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Google Nexus Users Are Getting a Key Feature of Project Fi

Google Inc. New Product AnnouncementGoogle Inc. New Product Announcement
The Nexus 5X smartphone pictured at an event in San Francisco on Sept. 29, 2015.David Paul Morris/ Bloomberg via Getty Images/ File

A key feature of Google’s virtual phone network, Project Fi, is the way in which Fi phones can automatically connect to over a million free hotspots in order to save on cellular data.

Now, Google is extending this “Wi-Fi Assistant” feature to all people using its Nexus phones in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Mexico and the Nordic countries. The rollout will take place in the coming weeks.

Fi phones are all Nexus phones (you can’t hook up to the network with an iPhone or another Android handset) but Nexus devices are also available to those who aren’t on Fi—which is still a U.S.-only network.

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Google gives special treatment to Nexus users. Apart from their new ability to get free connectivity with Wi-Fi Assistant, they also receive updates to the Android operating system directly from Google, so before anyone else.

Wi-Fi Assistant, which connects to hotspots when they are faster than the current cellular connection, routes traffic through Google’s own virtual private network (VPN) as a security measure.

When connecting to strangers’ Wi-Fi hotspots or those in coffee shops and airports, using a VPN is usually a smart idea, as it stops the hotspot’s operator from being able to see what you’re doing through that connection.

For more on Project Fi, watch our video.

The Wi-Fi feature is intended to keep people’s cellular usage as low as possible. With project Fi, Google provides cellular connectivity by reselling the services of carriers such as Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular.