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Google Fi goes nationwide

Google opened its pay-as-you-go mobile service to the entire country and discounted the network’s flagship handset, the LG Nexus 5X. Google’s Project Fi, which relies on Wi-Fi with cellular backup from the Sprint and T-Mobile US networks, was initially available by invitation only before the company made it accessible nationwide. The Nexus phones are still the only devices specifically designed to support Google Fi.

Customers who order the Nexus 5X through Google will be able to get the unlocked smartphone for $199. The Nexus 5X is a 5.2-inch, Android 6.0 LTE smartphone powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808 chipset. Google boasts the phone has “the best all-around camera we’ve ever put into a Nexus,” but users are complaining that the camera doesn’t always work. Google said this week a software update for the Nexus 5X is coming.

Users of the Google Fi service seem to be able to rely on Wi-Fi for much of their data use, rather than the Sprint and T-Mobile US networks. Google said in a blog post the average customer uses just 1.6 gigabytes of cellular data per month. But some are using much more, and are using Google’s service on multiple devices.

“We launched data-only SIMs in December to help Project Fi subscribers connect to data from devices other than their phones with no additional fees or restrictions,” said product manager Simon Arscott in a blog post. “Since then, we’ve seen SIMs used everywhere from tablets to cars.”

Google’s Fi Basics plan costs $20 per month and offers customers unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texts and tethering. Users can add data for $10 per gigabyte, and Google issues a bill credit each month for any unused data.

Wireless carriers are keeping a close eye on Google, and many breathed a sigh of relief when the company declined to register as a bidder in the upcoming 600 MHz spectrum auction. For now Google appears content to operate as a mobile virtual network operator with a heavy reliance on Wi-Fi.

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