How To: Set Up Google Fi on Your iPhone

Set Up Google Fi on Your iPhone

Google's next-gen cellular carrier, Google Fi, which replaces Project Fi, is making waves across the mobile industry. With super-cheap plans starting at only $20 and the ability to connect to millions of Wi-Fi hotspots across the globe, it's tempting many users to make the switch from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.

Making things even more tempting, Google just announced official Fi support for iPhones — there's even a Google Fi app on the iOS App Store now. There are, however, a few quirks with setting Google Fi up on your iPhone, but we'll get to those below. So make sure to read through the entire guide before deciding if Google Fi is right for your iPhone or not.

Step 1: Make Sure Your iPhone Is Carrier-Unlocked

First up, you'll need to find out whether or not your iPhone is carrier-unlocked (also known SIM-unlocked or GSM-unlocked). If this isn't the case, your phone would refuse to connect to Google Fi's network, even if it's technically capable of doing so.

If you bought your iPhone from Apple directly, there's a good chance it's unlocked. If you bought it from your carrier, you will probably have to unlock it. To learn more about carrier-locked phones and what needs to be done to get one unlocked, read through the following guide:

Step 2: Make Sure You're Okay with Fi's Limitations on iPhone

Next, you should know that iPhones are not capable of switching between Google Fi's three underlying networks, which are Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular. Instead, any iPhone you use with Google Fi will be limited to only the T-Mobile network.

I'd recommend checking T-Mobile's coverage map before proceeding, just to make sure there's good coverage in your area. However, to ensure you get an exact representation of coverage, do not click the "Extended Range LTE-600 Mhz" overlay (more on that later).

You might be concerned about the different bands and frequencies used by the various US carriers, but don't be. All iPhones sold in the US, regardless of if they were purchased through a carrier or directly from Apple, work on all key T-Mobile frequencies. The lone exception is T-Mobile's new 600 MHz Band 71 network, but even iPhones purchased from T-Mobile themselves don't work on this network.

In other words, you'll get the exact same coverage with any US iPhone on Google Fi as a T-Mobile iPhone would get on the T-Mobile network.

Your iPhone will also lose a bit of functionality on Google Fi, at least for now. Texting (SMS) will not work over Wi-Fi. iMessage will work as normal, but texting non-iPhone users will require that you're connected to a cell tower. Wi-Fi calling will not work, either. It's possible that Google will add these features in the future, but I wouldn't hold out hope.

Finally, you will lose access to visual voicemail by switching to Fi. This is somewhat likely to change in the future, since Google could simply update their Google Fi app for iPhones to add this functionality, but you won't be able to see text-based voicemail transcripts in the standard Apple Phone app.

Step 3: Purchase a Project Fi SIM Card

If you're still interested in making the switch at this point, you'll just need a Google Fi SIM card. To get one, simply sign up for Google Fi, then make sure to choose "Bring your own phone" when asked to select a device. You won't be charged for the SIM kit that you can use with your iPhone.

Step 4: Install the Google Fi App

Now, you'll need to get the Google Fi app on your iPhone. You can either search the App Store for "Google Fi," or you can jump right to the installation page by tapping the link below.

Step 5: Activate Your Google Fi SIM

From here, simply insert your Google Fi SIM card into your iPhone, then restart the device. When you get back up, open the Google Fi app, sign in with the Google account you used to activate Fi, then simply follow the prompts to get your new cell service up and running.

Step 6: Enable SMS & MMS Messages

Now, to make sure your iPhone can send and receive regular non-iMessage text messages, you'll likely need to tweak some additional options. Open your Settings app and head to the "Cellular" menu. From here, if you're on iOS 12, tap "Cellular Data Network." If you're on iOS 11, tap "Cellular Data Options," then "Cellular Data Network."

Opening the Cellular Data Network menu on iOS 11.

Next, you'll have to manually enter a few values into the provided fields. So copy the information below exactly as it's typed (leaving the "leave blank" fields blank, obviously), then enter it into the fields on your iPhone.

Cellular Data

APN: h2g2
Username: leave blank
Password: leave blank

LTE Setup

APN: h2g2
Username: leave blank
Password: leave blank

MMS

APN: h2g2
Username: leave blank
Password: leave blank
MMSC: http://fi.g.co/mms/wapenc
MMS Proxy: leave blank
MMS Max Message Size: 1048676
MMS UA Prof URL: apple.com/mms/uaprof.rdf

When you're done there, restart your iPhone again. After that, Google Fi will be fully set up and ready to go!

