Google has already admitted it wants to become a mobile carrier, but specific details about what that service will look like are still sketchy.
Until recently, that is. Android Police thinks it has a good handle on the details. The Android-focused site recently came across a system image for the Nexus 6 apparently containing an app for the Google-ified mobile service.
After treating the app to a teardown, it revealed a lot about Google’s mobile ambitions such as flat rate pricing, roll over data usage, Google Voice porting, ads based on your call history, and shared data pools between multiple devices.
Why this matters: Google is very interested in shaking up entrenched businesses that impact how people use the web—Google’s key revenue generator. That’s what prompted the company to create Google Fiber, which offers blazing fast Internet in a number of areas across the U.S. Since the introduction of Fiber, ISPs like AT&T and Comcast have started bumping up connection speeds and dropping prices in Fiber areas to better compete. With Google’s carrier project it hopes to encourage the big four mobile providers to change the way they do business.
The working name for Google’s upcoming carrier effort is Project Fi, according to Android Police's teardown. Whether that’s the final name or a placeholder is unclear, but we’ll stick with that name for now.
Project Fi will reportedly have its own dedicated app that will let you carry out most of what you need for using the service, including activation, resuming or putting service on hold, paying bills, switching plans, and tracking data usage.
Based on Android Police’s discoveries, Google will rely on the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile to provide its services. We already knew that Google’s carrier service would be a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) since the alternative is to construct its own network of cell towers across the U.S.
It’s also no surprise that Google would choose Sprint and T-Mobile. The names of both companies have been thrown around for some time when discussing Project Fi. Plus, most MVNOs in the U.S. rely on Sprint and T-Mobile for connectivity.
In February, reports surfaced that said Google’s Project Fi phones would be able to switch between Sprint and T-Mobile networks to always have the strongest possible signal. Like many other MVNOs, Project Fi is expected to default to using Wi-Fi whenever possible to save on network usage.
Flat rates, rollovers
Project Fi will reportedly use flat rate pricing for everything. You start with flat rate packages for voice and text, and then choose from data plans starting at 1GB and moving up from there. You’ll also have the option to pool data between multiple devices. Plus, any unused data will apparently roll over to the next month. Roll over data is a great thing, but it’s not clear what kind of time limits roll over data will have.
MMS (media texts) will apparently be extra beyond the talk and text packages, which isn’t unheard of with MVNOs. It’s also pretty irrelevant considering all the messaging services you can use to send photos and videos over a data connection.
Project Fi will offer free calling and text throughout the U.S. (as you’d expect from any carrier), with low rates for international calling. Presumably, these rates will be similar to what you get now on Hangouts and Google Voice—at least if you’re on Wi-Fi.
All about the ads
It wouldn’t be a Google service if the company didn’t figure out a way to deliver more targeted ads to you. Android Police’s teardown suggests Google will use your call history to better target ads. Call a flower shop and a church in the same day on Project Fi, and you might see wedding-themed ads pop up the next time you do a Google search. For those who don’t like this idea there will reportedly be an opt-out button, but keep in mind that, as your carrier, Google already has your call history.
Those are the big takeaways from Project Fi. It appears you’ll be able to pay for a Project Fi-compatible Nexus 6 in installments. Previous rumors suggested Project Fi would be a Nexus 6-only affair at launch.
Project Fi may let you port your Google Voice number over to the service. The carrier may also let you switch between primary phones not by swapping a SIM card between devices, but by tapping a button in the Project Fi smartphone app.
We should learn more about Project Fi in late May during the Google I/O developer conference. The company routinely introduces new products and services at I/O.