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December 22, 2020

Google Fi rewards customers with a warm, fuzzy feeling

By GlobalData Technology

US MVNO Google Fi surprised customers with a different kind of holiday gift: the option to cast a vote among three charities to decide which one will get a $1 million donation.

Each of the three charities – Trillion Trees, Beyond 12 and Feeding America – are guaranteed a $500,000 donation, but only the vote winner will get that amount doubled to $1 million. Voting ends on December 31.

Google Fi’s move to donate a total $2 million helps solidify the service provider’s social responsibility credentials, an attribute deemed highly important by younger consumers. However, some Fi users expressed disappointment on social media at not receiving a holiday gift from Google Fi, something the MVNO has led them to expect.

Past Fi giveaways have included Nest Minis, Lego phone stands, Google Play credit, and Google Photos photo books. Though the gifts have vacillated in desirability and prestige, these sweeteners helped engender brand loyalty and customer retention.

Fi pushes Google multi-network vision

But unique holiday gifts are far from the only thing setting apart this Wi-Fi-first, digital-only MVNO, which delivers mobile service over the T-Mobile, legacy Sprint and US Cellular networks. Fi began life in April 2015 as Project Fi, a Google initiative to show how a network of networks that delivers the best connection across multiple cellular network and Wi-Fi can work. It has also enabled Google to highlight its own Android-based services and hardware to end users.

Though Fi supports Android phones from numerous brands, only “designed for Fi” devices provide the full Fi experience, such as intelligent handoffs between mobile networks and automatic switching to millions of secure Wi-Fi connections. Fi has been expanding the number and brands of phones that it supports and markets as part of its designed for Fi portfolio to include 5G-compatible phones, including numerous Samsung models. 5G service is also available via Google’s Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a (5G).

Google intends to remove Fi support in Google Hangouts in 2021, in part because users have been shifting away from using Hangouts to manage their texting and calling. Messages by Google is being upgraded to provide a similar experience. It is notable that Messages is based on Rich Communication Service (RCS), which Google has long championed. In January, Google Fi also began rolling out RCS Chat.

Furthermore, in early October Fi rolled out a unique phone subscription program, which is basically a subsidized phone with guaranteed upgrade option designed to lure new customers with lower device pricing and then keep them on network with the promise of an easy upgrade in 24 months. The program is aimed at attracting budget-conscious customers as well as boosting customer retention over the two-year subscription period and potentially beyond.

This approach highlights Fi’s ongoing willingness to try unusual marketing and pricing approaches to stand out in the marketplace.