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ProjectFi_Beta

Page history last edited by rsb 1 year, 8 months ago


About this wiki page:

 

These are my notes on project Fi.  I am an early adopter of Fi for a variety of reasons I have outlined elsewhere.  My short take is that Fi is interesting, important, and worth adopting during the beta if you can tolerate daily reboots.  It's beta software right now (9/2/2015).  

 

This page is mostly notes on workarounds.  Any number of these may be resolved by the time you read this, but if Fi is still in beta (or at least limited release) when you read this, and you are seeing one of these issues, give the workaround a try.


DON'T TAKE THIS AS A REVIEW OF FI - read my review here instead.  This page will probably become irrelevant sometime in 2015, as things are moving quickly. 

 

UPDATE (late 2015):

 

I'm not sure when I'll update this page again.  It's Sep 2, 2015, I'm on 5.1.1 and some major bugs have been fixed, but it doesn't feel like much has changed.  I have updated this page with my latest info.  Other than that, I'm leaving this page as-is with the emphatic note that Project Fi desperately needs a roadmap and a proper bug reporting tool to increase transparency and engagement.

 

UPDATE (late 2017):

 

Two years in, and I still hold out hope. 

 

Fi succeeds in being a good MVNO.  The network is, on average, pretty good if you are traveling outside the US, and pretty mediocre if you are in the US - that's fine by me.  Wifi calling is nice at home (where T-mobile can't reach) and although my calls drop when i switch from wifi to T-mo and back by walking through my yard, I have just learned to work around that.

 

Security-wise, I find Fi to be my best option.  Feature-wise, Fi is a solid competitor.  Price-wise - Fi is not the cheapest but I believe pricing to be exactly right - I love the simplicity, transparency, consistency and predictability of the pricing, and I'm very happy with what I pay.  At the high end, the phones from google are very good, and the overall ecosystem of google products offers some interesting compatibilities.  So, those are the good bits.

 

 

Here are the failing bits.  Not trying to make undue criticism - intended to be helpful.

 

 

Fi fails in systems-level software design and UX.  The UX is filled with buggy interactions across an inconsistent google ecosystem. Here's my report on that...

This is across multiple phones (I always get the latest google recommended phone within 6 months of it coming out) and mulitiple OS versions over several years.

1) Call answering is inconsistent and often fails. 

 

One big idea of hangouts is that you can take or make calls on your phone or laptop.  Not exactly.  My laptop will be sitting next to my phone as always, and I will get calls on my laptop that don't show on my phone, even when my phone has great connectivity - I have just made calls with it and accessed the internet with it.  This even happens when my laptop is using my phone as a hotspot.  My laptop seems to ring way more often than my phone does. 
 
Those missed calls (rcvd on my laptop only) don't show up on my phones call logs - I can't call back.  Frustrating.

 

Add to that the number of "hangouts rings twice or won't stop ringing" situations you get on a laptop with hangouts - before we even talk about project fi - and you have a pretty annoying system.  (NOTE: I believe many of those bugs only occur if you have more than one google account logged into a browser at the same time.  Try logging out of all accounts, and keeping the account associated  with fi logged into as UID=0 on one browser all the time - almost feels like certain UIDs get messages clobbered somewhere - I don't know exactly whats up.)

 

2) Dialing is really bad

 

I often dial with my phone dialer, it pops up hangouts, does not populate the number, and hangouts closes.  So outgoing calls are also super inconsistent - I have to dial twice about half the time.  Eventually I get through, so this is not as big of a problem as incoming calls.
Having more than one phone dialer on Android makes that phone operating system way worse.  When I dial most numbers I end up having to choose a dialer and say whether this will be my default dialer, and it never stops asking no matter what I choose.  Couple that with the problematic dialing in the first place, and it can take a large number of unnecessary operations to make a call.

 

I feel like contact management is split in some ways as well on Android, but honestly, I'm not going there.  The hangouts and Android team need to just get their *stuff* all in one bag.  You can't have two of everything colliding and making critical products uncompetitive.

 

All in all, I've gotten used to annoying phantom rings during my hangouts, missed calls, no dial back number, pressing 10 buttons to dial, not finding a previous caller in hangouts because I added them in contacts, etc.  I seriously just live with all that to take advantage of the other features.  Still, I can't help but think that hangouts/Fi/google has pushed it's luck in this department, and is ripe for disruption before it even becomes a contender - and it's probably not the Fi teams fault!

