[Rant] Why I left Project Fi

Up until this last month, I had enjoyed the year and a half I have been a Project Fi customer. I joined them with the Nexus 5X, then upgraded to the Nexus 6P. Things didn’t stay so great, though, and Google’s customer service gave me an experience that completely turned me off to the network.

I originally bought the Nexus 6P brand new from the Google Store as part of their promotion to purchase a Nexus 6P, use it on Project Fi, and receive $100 off the cost of the phone if it was activated through the carrier. This was around December or January. Within a month I broke the back glass over the camera.

I ordered the replacement and was off and running with a new one right away. It was simple, it was fast, it was painless. Little did I know, the replacement device would be a problem waiting to happen.

Fast forward about 7 months to October 2nd when I tried to return my Nexus 6P under a warranty return for battery issues. The claim was approved and I was given an RMA. I could not, however, afford the cost of the new Pixel XL, so a standard exchange was offered to me. Despite being offered an exchange, they were unable to do it because of an error with the system Project Fi uses. I was informed that they would tell me when they had a fix.

The next day I was given an opportunity to try the standard exchange again with the funds in my account. I was able to process an RMA. However, my bank wouldn’t allow the transaction due to spending limitations of my debit card, and it would take a week for any raise in that limit to take effect. I was back to square one: waiting for my ticket to be escalated.

On October 3rd as I was getting off the bus I was struck by a fellow rider and my phone was knocked out of my hand and landed flat on the screen and in a puddle. Even with the case on it, it stood no chance of surviving with the way it landed. I then tried to get it replaced under my Project Fi protection plan, thinking maybe it might go through without a problem. After all, I had done one before under device protection without any issues. It was my belief that the problem with replacing it was tied with the warranty. However, it turns out the problem was more extensive than I’d thought.

When they sent me the replacement device back in January, it came with the Nexus Protect offered through the Google Store, which I didn’t sign up for or pay for, as well as the Project Fi Protection, which I did sign up for, and have been paying for. This is the error in their system and they didn’t know how it was caused, or how to fix it.

One tech even suggested I deactivate my Project Fi Protection and then try processing it through the Google Store. That went nowhere fast. After a few days with them, and them just as confused as I was, I went back to Project Fi to find the solution and to get my device protection reinstated.

On October 18th I received the email for my bill that would process on the 28th. The bill was $154. $100 of that is the deductible for the device replacement, which happened to be the device I had yet to receive at that point. I called support to request a refund for it because the error needed to be fixed and I still couldn’t get my phone replaced.

The tech that helped me informed me that if I initiated the refund it would put me over the number of devices I can replace in a year. I have had only done one device replacement this year back in January.But we have tried to replace this phone many times with no success. He assured me that if I let the $100 deductible go through they would be able to process the RMA for me and I would see an email shortly with the RMA and shipping label, so I agreed to pay for the charge just to speed up the process.

I awoke the next morning to no email, no RMA, or shipping label.

Somewhere between the 18th and the 19th I canceled my service with Project Fi and ported my number out to Straight Talk. I selected the LG Stylo 3 so that I could immediately regain phone service. I have also ordered a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 through Xfinity Mobile as my permanent service provider moving forward.

On October 21st I was contacted by a supervisor named Chris. He informed me that he would be taking charge of my problem and he would do everything in his power to make it right. He started by assuring me that he would refund the deductible. He also informed me that he would be checking in with the techs every day until they had the issue resolved. This was on Saturday the 21st and Sunday the 22nd. He also informed me that he would be off until Wednesday 25th, but as soon as he got back to work he would be back in touch immediately.

At this point, I began to feel confident that I had finally been handed to someone that knew what was going on and what was needed to correct the problem.

On October 23rd and I received an email in the same chain as the one from Chris. This tech was James and his email read as follows:

My name is James and I’m a specialist here at Project Fi.

I can see that you need to do an exchange based RMA to avoid the authorization hold for your device. Can you please confirm for me the shipping address and the IMEI of the device in question?

Thanks,

James

I’m now thinking that Chris finally got this process moving.

I respond with all the needed info and in the same day I get this back from James;

Hi Spencer,

I attempted to created an exchange RMA, but there appears to be an error in our systems. I have asked our technicians to look into this. As of right now, we will only be able to offer a replacement with an authorization hold until this error has been cleared up. Please let me know if you would like to pursue such a solution. Otherwise, I will let you know as soon as the error has been resolved and be providing you labels at that time.

I responded, pretty frustrated with the experience up to that point. They could definitely tell I wasn’t having a great time dealing with this situation. I never got an email back.

Wednesday the 25th came and Chris did finally call back to save the day. He verified my address and said he was creating the RMA and I should receive the phone soon. Within thirty minutes the email had arrived and I was able to ship out the broken device. I received a replacement on October 27th.

It took 3 weeks and 3 days, to get my phone replaced. From warranty attempt to the broken device fiasco. I would never have expected Project Fi to drop the ball as hard as they have. I would also expect a company like Google to have a better system in place for something like this.

How can they really expect a customer to go three weeks without a phone? Is this really business as usual or is my issue the freak accident that shined a light on an obscure problem?

Now that I actually have the replacement device, the LG Stylo 3, and will be receiving the Samsung Note 8 in a week, I plan on selling the Stylo and my wife’s current Nexus 5X on Swappa. She will get the Pixel XL and use it on her Project Fi account. I will, for the first time in 6 years, not be using a Google-influenced device and will be trying out the Note 8.

