Last week Google took its virtual global MVNO, formerly known as Project Fi, out of beta and began supporting the service on third-party handsets, even Apple's iPhone. It's now called Google Fi.
This week it announced pre-packaged deals for eSIM provisioning for its own pricey Pixel phones with EE, Deutsche Telekom and independent OTT providers, like Truphone. The two moves are orthogonal; all they have in common so far is they both seek to uncouple the hardware from a service contract. But then so does the basic concept of a SIM card designed into GSM.
Both moves should make roaming more convenient, whether you choose to use one SIM contract and opt for an OTT service, like Google Fi, or load up the second (eSIM) slot with a third-party contract.
Google also said it will support eSIMs better in Android with a new programme for phone-makers – but left the details blank.
With Apple ensuring all of its 2018 iPhones support an eSIM alongside the physical SIM slot, Google has some catching up to do, on behalf of the 85 per cent of smartphone owners who don't use an iPhone. Two physical SIMs are hugely popular in the Android world, so the eSIM has to be more convenient to win over consumers.
The deals Google has announced so far mean Pixels can be provisioned by Deutsche Telekom in Germany, EE in the UK, Airtel and Reliance in India, Sprint in the US and from OTTs Truphone and Gigasky where ever you can sign up for their service. Both launched a month ago, as we reported here.
One reader recommended services sell both: an eSIM voucher accompanying a physical SIM. The SIM would work in legacy devices and the voucher would activate on an eSIM-capable device. We're pretty sure the telco world's infrastructure doesn't currently support activating, deactivating and reactivating the number on demand, but it's a neat idea.
Google Fi has given Americans low-cost global roaming, plus Wi-Fi hotspot access, for several years, but has yet to launch in the UK. Current rates are 20¢/minute and 10¢/GB data when roaming in over 170 destinations. At home it's $20/month unlimited. ®