 

About the Google+ Project Fi Community:

 

The community will invite you when you join project Fi.  It is friendly and has some google employees helping out and moderating.

 

I am in the process of posting all of these issues on the Google+ Project Fi community.  I recommend that you post any issues you find there.

 

When you contribute a bug to Project Fi:

 

1) fire up signalcheck lite when you see an issue

2) take a screenshot by holding power and volume down at the same time for a few seconds - a small image of the screen will show when it's successful

3) then you can swipe downward, adn share the image via email or g+ or however you want to get it here.

 

Totally skippable rant on using G+ for bug reporting: 

 

The reason I put these notes here is that google+ communities are not searchable on my phone (this is such a strange omission from a google-supplied application.)  I would never find my notes if I put them on the Fi google+ community, and I need to be able to refer to my notes while debugging this thing.  Every google product that matters surely has real bug reporting tools in use.  It's a shame that half of them don't have a public interface, even though the public is the most qualified to file and update bug reports!  Ivory tower proprietary development works - but slowly and painfully.  I will, however, link to these notes from the Fi google+ community and update the google+ community as I have time.  I don't need to tell this to anyone, because they know that email, wikis, forums, bug_reporting tools, and irc are the real workhorses - they have evolved to solve the needs of internet users, and their basic capabilities are required to satisfy collaboration needs - you can't skip them - and every reasonable implementation of every one of them (or copy of them, or replacement for them) has search.  

 

Issues: 

 

Reliance on Google Voice Pin

 

Puzzling legacy reliance on this auth methodology - but easy to workaround - I've been using google voice to distribute my inbound calls since early 09.  I had to export my password database and search my notes to see what pin I assigned back then, and I had not updated my password db last time I changed the pin!  So I didn't have my google voice pin.  The solution is to basically ignore all requests for a pin, and Google Fi ignores the fact that you don't fill that out.  Security solution implemented!

 

Unclear how to handle SMS (and possibly phone calls)

 

I think the way to handle SMS is to use google messenger.  Still evolving my thinking on this.  Hangouts is a good option, and would be my preferred option, but it doesn't support multi-party SMS or MMS.

 

If you choose to use Messenger, that doesn't (at least in my case), stop SMS from being sent via Hangouts.  The transition, when you choose to use hangouts, is wonky.  It will take some time for the transfer to fully complete.  It also doesn't show that you have chosen messenger in google voice, which still thinks you are using hangouts - that's disconcerting, since google voice is clearly still tied to Fi internally somehow.

 

Note: Caller ID (not CNAM, which is not available on Fi) handling is an area where google voice was very weak, and it was (theoretically) a major reason to switch to Fi from voice.  Voice never had a good way to send SMS from your phone using your google voice number.  It was always a hack in which you had to give people two phone numbers for you.  Fi will *send* SMS for you from your newly ported over google voice number and not a separate cell phone number.  So people will finally have your new number and not both your google voice number plus whatever your cell phone number is.  Fi phones also send and receive MMS, and group chat via messenger.

 

The other major issue that has been reported, but not verified to the best of my knowledge, is that the phone app occasionally fails to make calls at times when the hangouts app succeeds.  So it seems that the focus is on using hangouts for the future.  It's just not clear. 

 

Hangouts has a few missing features (notably 911 calling) and some incompatibilities that were well thought out by the phone app team, but were not handled by the hangouts team.   Switching to hangouts can be frustrating for users right now.  I used to be able to search for pretty much anything in the phone app and it would try to pop up a number (possibly doing a google search in the background) - hangouts can't do that.  Hangouts inbound calls sometimes pop "under" modal stuff like text message notifications.   When it asks me to answer a call, so I can't actually answer calls sometimes!  So it's a bit wonky right now.

 

The upshot is that google will tell you to use the normal phone dialer for now, but clearly needs to unify these two, and hangouts is likely to be the app that ends up replacing dialer.

 

Frequent Network "De-activations" (I think this is fixed)

 

UPDATE: I haven't seen this in a long while, and I think that it has been largely fixed.

 

You may occasionally see "Sim card deactivated" or "No Fi Service" something like that, in the project fi app.  Basically, you have been kicked off the Fi network for some reason.  This is a confusing one, because the status indicators for cell and wifi do not report accurately during the project fi beta for a lot of people.

