Project Fi, Google's inexpensive mobile phone service that was unveiled in April 2014 under an invitation-only system, can now be used by anyone who buys or provides a compatible Nexus smartphone that will work with the service.
The open invitation to all users was made by Simon Arscott, product manager for Project Fi, in a March 7 post on the Android Official Blog.
"We launched Project Fi as an invitation-only Early Access program to make sure we could deliver the best quality of service to our first customers," wrote Arscott. "Today, we're excited to be exiting our invitation-only mode and opening up Project Fi so that people across the U.S. can now sign up for service without having to wait in-line for an invite."
Under the offering, customers pay $20 per month for cellular access, plus data fees of $10 per GB only for the data that is consumed each month. The monthly access fee also includes unlimited talk and texting, WiFi tethering and international coverage in more than 120 countries.
"We'd like to say 'thank you' to all our Project Fi customers for providing insights and feedback over the past 10 months" during the invitation-only period for the program, he wrote. "While Project Fi is still in its early stages, we're excited to welcome our next wave of customers and look forward to growing and improving together."
To usher in the next phase of Project Fi, Google is also offering a special $199 price on its new 16GB Nexus 5X smartphone, a discount of $150 from its regular price of $349, wrote Arscott. The special price is available through April 7 for buyers who purchase the phone through the Project Fi Website, while supplies last. A 32GB Nexus 5X is priced at $249 through the Website.
Both models include a 5.2-inch full HD display, a 2GHz hexa-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, an Adreno 418 graphics processing unit, 2GB of LPDDR3 memory, a 12.3-megapixel rear camera, a 5MP front camera and a 2,700mAh battery. Both handsets run on the Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system.
With the technology, users will automatically be connected to more than a million free, open WiFi hotspots that Google has verified as fast and reliable, according to an earlier eWEEK story. Those connections will be encrypted to protect user data. When users are not near a WiFi connection, they will be automatically connected to the cellular network of Sprint or T-Mobile, which are providing 4G LTE services for the program. User connections will be transitioned between WiFi and the cellular networks as they move from one network to another under the system.
"Roughly 10 months ago we introduced Project Fi—a program to explore new ideas in wireless connectivity," wrote Arscott. "Similar to our Nexus hardware program, Project Fi works in partnership with leading carriers and hardware makers to push the boundaries of what's possible. By designing across hardware, software, and connectivity, we're able to explore new ways for people to connect and communicate."
Project Fi can be used in more than 120 countries at the same rates that customers are charged for using data in the United States, according to the program. The service uses Google's WiFi Assistant tool, which automatically connects to high-quality hotspots and helps secure connections for users. More than 50 percent of Project Fi's customers are connecting to public hotspots using WiFi Assistant each week, the company said.
Based on statistics so far, the average Project Fi user is using about 1.6GB of data per month, according to the company.
In December, the program began issuing data-only SIMs to help Project Fi subscribers connect to data from devices, including tablets and vehicles, with no additional fees or restrictions.
The service also offers 24/7 customer support through phone, chat or email to assist customers when needed.