Project Fi Phooey

After many hours of research, I thought I had landed upon the very best phone system to keep Elise safe during our travels – Google’s Project Fi, which provides unlimited talk in the US and unblocked texting in 135 countries with one world SIM card. It only works with Google phones, however, so I bought a Google Pixel for myself at Saturn and a secondhand (though brand-new) Pixel XL for Elise. Total investment: 1030€. I then signed up for Project Fi. I knew we wouldn’t be able to make use of the talk portion of the service, but I was more than willing to eat that cost, given the enormous benefit of worldwide texting with a single SIM, but nowhere die Google indicate that Project Fi DOES NOT WORK with European model Google phones. Only after hours of chat and phone tech support did it become clear that our shiny new Google phones were no more useful than any old cell phone requiring new SIMs in every country we visited. This was a serious concern for me, because it is not always possible to immediately buy and install SIM cards. How would Elise reach me if we got separated after we’d arrived in a new country, but before we could buy SIMs? Google’s response: we’ll refund the $14 shipping for the Project Fi SIMs. Oh, and we will update our FAQs so others don’t encounter this situation. Needless to say, the discovery had caused a sickening feeling in my stomach. The workaround I came up with was to use our 1&1 German SIMs in the Google phones so that – even if it costs 5€ a minute – Elise could call me anytime and anywhere. However, that required 1&1 to convert the house phone (Festnetz) to a cell phone SIM, and me to burden my sub-tenant so that I could dig through boxes to find the old house phone SIM. But the fun didn’t end there. The SIM did not fit Elise’s new Google phone and my efforts to trim it didn’t work. 1&1 gave me the addresses of 1&1 stores in town where they could trim it, but they turned out to be fictitious shops. (It was starting to get Kafkaesque.) Fortunately, a man at a Telecom shop got the SIM to fit by carving away the excess plastic with a special knife. It was good to have a solution where Google failed us, but I could have done without the added stress before our Big Departure.