 

  • Power down your phone.
  • Power it back on.  Sometimes this is all it takes.  If that doesn't work, continue with this list. 
  • Remove the sim holder, note the sim orientation, remove the sim, and put back the empty sim holder
  • Power up your phone
  • Go to settings, apps, project Fi
  • Clear data (cache will clear as well)
  • Go to settings, storage
  • Clear cached data
  • Power down your phone and put the sim back into its holder, and the holder back into your phone.
  • Power up your phone.
  • You should see an alert that says: Project Fi not fully activated, click to activate
  • Click on that.
  • The project Fi app opens.
  • Click on ACTIVATE
  • Click on "Complete Activation" 
  • It will take a few minutes to complete, with no requests for input on your part. 
  • If you had my problem - you won't have to do anything else  - you should be good for a while (I've been good since doing this 8 hours or so ago).

 

Details of what I have seen and how I have worked around this:

 

I saw this about a day after I started using project Fi on the nexus 6 they sent me.  I see it almost once a day since that time.  Half the time a power cycle fixes it.  Sometimes just hopping on wifi fixes it! (I think proper detection of a valid SIM is buggy and somehow dependent on network communication - wish I knew more about these SIM cards)

 

I see the status indicators report inaccurately all the time.  When you get on wifi, Project Fi's opinion of your cell radio status will change.  You could have nothing but question marks and exclamation marks on all status indicators, yet have great call quality and SMS.  It's kinda nuts.

 

I had never used sprint before in my life (that seems to be a question that comes up in relation to this problem).  I simply transferred my google voice number, and everything worked for a day, then the sim card was deactivated (and a little exclamation mark often came up within the phone radio icon, and I saw a message about "unable to verify service").    

 

Anyway, sometimes when I am not on the Fi network, I am still able to make calls and things kinda work even though the sim card is deactivated.  So fixing the activation status is only occasionally a thing I'm trying to do.

 

Android settings that are required for Fi are off after setup completes

 

From this google plus post:

 

Hi Tim,

The specialist team just reached back out to me, and they would like me to verify a certain setting is enabled on your device. In your settings menu on your Nexus 6, let's follow these steps to ensure that "Data Roaming" is turned on:
Under "Wireless & networks," touch Data usage.
Touch the menu icon Menu in the top right corner of the screen
Touch Cellular networks.
Enable "Data roaming."
If it was off, turn it on, then power cycle the device and then retest the connection in the areas that you had mentioned to me earlier. If this doesn't work or if it was enabled already, let me know, and I'll continue to work with you to look further into this issue!

Thanks!
Kevin
The Project Fi Support Team

 

That Issue is more of a Fi setup thing - it's not really an issue if Fi would set that up for you or at least take you through a wizard that explains why it should be turned on.  This is the same with some other Fi recommendations that are just kind of buried in incorrect documentation - like this one - https://support.google.com/fi/answer/6164833 - the nexus 6 with lollipop has a different menu layout - you actually have to go into advanced wifi settings to make sure this is on.

 

Further, no one in project Fi support is really sure if data roaming should be turned on in the US for most users.  Must be a bit chaotic in support.

 

Algorithm(s) for deciding when to use WiFi may need some work:

 

Things that can be fixed by disabling WiFi:

1) *Half Duplex Calls*:

About 50% of my calls that start out on wifi are half-duplex - they can't hear me.

Workaround is to hang up, turn off wifi, and call them back - *if* you have t-mobile in that area.  Call back using dialer if you had just called using hangouts.

2) *Data drops*:

Often when I my data connection drops, what has happened is that my Fi phone thinks wifi is just fine, and attempts to transcieve all data over wifi.  Well, wifi is *not* just fine.  Disable wifi and *if* you can send data to the cell tower then you will be good to go.

It's tempting to think that the Fi software makes the switch based on some simple metric like signal strength.  But that can't be right.  Knowing how to maintain two connections, testing with one, and transcieving with the other, and when to switch is pretty much a solved problem in the rest of the world, so this must be a bug.

 

Fi website needs some work

 

A number of project fi website features don't work if you have flash off by default in chrome:

 

Totally unnecessary design restriction - you can't even load pages that require flash.  No changing your voicemail greeting or anything like that, unless flash is always on. There are lots of obvious workarounds for this, all of them time consuming and annoying.  Every decent website will allow you to control-click in chrome to turn on flash and use the features that require that abomination selectively.


Routing Wonky on Project Fi website.

 

If you visit the project fi homepage as of this writing without a logged in google account that is also a fi user, there is no login button.  You are redirected to the about page, and have to click on "request invite", then you can choose the correct google account (I assume that if you are reading this you are logged into a dozen of them because only an early adopter would read this.) and you're in.  If you go to fi.google.com with a logged in google account that is also a fi user, then you are auto-logged in.

