FreedomPop offers a groundbreaking idea: completely “free” cell phone service.
You read right. FreedomPop offers free cell phone service. But there are a few catches, like:
- A low ceiling on how much you can talk, text, and surf
- And a limit to the “totally free” part.
But if you need an affordable plan, and you don’t use your phone much to begin with, FreedomPop might just be for you. Let’s dive into the details so you can decide for yourself.
How does FreedomPop work?
You’re likely wondering how a cell phone carrier can afford to give away free cell phone service, right? Aside from the catches listed above, it’s a simple answer: VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol.
VoIP doesn’t use a regular cell signal to send and receive texts and phone calls. Instead, it uses data – and not very much at that. VoIP is really cheap, too, so FreedomPop can afford to give away free service – for a time.
And by they way – just because VoIP doesn’t use traditional cell service doesn’t mean you have to be connected to Wi-Fi to make calls or send text messages. FreedomPop provides VoIP over LTE data connections, too, so no worries about having no signal when you’re not hooked up.
The FreedomPop FREE plan
FreedomPop free plans
First up is FreedomPop’s free plan. It’s actually 2 plans, depending on what type of phone you have: GSM or CDMA. The former gives you
Neither of those provide much in the way of data, but both provide a modest limit for people who typically just call or send a quick text when they’re out of the house.
If that’s you, then perfect. But watch out: the “free” part of this plan only lasts 12 months – sort of like an extended promotional period. After that? You’ll have to start paying.
Purchasing and earning additional data
So what happens if you go over your data limit? It can go a few ways.
Unless you turn this setting off, when you get to your final 100MB of data, FreedomPop will automatically charge you $20 to “top up” your plan. Ouch. Thankfully, you can opt out of this.
If you decide to opt out of the top-up, you can use any of 3 other methods to gain more data, though:
- Pay an extra $0.02/MB. This option can get pricey. Once you’ve turned off your top-up option, this becomes the default. You’ll be automatically charged $0.02 per extra MB of data you use beyond. You can get alerts emailed to you that you’re about to overspend your data, but these cost an extra fee, too.
- Invite friends. FreedomPop provides a program called Freedom Friends to get more data, too. For every friend who signs up and stays with the service, you’ll receive an extra 5MB per month, per friend. Max is 10 friends, of 50MB of data.
- Complete offers, surveys, and downloads. Finally, you can complete various affiliate offers to gain free data. The offers, surveys, and downloads typically come from services like Netflix, online games, and newsletters.
Even with these options, your “free plan” can suddenly become pricey with that low data cap. The prepaid plans quickly turn into a better deal.
Use Wi-Fi for everything. FreedomPop lets you do everything over Wi-Fi, including make calls. If you can use a non-SMS texting app like WhatsApp, you won’t use any of your texts, either. Take advantage of this to prevent overage costs.
Prepaid plans and pricing
Prepaid plans, pricing, and data limits
All of FreedomPop’s prepaid plans include unlimited talk and text, which is great. As for data, you can get up to 10GB per month at a pretty affordable price. You’ll get the best value-for-money across the board when you sign up for the “12 months prepaid” plan — but if you’re looking for a true month-to-month plan, your monthly bill leaps skyward.
2 GB is best for a few days worth of calling, texting, and uploading videos in SD.
5 GB is more ideal for cross-country trips, giving you enough data for calls and texts, internet surfing, and a small amount of live streaming.
10 GB is best for traveling abroad, giving you enough data to upload hundreds of travel photos to social media and do some live streaming on Instagram
Cell phones and devices
FreedomPop cell phone brands
|Apple, LG, Samsung, Franklin Wireless, Google, HTC, Motorola, Netgear, Novatel Wireless, ANS, Alcatel, Huawei, Kyocera, Sharp, Sierra Wireless, ZTE, Code Black, Gigaset, Infomark, MagicJack, tagg, Unimax, Zuli|
FreedomPop only offers refurbished or pre-owned phones – sorry new iPhone lovers! You’ll be back a few generations with FreedomPop.
The tradeoff is that your phone is going to cost less – great! The downside, aside from the obvious, is a little more pernicious: viability.
Smart phones don’t take many years before they no longer support new updates – so it’s likely you’ll find yourself buying a new phone every few years, especially with the big names like Apple and Samsung.
Performance and coverage
FreedomPop is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator – MVNO. That means they lease space on one or more of the “Big 4” carriers’ cell towers. In FreedomPop’s case, they operate on both AT&T and Sprint’s towers. That’s good news.
Phones are one of two types: GSM or CDMA. If you have a GSM phone that you want to use on a CDMA network – sorry, you’re out of luck. It won’t work.
Likewise, if you have a CDMA phone but want to use a carrier that only allows GSM – same boat.
FreedomPop has both: AT&T is GSM and Sprint is CDMA. So you really don’t have to worry about it – whether you’re buying one from FreedomPop or you’re bringing your own phone over, they’ll figure out what type it is.
In either case, customer reviews about having service are a mixed bag. Some say “service has been amazing”, others that “I always get no service.”
Although things aren’t black-and-white and your specific region is what will determine things for you, here’s a hard-and-fast rule: if you live in a more rural region, try to get a GSM phone so you’re placed on AT&T’s network.
And if you live in a city, you’ll probably be fine either way.
And another word of caution: if you go with FreedomPop, you’ll be an MVNO user. As an MVNO user, when the AT&T or Sprint’s network gets congested, you’ll find your phone is one of the first to be slowed down over AT&T or Sprint’s direct customers.
AT&T’s coverage is better than Sprint’s -- so pick a GSM phone if that’s important to you.
FreedomPop starts out slightly elusive when it comes to certain things – like the 12-month limit to their “free” plan; the automatically-applied “Top-up” that happens when you get too close to your data limit; and the $0.02/MB charge if you do find out you can turn that off.
Plus, the website only advertises the free plan, and requires you to toss in your email address just to check things out – certainly not transparency at its finest.
Unfortunately, customer service doesn’t seem to improve beyond the website, either. Customer reviews are equal parts scathing and glowing. To FreedomPop’s credit, the negative reviews tend to focus on the charges for going over your data – which you know enough now to be able to dodge.
That said, the carrier should be more transparent on their website about these things when you sign up.
Recap -- is FreedomPop any good?
FreedomPop offers something that’s unique to the phone space: a free cell phone plan for people who don’t really use much data. But if you go over your limit – oh boy. Expect to pay for it.
But if you’re hooked up to Wi-Fi often, don’t use much data, or are confident in your ability to keep an eye on it, then FreedomPop’s value only goes up the more months you pay in advance. Nowhere else can you get 10GB of data per month for just $19.99.
Can I transfer my phone number, too?
Yes. If you’re switching from another provider, you can bring both, either, or neither your device and your phone number. FreedomPop has the information for doing this on their website. Just note that you’ll need to pay a $9.99 fee and have a few things near at hand:
- Account holder’s name
- Account number
- PIN or password
- Phone number you’re transferring
- Billing address and phone number
Do I need to always be connected to Wi-Fi for my phone to work?
No. You can use Wi-Fi networks to help save data and texts, but FreedomPop operates under the Sprint and AT&T networks, just like any other smartphone.
Where does FreedomPop work best?
According to FreedomPop’s coverage map, coverage is best in the South and Southeastern U.S. Visit the link to enter your location information and find out what kind of coverage your area has.