I’ll leave you with a picture. It’s a card from inside the Pixel XL box.

 

Somehow I don’t believe Google had this story in mind when they came up with the #myphonebygoogle hashtag.

“Every phone helps tell a story. We’d love to hear yours.”

Well, Google here is my story of my Pixel experience. Not what I had in mind.


About the Author: Spencer McClendon

Spencer McClendon is a Criminal Justice student attending Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, Colorado. He hopes to transfer to Colorado State University after he achieves his Associates Degree, and ultimately wishes to be his own boss in the security sector. He is a long time native of Colorado and enjoys the great outdoors of Colorado. He spends his free time long-boarding and hiking.


  • Brian Craven

    I am having a similar experience with Project Fi. My Nexus 5X has bootlooped twice in less than a year. I had to fight like hell to ger a replacement the first time and actually got a new phone I believe. The second time Google had implemented their ridiculous policy of holding the cost of a new phone on your debit card until they receive the returned device. I didn’t have the necessary funds in my checking account at the time and the order was cancelled until the next day (Thursday) when I could deposit more funds. This now caused the delivery to be pushed back from Friday to Monday, so no phone for a total of 6 days. And yes they are still replacing with 5X with a very well known bootloop issue. I am insulted that Google holds the full new retail price on a defective device that, by the way, would only fetch me $115 as a trade in good working order…which mine is not. As far as I know, no other major carrier requires you to cough up the price of a new phone to initiate a replacement. BTW this policy was not in place when I had my first phone replaced, I was told that they implemented this about 6-7 months ago. I plan on trashing Google Fi on every social media outlet I have access to.

    • whatsit toyou

      I rma’d a phone with Google last year and the charge hold policy was in place then. I’m not sure where whoever gave you that information got it from. I also agree with above comments about this being more a symptom of customer service than anything. I’m currently not in as much love with Google/Fi as I once was but ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  • jkt1954

    This could happen with any carrier. I hope your new one is as cheap monthly. Also, when you get off public transportation put your phone in your pocket or backpack as there really is no need to be endlessly staring at your stupid smart phone and then blaming someone else for slamming into you.

    • makapav

      Sounds like this is not due to Google Fi failing as a cellular service – more customer service. Could happen on any carrier – good luck getting any mileage out of Verizon. Sorry this happened to the author though.

    • Stumpy

      Agree. this is juvenile. They used their warranty claim for a superfluous issue (hair dryer 10$ piece and half hour to fix) and got upset when they actually needed to use it for a real issue.

    • Spencer McClendon

      It is not. I went with Xfinity Mobile Unlimited. I’m paying $97 now, but $40 is for the Note 8, and the rest is the bill and device protection.

  • Bardo

    Agreed.
    He complains about customer service, but yet he broke his phone twice and also tried to do a warranty replacement in the course of 8 months.
    This isn’t an “obscure problem”, it’s blatant carelessness.

  • Spencer McClendon

    1. The warranty attempt was battery related, i.e Google’s problem.
    2. Broken phone getting off the bus, and being struck by someone. Is yes, my fault and problem.
    3. Making me wait 3+ Weeks for a replacement, that I am entitled to by both warranty coverage and by device protection payments, unacceptable by any standards!
    To clarify, I loved Project Fi service. Never had a problem until this.

    • Hong Nguyen

      The reason you had to wait 3+ weeks was because they were experiencing a high volume of warranty replacement devices for the Nexus 6P > Pixel XL. It’s unfortunate that google doesn’t sell as many phones as Samsung or Apple because their production couldn’t simply keep up. Just be glad that they warrantied the Nexus 6P when it was out of the standard 1 year warranty with a new Pixel XL. It’s also not their fault that you couldn’t afford to pay for the new Pixel XL straight up instead of waiting for the exchange. Most of the problems happened was just bad timing and unforeseen circumstances. No need to blame your frustrations on Google.

      • Spencer McClendon

        No the reason I waited + weeks was because of an error in their system attaching my phone to 3 different accounts. Had nothing to do with a back order or supply. Just a glitch in their system.

  • Moose and Squirrel

    Fi ended for me when I wanted a mid range phone for a mid range price for my teen. Cheapest available for a new phone was over $600 for a Pixel or I could scrounge for a new-old-stock 5x or 6p and hope I didn’t get a bootlooper. No thanks.

    Went with Xfinity Mobile when they had the one dollar LG X Charge with unlimited talk and text for two bucks/mo in taxes and fees. Full verizon network. Data 12/GB or 45 unlimited.

    Mintsim is also pretty fungible. Full t-mobile network for 15 a month unlimited talk/text and 2gb data.

  • Ian B

    Sooo you delt with customer service in the digital age? I do not see an issue here…

    “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” -MLK Jr

  • Dav Id

    Dumb article.. In summary if you are someone who constantly breaks you phone don’t use project fi because they don’t always replace it for you.. Just like every other carrier.

  • Biff Tannen

    I got 6P replaced through Fi with little issue. They DID try to insist my warranty was up (it was) but I had to insist I had the protection plan.

    But I think I understand the issue at hand here. I think Google contracts out some of this work to a third party. I ran into a similar issue with Microsoft and getting my surface pro replaced. The entire time I get this feeling like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.