 

If you visit some pages, like fi.google.com/order-sim, while logged in to multiple google accounts, where the Fi user account is not u=0, then you just plain can't get there from here.  You have to log out of all accounts, and only log in with the Fi user, or use a different browser.

 

Missing google voice features that supposedly exist on the Fi site but are not obvious:

 

There is an obscure link to google voice features at the bottom of some project Fi pages.  I think the issue here is that the Fi website just needs to write a page or two for the google voice features - maybe just working with the same code that google voice has - not a big deal.

 

  • No Blocking Callers  
  • No key required to pickup a call when forwarding
  • No schedules for forwarding 

 

Missing/Disallowed Features:

  
  • No Email to SMS address (i.e. 1234567@fi.google.com, so you can easily get paged without weird workarounds ) - UPDATE - no longer true - see: https://support.google.com/fi/answer/6356597?hl=en 
  • No Forwarding to another fi or google voice number ( handling loops is pretty well understood, right? )
  • AFAICT - No CNAM - your caller ID is blank to others, or, at best, just a city and state kinda close to where your number might be issued.

 

Speculative/unproven issues with network behaviour:

 

These issues cause people to manually move from network to network, turn on and off wifi, and reboot their phones all the time.  I have been caught more than once leaving wifi off and then running up a bill because I was solving a different problem and forgot to turn wifi back on.  Very incomplete list, here:

 

  • There are some unusual delays in N6 responsiveness that I want to attribute to network behavior.  I'll really have to connect to a debugger to figure this one out.  When I have time (read: never).
  • Inbound SMS and phone calls can be delayed significantly or lost, and I suspect this is because they get "trapped" in a network that the phone is no longer on, due to the phone switching services at just the wrong time.  Perhaps a great queue server in the cloud has your messages.
  • A lot of reports come in for one-way audio calls.  Usually, the audio path *from* the callee is dead.  I see this every once in a while. (update: lots of people in the Fi g+ community see this - either path being silent - so this is not speculative, but it is mostly hangouts related) 

 

Things that are easy to find but probably should not be found: 

 

Accessories I use: 

 

Bike phone holder

Screen protectors

 

Apps I am using:

 

MightyText (trying it out)

SignalCheck-Lite (use all the time)

WifiAnalyzer (use all the time)

Network Signal Pro (thinking about buying this one)

FiSpy

 

Google's Project Fi Help Page:

 

Fi Support

Google also puts out android getting started guides, which I didn't find until I went through figuring everything out for myself.  Here's the one for android 5.0

 

Other people who have Project Fi Pages:

 

Scott Greenstone has a lot of useful info, such as:

http://www.scottgreenstone.com/2015/06/signalicons.html

 

There is also a pinned post in the project Fi community that has some common questions and answers - you have to get invited to the community to see it.

 

Other Workarounds

 

Make a HotSpot Usable for Voice Calling:

 

Try this guys method

 

Disable project Fi:

 

If you having a horrible experience, you might try going into apps, and disabling project Fi.  I did that for a while, and my phone reverted to a T-mobile phone, and was reliable, most of the time - (project fi still comes up like a zombie once in a while, even though the app doesn't show as installed, but not for long).  I just did that as an experiment.  Didn't learn too much. I'm really frustrated without a good debugger.  They need to open source some of this.  They need a real bug reporting tool.  They need a roadmap.  Without that, it feels like we're dealing with ATT instead of google.

 

No cellular calling:

 

Occasionally, my phone will only work on wifi.  All cellular voice and data is inactive, even if I have strong signal.  Here's one incantation that has worked for me:

 

  • Make sure cellular data is turned on
  • Make sure cellular data limits are all off
  • Make sure wifi is off
  • Turn on airplane mode
  • Turn off airplane mode
  • Reboot the phone
  • Give it a few minutes then test.
  • Turn wifi back on
  • Test again
  • If it doesn't work, call project fi support.

 

Can't answer a Hangouts call on your laptop:

 

I believe many of those bugs only occur if you have more than one google account logged into a browser at the same time.  Try logging out of all google accounts, and keeping the account associated with fi logged into as UID=0 on one browser all the time - almost feels like certain UIDs get messages clobbered somewhere - I don't know exactly whats up, but I see this more often when I have more than one google account session cookie, I think.

 

 

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