How is still legal to sell them together?
"The two moves are orthogonal; all they have in common so far is they both seek to uncouple the hardware from a service contract. But then so does the basic concept of a SIM card designed into GSM."
In Finland, the land of racist twats and forests too clean to burn, it is illegal to bundle a phone that has "3G capabilities" with a SIM card contract. Yes the MNO will sell you a phone on a monthly payment plan, if your credit rating is good enough. But they can't offer any sort of discounts or bundles with a SIM card from them. For example, for several years I was getting my phone on a monthly plan from Sonera and the SIM card from DNA. I have always found that this is a wonderful way of doing it. Not only does it promote the continued long use of a phone that has no reason to be traded in (once you have paid for it all it is yours and the bills stop of course!) it also ensures that the MNOs actually compete on things like coverage and performance. But then I guess this isn't worth doing in countries with ten times the population. Let alone a hundred times the population, or more. Too much like hard work I assume. And no doubt many people will explain that being competitive and offering great service is bad for business, and, not something most customers care about anyway.
I have the US service
It works really well, given the constraints of hopping between Sprint and TMobile (not the leading carriers for coverage). It's very cheap and 'reasonable' deal by comparison with incumbents; plus 'free' international roaming is really a terrific deal. We pay $55 for two phones, very happy. Plus, Google phones actually get regular (and long-term) OS updates unlike yer average carrier Android device. Like.
Re: I have the US service
Me too - and the great feature is that when I visit the UK - which I do every year, my phone number doesn't change, service is still good, and when I get home my bill from Google is usually about $40 for the month abroad - that's about $10 more than I normally pay! And no extra charge for using it as a hotspot when I need it.
"Current rates are 20¢/minute"
That's seriously steep! My normal cell carrier is far cheaper than that for international roaming. Even if it weren't, though, wouldn't it be cheaper to get a cheap prepaid phone in the area you would be? I'm not seeing the roaming advantage here...
"Pixels can be provisioned by Deutsche Telekom in Germany, EE in the UK"
So: one provider in each big marketplace.
Wake me up when there is a drop-down menu that lets me choose plans between multiple providers. Until then, the hassle of obtaining and plugging in another SIM is still going to work out far cheaper.
I just can't trust them
Unfortunately, Google have now become "that sinister company" in my mind and as far as I'm concerned their brand is so toxic that I won't touch any of their services with a bargepole.
I am well aware that I am in the minority but I can only wonder just how much more personal data they can harvest from that particular service...