On my mind (betting it all on Google)

Over the years, I’ve found myself increasingly dependent upon Google.  For example, I built this blog’s credit card database in Google Sheets.  Without that, we’d barely have a blog.  That database drives our Best Offers pageBest Category BonusesBest Rewards for Everyday Spend, Best Big Spend Bonuses, and so much more.

Of course, I use Google email (Gmail) and Google calendar to rule both my business and personal life.  Even more, Google Maps is my everything.   It tells me not just how to get from point A to point B, but also shows reviews, let’s me store locations that I want to visit, lets me search for things nearby, tells me how busy a place is, etc. What would I do without all of that?   Beyond Google Maps, Google Flights has become my go-to site for travel.  And I use Google Photos to store all of my digital photos.  It’s an excellent free service which stores all of your pics in the cloud and allows you to search them for people or even key words.

One of the many results when I searched my Google Photos for “bird”

Cutting the cord on Comcast and AT&T

More recently, for better or worse, my ties to Google have grown stronger.  I switched my cell phone service from AT&T to Google Fi because Fi gives me high speed data internationally at no extra cost.  And I partially cut the cord on Comcast.  I switched to Comcast’s internet only service, and now use Google’s YouTube TV to provide the same TV channels that I had before.

I use YouTube TV to stream all of the same channels I used to watch on Comcast, but for a lot less money.

Cutting the Microsoft cord

ASUS Chromebook Flip C101PA

Now I’m in the process of cutting the cord on Microsoft Windows.  I’m writing this post on a Chromebook laptop.  Chromebook is Google’s lightweight operating system where basically everything runs in the Chrome browser.  For the 40K to Far Away Challenge, I wanted something super light and with good battery life since I plan to carry everything in a backpack for the whole trip, and I won’t always have access to a power outlet.  My primary Windows-based HP laptop is already very light: about 3 pounds with the charger, but its battery life is terrible.  With a Chromebook, I found an inexpensive laptop that weights only 2 pounds with the charger: the ASUS Chromebook Flip C101PA (this is an affiliate link to the product, by the way).  I really would prefer (and may buy in the future) Google’s latest Pixelbook, but I wanted to try a cheap Chromebook first to see if I could really get all of my work done without Microsoft Windows.  If this post is any indication, then the answer is yes, I can.  The ASUS Chromebook is far from perfect: the screen is tiny and a bit washed out, but I’ve otherwise been happy with it.  The keyboard is surprisingly easy to work with (at least with my tiny hands) and I haven’t had too much trouble adjusting to the browser based operating system.  Plus, it’s small size means that it works pretty well as a tablet simply by swiveling the screen around. The biggest issue I’ve had so far is that Delta’s in-flight entertainment refused to play on the laptop.  That was annoying but not a deal breaker.

One big test of my cutting the Microsoft cord comes this weekend.  For the first time that I can remember, I plan to use something other than Microsoft Powerpoint for a presentation.  I’ll use Google Slides instead.

My latest FM to Go presentation. For the first time ever, I edited the presentation in Google Slides instead of Microsoft Powerpoint and I’ll display it through Google Slides as well.

I’m still not totally sold on the Chromebook approach, but it seems to work well enough.  And it may not sound like much, but the difference in weight between a 2 pounder and a 3 pounder will be significant after I spend days with my backpack always on my back.

Mini Reviews

For those wondering about some of the Googley things I listed above, here are my high level impressions:

  • Google Fi cell phone service: Absolutely awesome for international use.  Free data-only sims are a fantastic feature too (my wife uses a second phone as a hotspot when we travel out of the country).  Fi has been a bit of a pain to use domestically, though, at least with an iPhone as I use it.  Within the US, while my wife’s phone on AT&T is happily connected almost everywhere, I find that I frequently have no signal, or no internet even when the phone thinks it has a signal.  Despite this, I’ve been travelling enough internationally to make it worth the headache.
  • Chromebook Laptop: I was surprised at how easy it was to adapt to an entirely different operating system.  I guess I already do most of my work within browsers, so it wasn’t too much of a leap.  The main things I think I’ll miss are tools for editing photos and video.  These things do exist in forms compatible with Chromebooks (I think), but I haven’t yet found good ones (nor have I spent much time looking).
  • YouTube TV: I tried several live TV streaming services and found that I liked YouTube TV the best by a wide margin.  All similar services include some kind of DVR capability, but I like YouTube TV’s the best.  One of its best features is the way it handles rewind and fast forward.  It doesn’t actually change your place on the show until you’ve picked a still photo showing the scene you want to hop to.  That might not be easy to imagine…  Just trust me, it works and works well.  YouTube TV was also one of the few streaming services where AMC is included in the base package.  That’s critical for a Walking Dead fan :).  There are two things I seriously dislike about YouTube TV: 1) It doesn’t work outside of the US!  What?!  One of the best things about cutting the chord should be that you can watch anywhere in the world.  Unfortunately that’s not the case here.  2) When watching certain new shows, it won’t let you fast forward past the commercials.  I’m not sure how to know ahead of time when this will happen.  It’s annoying, but not a deal breaker for me.

