An interesting new version of the Project Fi app began rolling out yesterday. There's a big change to the version number, but otherwise, nothing special to see in the app. However, a teardown of the resources reveals some important changes are scheduled to arrive. The biggest addition will be spam filtering, which should remove all of the disturbances caused by annoying telemarketers and scammers. Also in line are notifications when your data usage suddenly skyrockets, and an in-app feature to turn off Bill Protection once your data is throttled.
I haven't spotted any new features, per se, but I did want to call out the fact that the Project Fi app has taken a huge step in version numbers. The previous release was labeled V.5.1.11 and the new version is V18.104.22.168. When I first saw this, I was scratching my head for a moment, thinking maybe there was a sorting bug that somehow decided 2 was higher than 5, then I noticed there was a whole new digit between the V and that decimal. The Project Fi app must be growing up.
While it's actually pretty silly to ascribe too much meaning to version numbers–seriously, stop making a big deal out of apps that increment whole version numbers, it's okay that Allo is at v26–but I do find it interesting to see an app jump from what is effectively a 0.x versioning, usually implying beta-ness, to a full version and skip right through 1.x to begin counting at 2.5 all in one go. That's ballsy. You keep being unconventional, Project Fi!
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk.
Spam calls aren't just on the rise, they've exploded in the last couple of years. It certainly differs from one person to the next, but I usually get between ten to fifteen bogus calls per day, and occasionally far more. Google began tracking bad phone numbers, and even warns users through the Phone app when a spam caller is detected. Even that doesn't feel like enough of a solution because there's no way to simply block all spammers, you still end up receiving unwanted calls and blocking each number individually.
Now it looks like Project Fi will be adding its own settings to block calls from known spammers. The latest update adds text and a layout for a new setting that will be used to enable a spam filter on callers. There will be a screen dedicated to spam with a toggle at the top to enable the filter. Below it will be a simple setting that enables or disables spam filtering, and there will likely be a list of numbers that have been blocked.
<string name="spam_blocking_text">Filter spam calls</string>
<string name="call_blocking">Spam & blocked numbers</string>
<string name="blocked_numbers_description_title">Blocked numbers</string>
<activity android:name="com.google.android.apps.tycho.settings.CallBlockingSettingsActivity" android:exported="false" android:label="@string/call_blocking" android:launchMode="singleTop" android:parentActivityName="com.google.android.apps.tycho.AccountDetailsActivity">
<receiver android:name="com.google.android.apps.tycho.receivers.ModifySpamBlockingReceiver" android:exported="true" android:permission="android.permission.MODIFY_PHONE_STATE">
<action android:name="com.google.android.apps.tycho.ACTION_MODIFY_SPAM_BLOCKING_SETTING" />
<LinearLayout xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res-auto" custom:orientation="vertical" custom:layout_width="match_parent" custom:layout_height="wrap_content">
<TextView custom:layout_width="match_parent" custom:layout_height="wrap_content" custom:text="@string/spam_blocking_title" style="@style/SubheaderText.Padded" />
<com.google.android.apps.tycho.widget.CheckableListItem custom:id="@id/block_spam" custom:layout_width="match_parent" custom:layout_height="wrap_content" custom:titleText="@string/spam_blocking_text" custom:checkableType="2" />
<include custom:layout_width="match_parent" custom:layout_height="wrap_content" custom:layout_marginTop="@dimen/divider_margin_small" custom:layout_marginBottom="@dimen/divider_margin_small" layout="@layout/divider" />
Automatic blocking would be a huge improvement since dealing with each spammy number one at a time is infuriating. I'm not sure if it strictly matters, but I'm curious if this will turn out to be fairly standard blocking on the phone, or if Project Fi will be performing network-level blocking, so the callers never even reach our phones.
The difference probably won't be too significant to users, but network-level blocking would give Google an opportunity to handle the spammers in an elegant way. For example, some other services have been known to screw with spam callers by playing pre-recorded audio reporting that a line has been disconnected, or simply letting the line ring indefinitely. Google could also put up a captcha-like gate that would make it possible for questionable numbers to verify that they're real people, and then possibly block those numbers if they continue to be problematic.
There's no sign for when spam filtering will go live, but as I've seen in the past, Project Fi tends to be pretty quick to launch new features after the signs show up in the app, so it might happen pretty soon. Unfortunately, this still might not do much to combat the problems with spammers that spoof their caller ID information to look like legitimate phone numbers, or even the number of the person they're calling.
Notifications for data usage spikes
Keeping an eye on data usage can be difficult to do regularly, which is why Project Fi provides a customizable alert that can tell you if you're over a self-prescribed limit. However, if that limit is set pretty high, you might not realize until it's too late if a misbehaving app spends a few hours blasting through 90% of your normal monthly data usage.
To handle those (hopefully) rare instances, Project Fi will soon offer to post notifications when data usage spikes. This will be a simple on/off switch in the app alongside the data usage alerts you can already turn on. If there's a sudden rise in data, the app will let you know and suggest switching to Wi-Fi if possible.
<string name="data_binge_turn_off">Turn off alerts</string>
<string name="data_binge_snooze_message">If data usage is still high, you\'ll be notified again in %1$s</string>
<string name="data_binge_with_feedback_text">We\'ve noticed high mobile data usage over a short time frame. Connecting to Wi‑Fi can help you use less data. \n\nWas this notification useful?</string>
The one thing that concerns me about the text above is that it looks like this warning might only be directed at the individual user with the spiking data usage, which isn't always ideal in a group plan situation. Perhaps a future version will also bring warnings to the plan owner and managers.
