Thursday, January 14, 2016

Nexus 5X and Google Fi Project: not ready for prime time

As those of you who read our Google+ posts (svhorizon) know, we were excited to pre-order two spanking new Nexus 5X phones using Google Project Fi phone plan. We are currently in the Caribbean and expect to continue to explore islands and do other world travel so the idea of a cell phone plan that gives unlimited talk and flat rate data access virtually world-wide for only a little more than we were paying for Straight Talk sounded great.

We got the phones, initiated the Google Fi plan and it worked fine in Saint Thomas USVI, Puerto Rico and the US. Then we traveled to Europe. The Fi plan documentation said we would have full coverage in Spain, where we were spending 10 days, and also Italy and France for our flight connections.

So Cate and I headed off on our adventure with two companions, one of which had a one year old Nexus 6, also on the Google Fi plan.

The first problems showed up in Rome when Cate's phone refused to get data even tho we all had 5 bars of signal. My identical phone worked fine and so did Frank's Nexus 6.

For the next 10 days through Barcelona, Seville, and Madrid, neither Cate's phone nor mine got data more than a couple hours a day. We almost always had 4 or 5 signal bars though. Of course Frank with his Nexus 6 had full LTE data access the entire trip. I got by using the excellent android mapping app that does not require data access.

On the third day we called Google Fi technical support. It was a rather humorous call since we were on WiFi which makes for difficult conversations at the best of times. We finally got our problem across and Google opened a problem ticket. A couple days later we got email asking us to try specific things to help them diagnose the problem. With reliable data only on WiFi tho, it was really difficult to respond in a timely basis. Especially when they ask things like "please list an exact street address". Our answer would be "all of Barcelona and Seville".

Anyway, we were moving from city to city faster than Google support could keep up and there was no resolution before we returned to the US.

I have no idea (and neither does Google) why a year old Nexus 6 would have perfect data access while our brand new Nexus 5X phones had so much trouble. If the Google Fi Project gets the bugs worked out, it will be an excellent plan for those of us who spend more time outside the US than inside.