For better or worse

I never intentionally set out to tie the knot so strongly with Google.  It just happened bit by bit over time.  And, yes, it makes me a little nervous.  If they were to suddenly decide to kill Google Sheets, the blog, as a business, would be dead in the water.  And I can’t say how upset I’d be if they suddenly shut down Google Photos.  Fortunately, I don’t think either is at all likely.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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DaninMCI
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DaninMCI

Switch to an actual Google Pixel phone and I think you will have better service. I know I have domestically and internationally. Interested to hear more about the chrome book pros and cons longer term as I’m leaning that way also.

docntx
Guest
docntx

Thanks Greg! Love to learn from you all..
Have used Chromebooks forever. Love them, but the limitations are there. Share your biggest complaint about in flight problems.
On AA, I cannot get the Chromebook to log on.
Playing around with Google Fi.
T-Mobile has been my travel phone, but it has almost no signal in the rural areas where I live and work.Customer service is much better than AT&T.
Google comes across as this massive black hole.
Can you call Google Fi (or any Google entity)if you have problems?

Nick Reyes
Editor

Have you been using Google Fi? Fi works on T-Mobile and Sprint. If you live and work in a rural area where there is no T-Mobile coverage, I’m not sure you’ll get great coverage with Fi.

I haven’t had any need for customer service, so I can’t comment as to that.

Frugalman
Guest
Frugalman

This is called Monopoly, something Microsoft tried to do in operation system and Internet explorer (still remember this name?). Your concern is valid, we must have a 2nd option all the time. If it doesn’t happen naturally, the anti trust Court shall create one

Greg
Guest
Greg

Not sure I understand the logic behind you going all in on one platform. You have to make sacrifices in productivity in order to accomplish this. What is the benefit gained from doing that? Why not choose the best tools for the job that provide the most value in your workflow scenarios? Sounds like you are in experimentation phase, please post again in the future when you’ve tried to make it all work and decide it just wasn’t worth it.

Mark
Guest
Mark

I dumped my personal Windows laptop a few years ago. I simply did not need it.
So these days, I have a Mac Mini sitting at home but as I am never at home, for travel I actually use an iPad Pro. Even lighter than the Chromebook, super fast and I can even run all my photo and video editing on it as well. I could even run Office on it if I wanted to (but I don’t).
I would go as far as to suggest it does more than the Chromebook does in a lighter package. I do fear now all the Apple haters are going to give us a thousand reasons why I am wrong but when I was sitting in a bar in Cambodia just a few weeks ago, editing 4k videos and updating my WordPress blog, it felt very right to me 🙂

Dee
Guest
Dee

I’m with you on being all in with Google.

My husband and I share our calendars, grocery lists on Keep, etc to make coordinating our lives easier.

I set up a Google account to organize my high school class reunion. Everyone on the committee had access to it – the Sheets pages with contact info, the Gmail account, the Forms we set up for classmates to update their contact info and RSVP to the reunion. We used Sheets to keep track of expenses and assigned tasks. We could be on a conference call and all be in the Sheets page at the same time. One of the best features is we set up a Google phone number and took turns forwarding it to our personal phones to field calls from classmates with questions. The last four digits of our number was the year we graduated. It worked so well, I replicated it for my 5 siblings and I to plan our mother’s 100th birthday party. We used the GMail address and Voice phone number (you can record an outgoing message) for RSVPs. Each of us took a day of the week to monitor responses.

My Women’s March Huddle uses a Google account for the Groups message board.

I obviously love Google, but also back up EVERYTHING on Dropbox – documents, photos, etc. I don’t trust any one company to hold it all. Roughly $100/year for another cloud storage unit is worth the piece of mind, especially for photos. I haven’t figured out how to back up Google Keep notes to Dropbox, but that wouldn’t be the end of the world if they vanished.

I manage all of our banking in Quicken, which is not Google-based. I’ve tried Mint and Personal Capital, but they don’t have the ability to do splits. If Google had financial management software, I would try it.

Just a Note
Guest
Just a Note

I use a lot of Google products including Fi. But I also use Apple and Libre office as well. Mostly back up important stuff to odt format files (or office if you prefer that). The big thing is with Fi or Voice it is tied to your account, if the account gets locked so does your number.

Found this out the hard way with domains a couple years ago so that so that I don’t keep really important stuff with Google – only “disposable”.

map
Guest
map

Been using Google FI for about a month now (domestically) and although I love some of the features, it really is pretty poor quality. I have had multiple instances of either not being able to connect, and in particular breaking up during the call (the other person comes through clear, it’s just me).(This is with a Moto phone that I bought directly from them – I have another M phone- my travel phone- that I have used without issue, so it’s not the phone). Not sure how long I’ll stick with it.

Nick Reyes
Editor

This is why I eventually paused my Fi service. I just re-started it to use it in Bora Bora, but I’d paused it for a while before that because, even though Fi uses T-Mobile, I’d run into many instances where I had my Pixel and my T-Mobile phones next to each other and the T-Mobile phone had full service / Internet and the Fi phone wasn’t getting any signal. Don’t get me wrong, the Pixel mostly worked, but it was really annoying at times when I’d be looking at a full signal on my T-Mobile phone and not wasn’t getting anything on the Fi phone, so I got too frustrated with it. I wasn’t willing to make it my primary service. That said, it doesn’t need to be my primary service since I can pause and re-start only when I need international service.

On that note, in Bora Bora / Tahiti, I did not get LTE service on the Fi phone — it got the same speed as my T-Mobile phone. The Fi phone has been much faster in Japan and Europe, but not in French Polynesia.

Bill
Guest
Bill

Can’t you use a VPN to watch YouTube TV overseas?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

VPN works on Comcast That’s why I have it .

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

You can VPN to your home router, and it’s free.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Yes I had a $250 acer never really worked error codes then got $600 Acer Winpro 7 works every time . I hope it works with a new Mac in Jan.But that doesn’t with Amazon movies it says turn off ur VPN and try again !!!!
CHEERs

Michael Scepaniak
Guest
Michael Scepaniak

This blog and your business are dependent on Google Sheets?! That seems a bit foolish to me. While I wouldn’t be too concerned about Google sunsetting Sheets, I would be wary of unintentionally violating one of their algorithmic thresholds, triggering some sort of automated punitive action (such as locking your account, without any course for appeal).

Mark
Guest
Mark

I am surprised you dont even mention the implications of handing over your entire life of data to a company that is free to do with it what it wants.

Mike Odom
Guest
Mike Odom

I’ve been rocking an Acer Chromebook 14 for the past 2 years and its been my favorite laptop yet. Even got a few family members to switch. They go for around $200 Brand New on eBay.

ABC
Guest
ABC

I can’t feel you on this one. Google simply has sh!t products. Gmail is crap. Outlook give you so much freedom and is more intuitive (and better search function). It’s a pain to follow an email string in gmail. Excel and ppt have so many more functions in the office package. Tried complex functions google sheets?
And i’m not even covering privacy issues with google. The company knows everything about you.

Nick Reyes
Editor

Haha — as someone who uses said sheets daily, yes — I would say that there are some complex functions in Greg’s spreadsheets. That’s putting it mildly.

Raymond
Guest
Raymond

Does Fi high speed international data stay high speed after 15GB?

Christian
Guest
Christian

I’d be with you on this if only Google just wasn’t quite so insidious and evil. Any company that goes to the length that Google does to track your every move even when specifically instructed not to, then sell that information needs to be avoided as strenuously as possible. That said, you need to make your own choices that work for you.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Hey Greg,

First, a disclaimer: I’m a longtime Googler, but…
1) I haven’t worked on most of the products or services you mentioned (though I did work on Flights and Maps :).
2) I definitely don’t speak on behalf of Google on, well, anything nowadays :p.

That out of the way… some personal musings:

– Fi: My entire immediate family is on Fi (paying full price) and loves it! They’ve also had very good luck with phone support when needed, and the general reputation of Fi support is pretty darn good :).

– Chromebooks: I have two work computers — a 2017 Macbook Pro 15″ and Pixelbook. I find myself using the Pixelbook much more (particularly in meetings and traveling) and the only two things that frustrate me are the less-fluid profile support (I can’t send a link on Chrome from “corp” profile to “personal”) and the inability to use software equalizers for when I listen to music.

– iPad Pro: I have the 12.9″ and really like it, particularly for reading magazines and doing various music-geek stuff. Haven’t used it yet for much in the way of photography, but I have no doubt it’ll be amazing. For any productivity thing that’d require typing though… no way. I mean, add a keyboard, and at that point, why not just use a regular laptop which is more lap’able, more functional, etc.!

– Do consider trying YouTube Premium. I still cling to Google Play Music (instead of YouTube Music), but both are included free with YT Premium… and… no YT ads! Just that last part alone is a nice breath of fresh air! And the combined music library of Google Play Music and YT Music is… impressive!

And lastly, on a bit of a philosophical note: I was bummed by your introduction as being “dependent on” Google. The fact that — even as you’ve called out — there are so very many alternatives to most of the products and services you use suggests that you’re using the Google stuff because you like it, because you choose to. I often find myself using (or at least regularly trying!) competitors like Spotify and SkyScanner and Booking.com and, well, a lot of Apple stuff… and I’m grateful for the amazing choices!

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

You can install AdblockPlus into Chrome, and it will filter out all the ads in youtube and everywhere else. Not sure if ChromeOS will allow you to do it though.

OMan
Guest
OMan

Google FI is great! Especially when you travel overseas with friends and we all used my data plan (I brought extra data-only SIM). My Galaxy S8+ was originally bought from VzW and I did experience some domestic problems as mentioned by Greg. But two month ago I got an OS upgrade and T-Mobile firmware and since then there are no more issues.