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I’ve been trying so hard to avoid spending, but I recently had to give myself room for a major purchase: A new smartphone, the Google Pixel 2.
My previous phone was ancient — left over from two jobs ago — and the shoddy video quality was hampering the social media work that I do. Meanwhile, the Google Pixel 2’s camera was highly praised.
Besides, I'm already pretty surrounded by Google apps. I rely heavily on Docs and Drive for writing and editing, and I use Gmail, Google Photos, and Google Maps almost daily. There was no sense in using all of those Google apps while still living on planet Apple with a new iPhone.
With that decision made, I discovered Google’s phone service, Project Fi, which seems designed to save money: Calls and texts are $20 per month, but then you only pay $60 for the data you use up to 6 GB. And that is the maximum data charge. After 6 GB, the data is on them, though speeds slow at 15 GB.
Too good to be true? Maybe the potential was there to reduce my month bills and jump into the swim of technology, which is not my comfort zone. I don’t read reviews about new phones or changes. And I’ve worked at big companies that provided phones, plans, and other details. As such, I didn’t have a lot of experience or information.
To get caught up, I went to the Verizon store, which carries the phone. But you can also buy it online through Google. So where to buy the phone?
Project Fi vs. Verizon
Verizon was offering a $150 gift card to anyone switching over from another carrier. But for some mysterious reason, that meant I had to wait 45 days before getting a new phone.
It might have been worth the wait, but it meant committing to Verizon’s service, where plans start at $80 a month and only go up. Whereas with Project Fi, I figured that the highest bill would be $80. In fact, it would probably be less. Friends on Facebook told me that their bills were usually around $50.
Twelve months of Project Fi (without fees and taxes) come out to about $600, while 12 months of the lowest Verizon plan costs $960 for the same time period.
The difference is way bigger than a $150 gift card. Plus, Project Fi offered a $20 referral credit. For me, the long-term goal was to reduce my monthly costs, so Project Fi was winning.
Where's the Best Place to Buy the Google Pixel 2?
I still hadn’t settled the question: Where to buy the phone? It retails for $650. Verizon was offering a trade-in discount that would reduce the cost to about $20 a month, instead of about $27. And they were throwing in a free Google Mini speaker and a ChromeCast.
If I bought the phone online through Google, the same trade-in would get me a $50 credit, according to the site. And online, the free stuff only came with the Pixel 2XL — the larger, more expensive version. But I ignored the free stuff, since I already have a ChromeCast and a small speaker.
The cost of the phone was lower at Verizon, but the phone insurance was slightly more expensive. I wanted the insurance because I tend to drop phones, and since I don’t work for a big company, no IT department is going to save me with a replacement.
Verizon’s lowest insurance plan was $6.75 per month versus Google’s comparable coverage at $5.00 per month. That’s a difference of about $21 a year — not huge.
In the end, I bought the Google Pixel 2 online even though it was more expensive. Why? To be honest, I didn’t fully understand that you can buy “unlocked” cell phones, or devices that are not locked to a specific carrier. Had I understood this, I would have pushed harder to find an unlocked phone.
And anyway, buying the phone online via Google, with Project Fi, was smooth and seamless. It’s the best salesperson you can imagine, only way better because there’s no actual person. You just do it all yourself, and the phone is a few clicks away.
Once the Google Pixel 2 arrived, I couldn’t believe the technological advances that I had missed out on before. The photos and videos are much clearer and more vibrant. I did have to spend extra on additional cords and chargers, which was irritating. But in the long run, I expect that this plan will save me money on my cell phone bill. I won’t be able to say with certainty for a few months, but I’ll let you know.