I remember my first cell phone. It was an analog Motorolla flip phone; the old grey one roughly the size of a soda can. I was just starting college (1994) and my mother insisted I have it in case I had car troubles driving home on the weekends (yes, she was bribing me so I would visit more often). We started off on the now defunct Bell South, and had a plan that you had to pay a flat fee for plus any minutes you used, so literally no free minutes. And, of course, there was no such thing as texting or wireless internet, so those features were not even an option. At the time, I thought it was the coolest thing because it reminded me of a communicator from Star Trek, and I thought we were very thrifty with our low cost voice plan. Of course, as time went by our technology and wireless plans got more powerful, more feature rich, and less expensive. Flash forward almost twenty years to the present and things have evolved to the point that FreedomPop has announced that it will be offering a FREE wireless plan that includes free voice, free texts, and free data. Wow!
As a proud user of FreedomPop’s portable wireless router with a data plan that is also free, I can attest that it has been a lifesaver on a few occasions. FreedomPop’s wireless router easily fits in a pocket and keeps a charge seemingly forever. Of course, the reason it is free is that you have to pay a deposit for the router and you have a relatively low data cap before you start incurring an overage charge. Yes, it’s true, everything has a catch, but as long as you don’t mind paying the deposit and keeping your data low, you literally will never pay to use wireless internet again.
So, it seems fitting that FreedomPop should also be the pioneer of free wireless phone plans. According to the company’s website, subscribers will receive 500MB of free 4G speed data, unlimited free texts, 200 minutes of free voice, and all with no contract or commitment. Mind you, 200 minutes of voice time is the equivalent of a mere 3 hours and 20 minutes, and 500 mb will only suffice if you do not use your smartphone for music, video, tethering, or other data heavy applications. But, if you are a voice and data glutton, as most of us are, you can still get very low cost upgrades to your plan like the $18 upgrade to 2GB of data or $29 for 4GB. If you go over your voice minutes, you can buy a new batch for just $10. Data overage charges can add up, though, at $.02 per MB for the free plan or $.01 per MB for the upgraded plans, so some level of usage discipline will still be required.
FreedomPop’s service will eventually operate on Sprint’s fledgling LTE network, but until then it’s WiMax and CDMA, so service may be a bit less than completely reliable at first, but that should improve as the network’s develop. There’s no word on specific devices that will be available aside from that they will be Android based (boo for us iPhone users), but it’s a pretty good bet that the end user will be paying full freight for that smartphone. Just as with the deposit for the wireless router, this is probably a pretty small price to pay in the long run for free service, provided, or course, that the available phones don’t stink so bad as to make the whole situation unlivable. Still, if everything turns out to be as reasonable as the wireless router, I think I’ll be making the switch (or at least adding an extra line) as soon as the service becomes available later this summer.
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