FreedomPop takes its name literally, offering a truly free wireless cell phone plan — one of few carriers that actually does. But with truly-free service come tradeoffs, 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?
FreedomPop’s biggest marketing appeal comes from offering a completely free cell phone plan, alongside other, paid plans. But how do they manage to afford giving away data and coverage to users?
To start with is a simple acronym: VoIP. That means Voice-over-Internet-Protocol. It’s the same thing that free messaging apps like Skype and WhatsApp use to allow you to call family or friends that are on the other side of the country, in Canada, Mexico, England, or just about anywhere.
VoIP uses data to send your call instead of a traditional cell signal. So you’ll need a good data signal or a Wi-Fi connection to place clear calls — otherwise, they’ll sound crackly or faint.
The cool thing about VoIP is that 1), it’s really cheap to use, and 2) it doesn’t use much data.
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 just 200MB of data, while the latter gives you 500MB to play with.
Now, 200MB and 500MB isn’t going to give even the most casual Twitter or Instagram user much use. 500MB will give you something like 10 or so minutes of HD video streaming before your data is slowed to a crawl. So it’s really not great for someone who uses data regularly.
But if you’re primarily on Wi-Fi, or you’re rarely outside of a city and without a good data signal, then FreedomPop’s free plan just might free you from your monthly cell phone bill. At least, for the first 12 months, that is — after that, you’re no longer eligible for their free service and will need 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 give you more leeway.
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|
As a more budget-focused carrier, FreedomPop offers only used or refurbished phones. So while you can find iPhones, Samsung, Android, even Google and more, they’ll never be the newest model.
Going alongside that, the selection available to you changes a lot, with no guarantee that you’ll find the phone you want. Good news is that you’ll pay less money on a FreedomPop phone than a new model, though.
Performance and coverage
Depending on whether your phone uses a CDMA connection or a GSM connection, FreedomPop uses either Sprint or AT&T’s network. If you don’t have a clue about what that means — no problem. Each is the shorthand for two older radio systems used in cell phones.
That’s about all you need to know — FreedomPop can figure out which you have in your phone during sign-up. And if you get a new one, the phone type is included in the listing.
Sprint network runs CDMA phones, and AT&T runs GSM phones. AT&T has better coverage than Sprint, so they’re our pick for the one to go with. But it’s your preference.
AT&T’s coverage is better than Sprint’s -- so pick a GSM phone if that’s important to you.
That said, it’s important to note that as a MVNO, FreedomPop will never have as good of coverage as either AT&T or Sprint. Both carriers give priority to their direct customers. And when it comes to FreedomPop’s performance — customer reviews about having service are a mixed bag. Some say “service has been amazing”, others that “I always get no service.”
The cell phone industry isn’t exactly known for its stellar customer service — FreedomPop is no exception. To start with, they’ve had consistent customer complaints about a lack of transparency and surprise charges.
For example, unless you were paying attention in our review earlier, you may have missed the $15 automatic Top-Up that occurs before you reach your data limit. Most customers don’t know they can turn these off.
FreedomPop’s website is not very user-friendly, either. Options are presented in a confusing fashion, and many people don’t know the difference between 4G and LTE. Those additional fees and costs are kept pretty murky here, too. And you can only sign up for the service online.
Recap -- is FreedomPop any good?
FreedomPop has at least one thing going for them: their uniqueness. Few carriers offer completely free cell phone service, even if only for the first 12 months. But spotty coverage, slow speeds, low data caps, and refurbished-models only pulls the carrier down.
Best for: People who don’t use much data and want an ultra-cheap wireless phone service.
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.