web History page, click the gear icon in the top-right corner and click “Download.” A warning box will appear advising users to enable two-step verification and to avoid downloading their search histories to public computers.
Click “Create Archive” and a zip file featuring all the search queries will be placed in a folder called “Takeout” in your Google Drive account. The file can then be downloaded to your computer. Only searches you made while logged into your Google account are included in the file.
If you’re horrified at the idea of every fleeting thought you’ve typed into Google being gathered in a single place, you can also delete your search history. On the Web history page where you download the archive, simply click the gear icon and select “Remove items” instead. In the drop-down menu, you’ll see an option to remove items since “the beginning of time.”
Tesla was almost acquired as it approached bankruptcy
Tesla Motors is flying high these days, with a backlog of orders for its Model S electric car and a stock price above $200. But two years ago, the company was reportedly in such dire straits that it was nearly sold to Google.
An excerpt of an upcoming biography of Tesla CEO Elon Musk published by Bloomberg explains that Musk was on the verge of selling his unprofitable electric car company to Google early in 2013. Musk and Google CEO Larry Page are old friends, and Musk was able to work out some very favorable terms for the deal—Tesla would sell for $6 billion, Google would bankroll an extra $5 billion in capital expenditures for factory expansions and Musk would remain at the helm of Tesla for as long as eight years.
According to Bloomberg, the deal would have ensured that Tesla remained an independent brand until it produced an electric car that appealed to the mainstream market.
Spokespeople for Google and Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When the two companies were close to inking the deal, Model S sales finally began to take off, and Tesla squeaked out an $11 million profit in the first quarter of 2013. No longer fearing bankruptcy, Musk called off the deal with Google.
The two tech firms may soon be adversaries as Google expands its own ambitions in the world of driverless electric cars.