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How Google’s Project Fi Saved the Day in Bali

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TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig recently returned from a fantastic family trip to Southeast Asia, but he arrived to a nasty surprise in Bali.

Earlier this summer I signed up for Google’s Project Fi. I’m perfectly happy with my iPhone and Verizon service at home, but Google’s offer of very cheap international data was too good to pass up. To use Project Fi, you need to have a Nexus 6 Android smartphone. Basic Fi service costs $20 per month, then you pay $10 per 1GB of data you use (you’ll receive a refund for any data you don’t use in any given month, down to the megabyte).

Get cheap data in 120+ countries.
Get cheap data in 120+ countries.

All that sounds fine, but it’s the international capabilities that had me sold. You’ll pay the same $10 per 1GB of data when you’re roaming overseas as you will back home. Speeds are capped at 256kbps, which isn’t terribly fast, but it sure as heck beats T-Mobile’s performance. Like with T-Mobile, phone calls (20 cents per minute in the same 120+ countries) and data just work. You turn your phone on when you land, and a few minutes later you’re loading maps and catching up on email.

Which brings me to my trip to Bali…

Staying connected in Bali.
Staying connected in Bali.

I planned a few days off the grid in Bali, but “off the grid” for me means just 30 minutes of email and a few Instagram posts a day. I wasn’t prepared to completely unplug, and I’m not sure I ever will be. Not to mention that I had a family trip to run and no plans at all after our arrival at DPS airport. Not to worry — we rented a wonderful villa on Airbnb that listed free Wi-Fi among its many amenities. Except the internet was out when we arrived, and for a couple days after that.

Just $3.83 for five days of data!
Just $3.83 for five days of data!

My Project Fi phone went from convenient gadget to family lifeline. My mom, sister and I each spent several minutes calling loved ones back home, and I stayed on top of email and planned the rest of our trip, including finding places to eat near the villa, booking a car and driver for a day, locating a phenomenal cooking class and tracking our Garuda Indonesia flight to Tokyo.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip to Bali, made much less stressful by my handy (and shockingly inexpensive) global smartphone.

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