Cheap is good, but free is almost always better. Especially when you’re talking about something that’s usually expensive, such as wireless voice and data plans. FreedomPop, which has been offering free broadband service for about a year, just launched a free wireless plan.
Is it right for everyone? No way. But if you’re looking for a very basic wireless plan for a family member or employee you don’t want to put on your full-featured plan, FreedomPop is worth a look.
FreedomPop gives you 500MBs of data, 500 text messages and 200 anytime voice minutes per month, without a contract, “for life.” (Or until the company goes out of business or changes its policy.) If you want unlimited text and minutes, you can pay $10.99 a month.
FreedomPop sells refurbished HTC Evo Design Android smartphones for $99. For now, that’s the only phone that works with this plan. The Evo Design phone is also locked on the Sprint network.
FreedomPop is a small company, and it doesn’t have its own network. It’s reselling Sprint service. FreedomPop piggybacks on Sprint’s aging Wi-Max data network, not its newer LTE network. As I wrote earlier this year, Sprint’s pre-LTE network is quite slow, compared to the 4G LTE speeds of its competitors.
Consumers using Sprint’s non-LTE service often experience extremely slow speeds: Sprint recorded 1.6 Mbps for non-LTE download and 0.7 Mbps for non-LTE upload, according to extensive testing by RootMetrics. (RootMetrics found that in the limited areas where Sprint has rolled out true 4G LTE service, it is very fast. )
By the end of 2014, FreedomPop expects to be using Sprint’s LTE service, and it plans to sell an LTE-capable phone. Later this year, it will offer another HTC phone, but the company hasn’t yet announced the specific model. You’ll also be able to use other Sprint phones with FreedomPop’s service later this year, according to Steven Sesar, the company’s co-founder.
There is one other potential catch. Voice and text service moves via VoIP, which is to say, over the Internet. If you’ve ever used Skype or other VoIP services you might know that sometimes conversations are crystal clear; other times they're unintelligible.
FreedomPop says it will change the dynamics of the wireless market, and that's just silly. But you simply need to decide if this basic service is right for you. And you only have to risk $99 to give it a try.
Image: FreedomPop. Teaser image: Saveoutsidethebox