I have eaten those words on a monthly basis for some time now, but I was reminded of my youthful belief when I first heard of FreedomPop, the no-really-we’re-not-kidding free mobile and Internet service provider that has been disrupting the mobile service model for over five years.
FreedomPop is not necessarily the service provider for every user, but it offers seriously free and pretty darn economical options to fit a number of user models and budgets. Here’s what you need to know about their offerings, their pricing model, and their customer service:
Signing up with FreedomPop gives you a range of various types of mobile and Internet services:
The Free Cell Phone Service
FreedomPop’s big claim to fame is their completely free cell phone service, which offers 500MB of 4G data in addition to 200 voice minutes and unlimited texting, although sending and receiving texts will eat up your data. In addition to being completely free, FreedomPop does not require any contracts and there are no cancellation fees or any of the other don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out fees customers often have to bear with other mobile service providers. The company uses the Sprint network.
You’ll probably recognize that 500MB of data is pretty low for any regular data users—including anyone who likes to stream music from their phones or anyone who has a teenager under their roof. FreedomPop specifically states that their free service is meant for light users, which translates to being able to check email and browse Facebook on the go rather than watch YouTube videos in all of your downtime.
What happens if you go over your data allotment? That’s where things can go a little awry with your FreedomPop bill if you do not remain vigilant. Once you get to the final 100 MB of data usage in a given month, FreedomPop automatically charges you $10 to “top up” your plan. Users do receive an email notifying them of the imminent automatic charge, giving them the opportunity to opt out of it before the charge hits their account. You can also opt out of the auto-charge entirely on the FreedomPop website: Set Billing > Billing Settings > Automatic Top Up > Enabled to No.
It’s also important to note that this service is free for one year. After that you will typically pay $10.99 per month for the same service, but still without a commitment or contract.
Purchasing and Earning Additional Data
Users taking advantage of the free service can increase their data in three ways without having to use the top-up option:
- You can pay $0.02 per additional MB of data that you use. This option is potentially pricey, as you will automatically be charged this amount if you go over your data usage once you have turned off the top-up option. You can receive email alerts that you are about to overspend your data, but those alerts cost an additional fee per month.
- You can invite friends to join FreedomPop through a program called Freedom Friends. For every friend who signs up and sticks with the service, you receive an additional 10 MB of data per month.
- You can complete offers, take surveys, and download software in order to earn free data from FreedomPop. These offers, surveys, and downloads come from services like Netflix, FreeCreditReport.com, and online games and newsletters.
Paid Cell Phone Service Options
If you know that 500 MB of data will never be enough to cover your needs, FreedomPop does offer several paid options.
$5 Per Month Wi-Fi Calling Option
Rather than using cell towers for mobile calls, this plan uses the connections from over 10 million Wi-Fi hotspots across the country, which allows you to get your voice, text, and data through the Wi-Fi network. This is a great option for those folks who live in major metropolitan areas and have little need of cell service outside of those areas. After all, the majority of us make our calls from home, work, or other places where we already have access to Wi-Fi.
If you have a tendency to wander back roads populated by ax murderers, this is not the plan for you. But this could be a great option for a teenager, as it will offer them connectivity most places, but not while they are driving.
$10.99 Per Month Unlimited Talk and Text Monthly with 500 MB of Data
With this plan, you get unlimited talk and text with 500 MB of Data, and you can choose to talk and text over Wi-Fi or using the cellular network. As with the free option, you will either have your data automatically topped up once you have used 400 MB of data, or if you opt out of the automatic top-up, you will pay $0.02/MB over your data limit. If you sign up for this option, you get the first month free.
$20 Per Month Unlimited Talk and Text with 1GB of Data
This plan, known as “Unlimited Everything” is FreedomPop’s most popular choice. For the low price of $20 a month, you get unlimited talk, text, and data—although if you consume more than 1GB of data, your data speed will drop from 4G to 3G.
Internet Service Options
Like the cell phone choices, FreedomPop has several Internet/mobile data options for users on a budget. For the cost of a refundable deposit on a mobile hotspot or MiFi device, you can receive 500MB of monthly data for free. As with the cellular plan, you will be signed up for the automatic “top-up” unless you opt out of it, and you can purchase (or be charged for) additional data, as well as earn additional data by referring friends or taking part in surveys and completing offers.
You cannot browse the available mobile hotspot devices without providing FreedomPop with an email address. The site offered me three alternatives for devices (including two refurbished name-brand options) with prices ranging from $39.99 to $129.99. The cost of shipping the device (which is not refundable) was $9.99.
FreedomPop offered me three data plans:
- Basic 500MB. This option is $0 per month, but only uses 4G, and extra data will cost $0.02/MB
- Pro 500MB. This option will cost $3.99 per month after the free one-month trial is over, and it uses both 3G and 4G. Extra data costs $0.02/MB
- Premium 2GB. This 3G/4G option is $19.99 per month after the free one-month trial ends. Extra data costs only $0.015/MB.
Buy a Phone/Device from FreedomPop or BYOD
If you want to join the FreedomPop experience, you can either buy a phone or device directly from them, or bring your own Sprint-compatible device. FreedomPop offers a large array of phone, tablet, and device options, some of which are refurbished name brands, and some of which are FreedomPop proprietary devices.
The FreedomPop website is not the most user-friendly site I have navigated, and you might find yourself somewhat confused as to what your options are, particularly if you, like me, wouldn’t know the difference between 4G and LTE if they both bit you. Several reviewers have criticized FreedomPop’s site for being difficult to navigate and unclear when it comes to additional fees and costs. Unfortunately, you can only sign up for FreedomPop’s services via the website.
However, in addition to the site, there is a customer service line for current customers who are experiencing difficulties. As with many mobile internet service providers, the customer service side may not be as good as the technology, but many reviewers maintain that patience pays off with FreedomPop’s customer service.
The Bottom Line
FreedomPop is a truly free mobile and Internet service, which is nothing to sneeze at. Their business model does require frugal users to keep careful track of their data usage in order to ensure that the service remains free—but honestly, that seems like a small price to pay for staying connected for zero dollars.
Considering the fact that FreedomPop requires no commitment or contract, and levies absolutely no cancellation fees, it is an excellent option for anyone looking to lower their mobile Internet costs.