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My Favorite Phone for International Travel

My Favorite Phone for International Travel
Caroline Lupini

Whenever I run into a US-based traveler on the go, I try to find out what kind of phone and service they’re using. That’s because I like to spread the good Project Fi word, and want to hear about other travelers’ experiences with it.

Why I Joined Team Google Fi

I first joined Google’s Project Fi when I was looking for more reliable, consistent coverage as I traveled from country to country. As of now, Project Fi provides network coverage in 170 countries worldwide with fast, 4G LTE network data. That alone was enough to encourage me to switch, but the customer service and payment plan for Project Fi are also top notch.

The Cost

I pay a flat $20 per month for cellular and prepay $10 per gig of data every month. After 6 gigs of usage, all additional data for the month is free! On top of that, if I don’t use the data for which I’ve prepaid, I’m refunded at the start of the next cycle. It was a pleasant surprise to find reliable coverage for which I truly pay only for what I use, and the fact that it works all over the globe makes it an absolutely ideal plan for me.

The Phone

I started my Project Fi journey with the first generation Pixel phone, which was the best phone I had ever bought at the time. With a battery that lasted the day, more than enough storage for my favorite apps, photos, and videos, consistent backups to Google storage, and regular system updates, I was pretty happy.

The Camera

However, one of the most important things for me is the quality of my phone’s camera because that is generally my main camera while I’m traveling. With the release of Android Pie, the back camera of the first generation Pixel features 12.3 megapixel resolution, while the front-facing camera features 8.0 megapixel resolution. The highest front-facing video resolution is 1080p, but the back camera can record ultra high-definition videos at 30 frames per second!

With something that started out so great, it’s hard to imagine a better device. However, as with any phone, there are always bugs and glitches to work out in the newer models. So, I decided to upgrade my phone to the all-new Pixel 3, and here’s why.

Battery Life

The Pixel 3 comes with a 2915 mAh battery while the Pixel 3XL comes with a whopping 3430 mAh battery. A full charge on these batteries should last between 8.5 and 9.5 hours, respectively, even with heavy usage. But the real champion here is the ability to fast-charge the battery. With the Pixel 3, you get 18-Watt fast charging and Qi wireless charging, up to 10 Watts. Wireless charging basically means that you get a charged battery by induction rather than conduction, and your device doesn’t necessarily have to be directly touching the induction pad for them to couple. Pretty cool, huh?

Amazing Camera

While the specs of the actual camera are similar to previous models, Pixel 3 has upped the ante with the utilization of artificial intelligence. As far as anybody can tell, Google’s developments in AI features far surpass the efforts of Apple and Samsung, and nothing is more telling of this than the smart camera features on the Pixel 3. By automatically selecting photos with an optimal light balance and quality from a set of similar photos, I don’t have to flip through duplicates to manually find the best one. This camera also has a feature that can smart-zoom without having a real optical zoom. Instead, the smart technology zooms and fills in the details.

Smart Call Screening

It’s not uncommon to receive a lot of spam phone calls; I generally get several per week from different sources. Google Assistant can now screen and transcribe possible spam calls in real time, making it easier to determine what is spam and what isn’t. This makes Google Assistant as close to a personal assistant as I’ve ever had; it literally speaks to the caller on behalf of me, and I can choose to answer if I want.

A Ton of Storage

With the Pixel 3, you can choose between a 64 GB internal storage capacity or 128 GB. There aren’t any smaller options even though Google backups are consistent and reliable. However, this is a nice thing because larger internal storage means that I can store more apps, entertainment, and incredible photos on my device for longer periods of time.

Bigger is Better

Choosing between the 5.5 inch and 6.3 inch screen is up to you, but the new and improved OLED display is beautiful. With a large screen and colorful panel lit by OLEDs, this is one of the most visually stunning displays on any smartphone. Whether I am reviewing photos or videos that I took myself or settling in to watch a movie while killing time on a flight, this display doesn’t disappoint.

View Comments (9)


  1. fotographer

    November 29, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    ok , I have an iphone with the T mobile plan, free data for text and internet.
    I phone to I phones calls free, and .25cents a call to all other numbers.
    works great and no need to pay anything, since it works all over the world

    and other then that, I have another phone with dual simcards if needed

  2. naumank

    November 29, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    Google should remove the restriction that forces people to use Pixel phones. I don’t see how they can be successful unless they open it up to iPhone users. Of course, this is their strategy to get people to Android phones. Will it be successful? Unlikely.

  3. ken98230

    November 29, 2018 at 11:47 pm

    Google Fi now supports the iPhone along with most other phones.

  4. BThumme

    November 30, 2018 at 6:20 am


    They did remove it.

  5. tenant13

    November 30, 2018 at 7:22 am

    Google just released Project Fi app for iPhones. It’s in Beta but it works. Good move.

  6. eng3

    November 30, 2018 at 9:16 am

    My parents use Fi because they travel intl alot but use very little data. I get the best deal because I just got them to give me a datasim card for whenever I go on intl travel. I pay them my data usage and don’t even need a line charge.

  7. jagat101

    December 2, 2018 at 8:15 am

    Idk, but I didn’t had a good experience with Google Fi. Last time I used it (nearly 2 yrs ago) was a disappointment (had my unlocked Nexus 6 back then). Despite all the by-the-book setup, CS dealings, was a HASSLE overall.

    As most recently as 3 mos ago, I’ve had a very favorable experience with an Orange Holiday Europe SIM, with 10GB 4G LTE (data tethering allowed)/120 mins/1,000 texts included (with a French number). The transition between countries/cities was SEAMLESS (Paris, Luzern, Milan, Florence and Rome). Consistently fast LTE all throughout my 12 days in Europe. I had the SIM registered online by Orange France before I flew over..and the SIM is still active to this day (all I need is a few Euros to load). Sim card just costed me <$50.

  8. kalo93406

    December 5, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    fotographer – your t-mobile rate is not $.25/call, it’s .25/.20minute..? and the plan is $70 plus tax? In a country like China, does T-mobile data to websites like google, facebook, etc work without a vpn? I see Tmobile has a 55+ plan for 2 people at $70, that would be a good option. Fi is good in China though as you don’t need a VPN.

  9. kalo93406

    December 5, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    I just saw for the 55+ plan international data is at 128kbps. No thanks. 😉

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