Easier access to override Bill Protection throttling
Bill Protection was announced back in January as a way to give users a form of unlimited data without forcing anybody to choose and pay up front for a full unlimited plan right from the start. The one glaring problem with such a feature is that it's not true unlimited, at least not in the way most of us would like it to be. Instead, upon crossing the Bill Protection threshold, your data rates will be throttled pretty aggressively.
<string name="bill_protected_title">Covered under Bill Protection</string>
<string name="bill_protected_details">No more charges for data for the rest of this cycle.</string>
<string name="bill_protected_details_date">No more charges for data for the rest of this cycle through %1$s.</string>
<string name="bill_protected_content_description">%1$s is still covered under Bill Protection.</string>
<string name="over_cap_details_footer_additional_data">Your group used %1$s, but Bill Protection kicked in at %2$s. Any usage after %2$s was free, excluding the cost for additional full-speed data.</string>
<string name="over_cap_member">Group usage: <b>%2$s</b><br>Bill Protection kicked in at %1$s</string>
While Project Fi is still refining the messaging of Bill Protection, it's also solving one of its early oversights. As I mentioned in a mini-teardown earlier this month, Project Fi allowed customers to disable the throttling and pay for additional high speed data, but the only way to do that was to contact support directly.
Fortunately, that issue won't be lasting for long, the latest version includes text that confirms Project Fi subscribers will soon be able to override Bill Protection right from their phones. If you cross into the point where your data connection is throttled, it should trigger a message to appear asking if you'd like to allow Project Fi to continue charging you for data, at which point it will resume full speed rates.
<string name="additional_data_dialog_title">Allow charges for faster data?</string>
<string name="allow_charges">Allow charges</string>
<string name="slower_data">Slower data</string>
<string name="slower_data_date">Slower data until %1$s</string>
<string name="get_full_speed">Get full speed</string>
<string name="get_full_speed_error">Couldn\'t get full-speed data for %1$s</string>
<string name="get_full_speed_error_self">Couldn\'t get full-speed data</string>
<string name="additional_data_dialog_body_self_owner">You\'ll be charged at the usual rate for full-speed data until this cycle ends. You can\'t return to free data once you allow charges this cycle.</string>
<string name="additional_data_dialog_body_self_owner_rate">You\'ll be charged %1$s for full-speed data until this cycle ends. You can\'t return to free data once you allow charges this cycle.</string>
<string name="additional_data_dialog_body_self">%1$s will be charged at the usual rate for full-speed data until this cycle ends. You can\'t return to free data once you allow charges this cycle.</string>
<string name="additional_data_dialog_body_self_rate">%2$s will be charged %1$s for full-speed data until this cycle ends. You can\'t return to free data once you allow charges this cycle.</string>
<string name="additional_data_dialog_body_owner">You\'ll be charged at the usual rate for %1$s\'s full-speed data until this cycle ends. %1$s can\'t return to free data once you allow charges this cycle.</string>
<string name="additional_data_dialog_body_owner_rate">You\'ll be charged %1$s for %2$s\'s full-speed data until this cycle ends. %2$s can\'t return to free data once you allow charges this cycle.</string>
<string name="additional_data_dialog_body">%2$s will be charged at the usual rate for %1$s\'s full-speed data until this cycle ends. %1$s can\'t return to free data once you allow charges this cycle.</string>
<string name="additional_data_dialog_body_rate">%3$s will be charged %1$s for %2$s\'s full-speed data until this cycle ends. %2$s can\'t return to free data once you allow charges this cycle.</string>
The one notable catch to this system is that you can't switch back and forth between full speed data and free throttled data during a billing cycle. Once you've been throttled and elect to return to override the free mode, you'll have to continue paying for all of your data consumption until the end of the current billing cycle.
Curiously, the text above has four variations of the message that's shown to Fi users to inform them of the way the override works. I'm not sure if this means everybody can turn off Bill Protection for the month, or if it's limited to just the account owner and possibly managers.
Since the introduction of Bill Protection, I haven't crossed the automatically chosen threshold, or even come close to it. In other words, I'm not really sure if this is live yet. If a reader happens to hit that limit, please let us know what you're seeing. At this time, I've got a hunch this hasn't launched yet, but it's probably coming soon.
Fi is in 135+... make that 170+ countries
It's a little detail, but it's worth a shout-out: Project Fi updated its text to show that its subscribers can now wander into more than 170 countries and still receive calling support. The previous number was 135. That's pretty cool.
<string name="add_member_email_body_no_cost">For a flat monthly rate, this person gets unlimited US calls & texts, unlimited international texting in 170 countries, and 24/7 support.</string>
Project Fi might be coming to Tajikistan
Another fun note, that list of 170+ countries might include Tajikistan soon. It's not currently listed as an officially supported country, but it has been added to the text of the app.
<string name="roaming_notification_title_no_service_TJ">No service in Tajikistan</string>
<string name="roaming_notification_title_TJ">Welcome to Tajikistan</string>
Before all of you Tajikistanis... Tajikistanians?... erm, whatever... and anybody traveling to Tajikistan get too excited, it's worth noting the line of text that says "no service in Tajikistan." Like the other two lines, this one is shown for every country currently recognized by Project Fi, including the United States. There are also quite a few other countries that appear in the strings of the app, but not on the list of officially supported countries, like Micronesia and Ethiopia. In other words, count Tajikistan is a maybe, for now. If it does join the list, it will likely become one of the countries that has a per-minute charge on talk time.
I bet this was really important information to everybody. ;p
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