Google Fi and Pixel 4a: How Google can you get?

I had ATT mobile service for years. I also had Samsung phones.

After moving to Georgia, we decided to try something new. We were paying too much to ATT for two phones for two people who don’t use a lot of data. I also wasn’t interested in paying the price of a small farm in a third world country for a phone.

I thought about going with Xfinity’s mobile since I have Xfinity for internet. However, the company’s systems were so terribly broken I decided to escape while the escaping was good. We also looked at OnePlus 8 Pro phones, but support for them is still sketchy.

Google Fi

About this time I stumbled across Google Fi, which I hadn’t heard about previously. Fi is an MVNO or mobile virtual network operator. Google doesn’t actually have a physical network. Instead it channels three different networks it has agreements with: Cingular, Sprint, and T-Mobile. In my area, I have access to all three, including T-Mobile’s 5G network.

Where Google Fi differs from other MVNOs is that it will silently switch you between carriers depending on signal strength. So, if I move out of the T-Mobile area into Cingular, it will switch me over and I won’t even know it.

This silent switching occurs if, big if, you have a compatible phone. So this takes us to the phones.

The Pixel

I had already decided to look at the Google Pixel when I shopped for a new phone. Specifically: the Google Pixel 4a 5G. They’re a good mid-priced option, you know you’ll get the first upgrades, and you know exactly when support for the phone will expire. Google can get wonky when it comes to their products and services, but they seem to be committed to the Pixel phones. For now.

The best thing about Google Pixels and Google Fi is they’re made for each other. The phone silently switches between data networks, and I’ve rarely had problems with connections. Best of all, most of the connections have been 5G. Not that I care about 5G, other than being a cool kid.

Fractional GB and eSim

Our data networks don’t matter that much because we rarely use mobile data. When I’m out of the house, I’m not on the phone. I might use Google maps, and the phone camera, but I’m not going to check into Facebook to see what everyone is doing. When I’m away from my computer, I want to be away from the computer.

This leads us to why I went with Google Fi: the service only charges you for the exact amount of data you use. This last month, it cost me $.97 for the tiny bit of data we used for the month. Of all the options, Google Fi is actually the cheapest we could use.

Setup was easy, too, because we decided to go with new phone numbers to match our new location. Didn’t have to mess with sim cards. We didn’t have sim cards at all: the Pixel/Google Fi supported eSim, which is a software-based sim setup. The only difficulty was changing the mobile number for all the two-factor authentications for many of my services.

What’s interesting is I can get a sim card for another service, and actually switch between Google Fi and that service on the same phone. I wouldn’t, but I could.

Web privacy and the philosophy of licorice

Of course you’re all thinking now: oh my god, Google is really tracking her!

Of course it is. I have an Android phone, Google is always going to be tracking me. Now, though, I don’t have Samsung and ATT joining in the fun. I figure I saved over 10GB of space not having their crapware on my phone. The Google stuff was going to be there because of Android, regardless. To me, it’s just no big thing.

My philosophy about companies tracking is, they don’t care about any of us as individuals: we’re just a collection of related data they can use to sell us something. I used to use ad-blockers and other technologies to try and hide my movements until I realized I was spending more time doing all of this than I was just ignoring what each company is pushing at me.

It really hit home when I mentioned licorice in a Facebook post once. Most of the ads that popped up after that were selling licorice. Not just in Facebook. The licorice ads showed up everywhere.

It led me to what I call my licorice philosophy: You can control what companies know about you by giving them exactly the type of data they want.

So, now I control what type of ads I get (and what companies learn about me) by giving the data machines exactly the data they want to get. What does Google know about me? I like food, I like critters, I’m interested in arborvitae and 3D printers. I don’t like Trump. I like licorice.

It’s become a wonderfully fun game, watching the ads change from site to site. Some days I have a bit of fun and click oddly disparate items and watch the ad machines bust into convoluted exercises trying to hit all the areas of interest at once.

It reminded me of a time when I attended a group team building exercise when I worked at Boeing. Each table of people was a team. Each team competed against each other. We were supposed to come up with tasks that were difficult for the other teams.

What a pain. I convinced my table that we could have more control over the outcome if instead of making it hard for the other team, we made it super easy. The other team caught on quick, and they started doing the same. Between them and us, we ended up first and second, had a blast, and really pissed off the person leading the exercise.

Fun times.

Here I am Google, Take me I’m yours

The service and the phones have been working quite well. The only issue I had for a time is Google’s Assistant was answering the phone for me, and taking messages. I finally was able to persuade it to let the non-spam calls through.

I fed it the spam, though. It was happy.



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