LOS ANGELES — We’ve covered the topic of Google's Project Fi several times in the pages of this newsletter, including this article from just over a year ago.
What is Google Fi? It is a means by which your mobile device will aggregate signals from more than one cell carrier, in addition to local Wi-Fi. It’s designed to provide the user with the best call quality and fastest data speed by using the best signal “Fi” can find among the aggregate of the individual signals.
Google’s Project Fi doesn’t appear to be getting much attention inside the company. “Google is not putting much marketing push behind the service ... they never really have ... and there's not a large number of newer phones that are optimized to work on the service,” according to this article in fiercewireless.com.
“There is value in the Wi-Fi-first concept, but it is an increasingly tough sell. The unique selling position of ‘you’d be surprised how little cellular data you need’ is a really hard one when up against ‘you don’t have to worry about how much cellular data you use,’” says Strategy Analytics’ Philip Kendall, quoted in the article. “...Fi has the challenge of being a product that might appeal to more techie users but commercially is of more interest to price-sensitive lower-use customers. Collectively, those Wi-Fi-first propositions have approximately 3 million users in the US — challenged by that niche pricing position, often limited device support, and marketing spend dwarfed by the big 4.”
Perhaps more importantly, two of the three phones for Project Fi — the Nexus 6P and 5X — will no longer be supported by Google starting next year (Project Fi launched with the Nexus 6 but no longer sells that phone). Google opted to sell the Pixel, the service’s third phone, through Verizon rather than keeping it exclusive to Fi “...a strategy that would have surely raised the profile of its MVNO,” according to the same article.
Will Project Fi eventually join the long and growing list of other retired Google products like Google Reader, Google Talk, Google Wave, Google Buzz, Picasa or Project Ara? It might eventually. But there are at least some indications that Google continues to devote resources to Project Fi: Google’s Nick Fox tweeted just this month that the company would add RCS support to Project Fi in the near future.” Rich communications services (RCS) is an initiative to add more dynamic features like group chat, high-res photo sharing, read receipts and typing indicators as defaults to the basic, native Android Messages SMS chat app, according to techcrunch.