Launched in April 2015, Project Fi is Google’s mobile virtual network operator. Google has partnered with three leading national carriers to always deliver the strongest signal possible by automatically shifting its customers from one network to another. Project Fi even includes an unthrottled access to international networks in over 135 different countries and territories.
Google is offering only one Project Fi plan, which includes unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texting, Wi-Fi hotspot, the ability to share calls and texts across devices, and free data-only SIM card. Should you ever need more data than what’s included in the basic data allotment, Google will charge you $10 per every extra GB. If you consume less data than you have available, Google will compensate you for unused data. Simply put, you only pay for what you really need.
Project Fi Smartphone Support
The biggest caveat with Project Fi is the fact that it works only on smartphones that were designed with a new state-of-the-art radio built to work with multiple networks. Without the support for a wide range of LTE bands, it would be impossible for Google to automatically shift customers between networks.
Right now, the only phones that are officially supported by Fi are Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Nexus 6P, Google Pixel, and Google Pixel XL. Despite this limitation, it’s possible to get Project Fi working on your iPhone, and it’s not ever complicated. All you have to do is unlock your iPhone and activate the Fi SIM card using a Nexus or Pixel device.
Keep in mind that some features of Project Fi won’t be available unless you use one of the officially supported smartphones. Your voicemail inbox won’t work unless you download Google Voice, MMS and group SMS are very problematic, automatic carrier switching doesn’t work (however, you can still switch between carriers manually), and the official Project Fi app, which allows you to check your data usage and manage your account and setting, is only available through the Play Store.
How to Activate Project Fi on iPhone
Now that we’ve clarified what are some of the biggest limitations and advantages of using Project Fi on iPhone, it’s time to get everything working, starting with finding out whether your iPhone is carrier-locked.
Step 1: Unlock your iPhone
Thanks to the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, which has made the act of unlocking your unsubsidized cell phone 100 percent legal, customers who have purchased their iPhones outright or have completed their service agreements can unlock their smartphones for free.
To find out if that includes you, we recommend you visit the official unlocking page from your carrier:
- AT&T Device Unlock Page
- T-Mobile Unlock Page
- Sprint Unlock Page
- Verizon Unlock Page
- S. Cellular Unlock Page
Step 2: Sign Up for Project Fi
With your iPhone unlocked, it’s time to sign up for Project Fi and get a Fi SIM card. Visit the official sign up page and select the “Bring a Pixel or Nexus to Project Fi” option. Of course, you won’t be using a Pixel or Nexus smartphone—this is just so Google allows you to order a standalone SIM kit.
Step 3: Activate your Fi SIM Card Using a Supported Smartphone
Now comes the potentially most difficult part, depending on whether you know someone who has a supported smartphone and would be willing to let you use it for a few minutes. If you have access to Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel, or Pixel XL, you can simply insert the SIM card that came as part of your standalone SIM kit and finish the software activation by singing in with your Google Account and following the on-screen prompts that will guide you through the activation process.
If you don’t have access to any supported Android device, you can get a used or refurbished Nexus smartphone for around $200 on Amazon. That may seem like a lot just to activate your Fi SIM card, but considering how much you can save each month, it’s actually not bad at all. Besides, you can keep the Nexus smartphone as a backup phone in case if the service on the iPhone goes out or offer it up for sale.
Step 4: Insert the Activated SIM into Your iPhone
Go to the Settings menu on the smartphone you’ve used to activate your SIM card and remove your Google account. Turn off the smartphone and remove the SIM card. Insert it into your iPhone and turn it on. You should see “Project Fi” as your carrier. If you’re having trouble sending and receiving MMS messages, go to the Cellular menu in Settings and manually enter a few values into the corresponding fields:
- APN: h2g2
- Username: [leave blank]
- Password: [leave blank]
- MMSC: http://mmsc1.g-mms.com/mms/wapenc
- MMS Proxy: [leave blank]
- MMS Max Message Size: 1048676
- MMS UA Prof URL: http://www.apple.com/mms/uaprof.rdf
For more details and additional compatibility settings, visit the official Project Fi help page.
Despite the need to go through a few extra steps to get Project Fi working on the iPhone, we see it as an excellent alternative to established carriers—one that’s extremely cost-effective, reliable, and without any unacceptable fine print.