Project Fi

Why Project Fi's new group plan is a no-brainer for families

Google's wireless service is giving back money to families who subscribe, but it's up to you to sign up for the savings.

Project Fi Group Plan

Google's weird wireless service just keeps getting better.

You've heard of Project Fi by now, right? It's an experimental cell plan from Google that works with Nexus and Pixel phones. In a nutshell, it seamlessly switches your phone between a handful of networks -- Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular -- to get you the best possible signal at any given time or place. It also taps into reliable public Wi-Fi networks (with its own layer of encryption in place) and uses those for your calls and data whenever it can.

You pay only for the actual mobile data you use each month -- at the same flat rate, even if you're roaming in a different country. It's an unusual arrangement that won't make sense for everyone, but if you're anything like me and my family, it could end up simplifying your life and saving you some dough.

Today, the potential for savings is growing even greater. Google just announced a new Project Fi group plan that lets you put multiple phones onto a single account instead of treating them as individual entities, as the service had previously required.

If you're already using Project Fi or thinking about giving it a whirl, this new option is something you should seriously consider. In fact, if you have multiple family members on Fi, you'd almost be crazy not to take advantage of it and combine your accounts immediately.

Why? Above anything else, it's a matter of simple math.

Let's break it down.

The Fi family formula

At its core, Project Fi has just one universal plan: You pay a base fee of $20/mo. plus $10 per gig of data used.

With the new group plan, secondary lines have a base fee of $15/mo., along with the same standard pay-for-what-you-use data rate. So in other words, by combining your family's individual Fi accounts into a single group plan, you'll pay $5 less per month -- while still maintaining the same exact service and rates.

The best part? Combining existing accounts couldn't be easier to do. You just go to your Fi account page, follow the prompts to create a group plan and add someone else onto it, and then wait for that person to accept the invitation. I did it this morning, and in a matter of seconds, my wife's individual account was gone and she was part of our new group plan instead -- no SIM card changes, no service interruptions, no hassles whatsoever. It just worked.

(Fi kept my billing cycle and prorated her for this month as well as for the part of the month she'd already used on her old individual plan.)

And bam: Just like that, our collective monthly cost for cell phone service got $5 cheaper. Sixty bucks a year back in our pockets for a couple minutes of work. 

Not too shabby.

Other Fi group plan perks

On top of the savings, the Fi group plan gives you a new set of tools for managing data usage on secondary accounts. While I obviously won't be putting a cap on my wife's usage (hi, honey!), I could see this being handy in the (ahem, very distant) future -- when we might want to give our daughter a cheap smartphone and limit her to a small amount of mobile data usage per month.

And, of course, you end up with a single collective bill -- complete with a breakdown of device-by-device usage and charges -- instead of having to deal with two individual statements. It's a relatively minor asterisk to this, really, but as far as I'm concerned, anything that streamlines my expenses is a positive.

Oh, and there's one other significant subheadline here to note: As part of the group plan announcement, Google has confirmed it'll continue to sell the 2015 Nexus 5X and 6P phones to Project Fi subscribers. So if you don't want to shell out a cool 650 smackeroos for a shiny new Pixel phone -- be it for yourself or for a family member -- you have some more affordable options that'll fully work with Fi's service. (The 5X is currently selling for $199 while the 6P is priced at $399 -- both unlocked and free from any long-term commitments.)

You'll have to crunch the numbers with your own smartphone usage patterns to see if Project Fi itself makes sense for you. If you are using the service, though -- and have other family members on board with you -- don't wait. Go switch yourself over to the new group plan this second.

Your wallet will thank you.

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