No, it’s not an Obama-phone. What’s the catch? Well, if you keep your monthly usage to 200 minutes of phone calls, 500 text messages, and 500 MB of data, there is no catch. Never get a monthly bill. No Spanish-American war tax. It really is free. Zero dollars and zero cents. And, you get to use the latest fancy-pants smartphones. Although I am not being paid to write this and Lew is not being paid to run it, I just have to point out to other liberty lovers another great outcome coming out of the somewhat free market.
Freedompop.com is the brainchild of Stephen Stokols and Steven Sesar. They are both tech gurus who saw the possibilities of VOIP technology flowing through 4G LTE data networks via a smartphone app that is assigned a conventional phone number. The service rides on Sprint’s 4G LTE network but lacks charges for telephone/text usage and associated charges/taxes. The infrastructure-free company obtains large chunks of cheap wholesale data from Sprint and parcels it out to its users via a seamless smartphone app that converts regular phone-number based calls and text messages to data that flows over the 4G network. The phone and internet interface on the phone looks the same as any other smartphone. It is not like opening a Skype app or Google Hangouts app every time you make a call.
Sprint, apparently seeing the low-cost competition, negotiated to buy Freedom Pop from the founders (and shut it down?). FreedomPop’s owners ended the negotiations and decided to continue with their own plans.
Sprint’s geographic coverage is less robust than Verizon, but you will probably do fine if you live in, or near, most cities of a least several thousand people. If you have any doubts, you can check for coverage in your area. The on-line set-up process for the free service will also confirm coverage in your location before proceeding. Sprint’s network was originally built to cover the interstate highway system, so you will also likely have good coverage if you live within a few miles of an interstate highway.
You don’t wind up with a cheap flip-phone under this free plan either. You select a refurbished name-brand smartphone. You can use the phone for all the things you do now, like buying stuff on Amazon, checking Accuweather, and reading LRC—only for free.
You can use a smartphone you already own if your phone is compatible with the Sprint network. Otherwise, the one-time cost to start up your free service is only to select and buy an inexpensive used or refurbished smartphone from FreedomPop that they will set up for you. It will arrive in the mail ready-to-use. You will get a free phone number assigned for your local area code/call area. Or, you can transfer your existing number. My only cost to use the service was the purchase of a used phone of my choice on their website. I chose a Samsung Galaxy S5 and paid $139 for it. If I stay within the 200 minutes, 500 text messages, and 500 MB of data, I won’t ever be charged anything. You can also turn off the auto-billing functions in the account options so that you will never exceed your allotted usage and never be charged for excess usage. But, even if you do exceed the allowed minutes and texts, you will merely be bumped up to a $7.99 / month unlimited call/text plan with the 500 MB of data.
If you do decide to go whole-hog and buy into all the bells and whistles including the unlimited call and texting options, 1 GB of data, and the hotspot wireless tethering feature for your other devices, you will still wind up with a smartphone plan of less than $20 a month. If you want to stay totally free, just select “no thanks,” etc. on all the offers during the set-up process.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, you can also get a free data plan for your tablet from FreedomPop.