Google's Project Fi is ready to expand beyond just serving Google-backed smartphones. And in the process, the Wi-Fi centric wireless service is adding a more affordable device to the mix.
That would be the $399 Moto X4, which Motorola unveiled last month. Google plans to offer the phone in black and blue versions as preorders through Project Fi.
The addition of the X4 to the Project Fi lineup is significant, as previously, you could only take advantage of Google's wireless service if you also bought one of its phones. Project Fi had been limited to the Pixel and Pixel XL as well as the older Nexus 5X and 6P.
The Pixel starts at $649, so the addition of the Moto X4 gives potential Project Fi customers a lower cost option for using Google's wireless service while also expanding (if only by one) the number of devices you can use with Project Fi.
That could boost Project Fi's appeal. Google's wireless service prioritizes Wi-Fi for handling calls, text and data. For those times when Wi-Fi isn't available, Project Fi taps into the networks of Sprint, T-Mobile and US Cellular for cellular coverage.
It's an approach that helps keep monthly bills down: Project Fi charges $20 a month for unlimited talk and text. You pay another $10 for each GB of data that you use, though Project Fi credits you for unused data. Estimate that you'll use 2GB of data but wind up only using 1.5GB, and you'll get a credit back for $5. Travel overseas and you can use your regular data allotment without paying roaming fees.
Project Fi phones also get access to security and OS updates directly from Google, something Google is touting with the X4. While Moto's phone will ship with Android Nougat installed, Google says the phone will be updated to Oreo by the end of the year. X4 owners will also be at the front of the line to get Android P when that update inevitably arrives in 2018.
Note that this X4 is being billed as an Android One phone, Google's initiative to work with phone makers to deliver a more pure Android experience. That also means that built-in support for Alexa — touted by Motorola when it introduced the phone last month — won't be included on the Android One version of the X4. A Google spokesperson told me that Google Assistant will be the only voice-enabled assistant on this device.
Otherwise, this is the same phone Motorola introduced at the IFA trade show in Berlin, highlighted by the device's dual rear cameras. The X4 features a 12-megapixel main camera on its back paired with an 8-MP wide-angle lens. Up front, you'll find a 16-MP selfie cam that includes specific filters for self-portraits as well as the ability capture panoramic selfies.
The Moto X4 runs on a Snapdragon 630 processor with 3GB of RAM and offers 32GB of storage. Moto is promising all-day battery life from the 3,000 mAh battery, and the phone sports IP68 water resistance so you needn't worry about spills and splashes.
If you happen to be clinging on to an old Nexus device, Google is dangling some incentives to get you to upgrade to an X4. The company is offering up to $165 for select Nexus devices — it's not specifying which ones as of this writing — with a $50 Project Fi credit if you start the trade-in by October 5.