Conclusion

Even though Google Fi is slightly handicapped on the iPhone, it's still a very cost-effective network, and your reception will always be at least as good as it would be if you were on T-Mobile. The potential for saving money is very high with Google Fi, as we found that you'll pay less than the average monthly cell phone plan regardless of how much data you use.

However, considering all of the quirks, Google Fi might not be the best low-cost carrier for all iPhone users. For one thing, you're limited to T-Mobile cell towers, so you're losing half of the benefit of Fi — its ability to connect to Sprint, T-Mobile, or US Cellular towers.

Of course, Google Fi could still be the right solution for some iPhone users — particularly if you use less than 1 GB of data every month. If that were the case, you'd be paying less than $30 for service, and there aren't any cell service plans that can beat that price.

Editor's note: This article previously featured the workaround for getting Project Fi working on an iPhone when Google did not support iPhones. It has been updated to reflect Google's new Google Fi plan which does support iPhones.

Cover image and screenshots by Dallas Thomas/Gadget Hacks

11 Comments

iPhones purchased from Apple, Verizon and sprint are capable of using GSM and CDMA networks. So if that's the case could you force roam on sprints network if T-Mobile is down? like near aviation bases??

You can't force your none official Project Fi phone (aka iPhone) to use any CDMA network like Sprint or Verizon even if it technically supports them. The reason being it was never activated on those networks to begin with. When you are activating Project Fi sim in official Google Phone it also activates that phone for access on Sprint network.

this site was referenced on multiple other sites.
https://apn.gishan.net/

look up your phone manufacturer, model, and service provider. make sure you look at the correct phone model. the settings for each phone are slightly different.

Great guide I used your guide many months back to get Project Fi for traveling. Aside from some quirks, it works pretty good. You can also install Google Hangouts on your iPhone for Voicemail and Text. If you want to read my experience of using Project Fi for 5 months, I wrote a post on it.

Have had no luck getting mms to work. Has anybody else had any luck? I can neither send not receive them - although it appears to try. In both cases I either get (or send) an sms message that starts with MMS: xxxxx

Using the second method (T-mobile APN) I can send MMS to android, but cant receive. Any idea why? Also, how come you dont have the "-" in t-mobile for the first few URLs?

I activated my own SIM on a Nexus 5x that I purchased, but was unable to activate a second line on the device. I'm guessing the "use a friend's google phone" trick will only work if their phone doesn't also use Fi already.

One of the other benefits to Fi is the ability to request additional data-only SIM cards, which can be put into any unlocked device: iPads, iPhones, other tablets, etc. These SIM cards draw data from the same pool, rather than having their own minimum charge monthly.

Lastly, international travelers pay the same $10/gb in many countries, meaning you can skip the huge fees from other carriers, and also skip trying to sort a local SIM when you are bouncing around tiny countries in Europe, or border hopping on other continents.

So a few comments from someone who JUST set this up...

  • The person's phone you use to activate your sim, has to clear the project fi app cache: Settings > Apps > Scroll to Project Fi app > Storage > clear cache and data
  • Then go to https://hangouts.google.com > Settings > Project Fi > DISABLE > Receive SMS and voicemail in Hangouts

This all came up because the phone i used to activate my sim on, started getting my SMS messages, in addition to me. So make sure you use someone's phone you can make sure will deal with possible problems. This sorted all my issues and allowed me to get regular SMS to my iPhone messages app (but with the weird ~12345Number thing... but who cares)

Hi,

With this procedure, were you able to activate two Fi SIM with the same phone? I'm trying to activate multiple SIM for family's iphones when I get a Pixel on Project Fi.

Anyone used their iPhone abroad on the Fi network?
One of the benefits of the Google Fi is that you can use it in 135 countries the same as you use in the US.

My friend's fi sim works fine in my iPhone, but my own fi sim isn't working for me... how can this be? I've followed the instructions, but my iPhone just says "no service" when I put the sim in, even if I restart, add h2g2 for APN settings, toggle airplane mode. Anyone have any ideas? I checked my fi account settings, and international use is enabled. I can't think of any reason for this - what should I do?

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