Google Fi launches a more traditional unlimited plan

Google is announcing a new plan for its MVNO Fi cell service: Unlimited. Like the big four carriers in the US, Google apparently feels the need to use the word “Unlimited” next to its service, whether or not it means what you think it means.

For Google, it means that a single line costs $70 for everything, two are $60 apiece, three are $50 apiece, and you can have four to six at $45 per line. The caveats — and there are always caveats with unlimited plans — is that Google “may optimize” video streaming down to 480p and will also throttle data for any single user that goes over 22GB per month. (You can pay $10 per GB if you want un-throttled data over 22GB.)

Google is also tying its new Unlimited plan to Google One, another service that hasn’t taken off in the popular imagination. Google says that the Unlimited plan comes with a Google One membership, which would save you the $1.99 per month it costs for the 100GB cloud storage tier.

But though that sounds complicated, it’s conceptually easier (at least in the US) than Google Fi’s previous plan — which is still sticking around but is now called “Flex.” Under that plan, it is $20 for the phone line, $15 for each additional line, and $10/GB for any and all data used. For a lot of customers, it could end up being much cheaper than other plans — though heavy data users could sometimes run into higher costs. Still, Google capped data costs at $60 per month.

The Flex plan is actually a really great deal for certain customers, but it meant that their bill could have wild swings from month to month depending on data usage. Google wanted something conceptually easier for US customers, the ones who have been seeing every other carrier offer Unlimited plans.

Both the Unlimited and Flex plans will allow customers to order free “data-only” SIM cards that draw from the same data buckets with no additional monthly charge. Most other US carriers charge a monthly fee for adding such devices, which makes Google Fi one of the best choices for people who love using LTE-enabled version of gadgets.

Fi also is popular with international travelers, as it doesn’t charge any extra fees for data when roaming, though it does $0.20 per minute for calls. Fi also offers a free VPN to Android users, to protect them on sketchy Wi-Fi networks.

Add all that up and Google Fi is one of the better deals in wireless, with bonus features that are actually relevant to wireless service instead of corporate media TV tie-ins. That hasn’t been enough to get it widespread usage, but maybe the new, easier-to-understand unlimited plans will give Fi a boost.

Correction, 1pm ET Sept 17: the original version of this article misstated international pricing for calls on Fi’s plans. We regret the error.

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