FreedomPop. Most people have never even heard of it. Those that have, usually think of that company that gives away internet service by selling overpriced modems to people that just don’t know better. What began with a trial over a year ago, is now a mainstream program to provide users with free or extremely reduced cellular service, and not just talk and text for free.
FreedomPop offers users a cell plan that includes 200 minutes of talk, 500 text messages and 500MB of data, for free. That’s right, a 100% free monthly plan. Of course, if you are one that needs more than the basic service listed, you can upgrade your plan to an unlimited talk, text and 500MB of data for only $79.99 a year or $10.99 a month. If you need a bit more than that, you can bump your bill to $19.99 a month and take your data to 1GB of LTE/WiMax before dropping to unlimited 3G data. Remember, FreedomPop runs off the Sprint network, so your 3G speeds are actually close to the 2G speeds of some other carriers in other areas.
The biggest question about FreedomPop service is if it works or not. While a free cell bill is great, if you can’t use it, what good is it? Sprint’s network in many areas provides lackluster coverage at best. With that being said, the service itself doesn’t run like a typical cellular connection, so you just might be in luck, as long as you are within range of a Starbucks or McDonald’s.
FreedomPop uses a basic VoIP connection to complete calls. When using WiFi calls were clear and reception was very good. Pulling off WiFi and dropping to WiMax on our Samsung Galaxy S2 device revealed quite a bit more static and a bit of an issue with call quality. The quality was good enough in our home calling area, but it was definitely stronger when we were connected to a WiFi signal.
Sprint offers very good WiMax coverage in our testing area near Seattle with speeds approaching 6-12Mbps in most cases. Where the device seemed to lag was in the upload connection, under which we were only able to swing about a half MB per second stream. This was more than likely the cause of our quality drop.
First off, no matter what anyone tells you, FreedomPop is not free. Whether you pay $130 for a discounted “FreedomPop” handset or bring your own approved Sprint device and pay the $19.99 activation fee, you are still paying to get access to your new phone number. That said, for zero to almost nothing a month, FreedomPop is still a great price for service.
The process begins with a simple entry of information on the FreedomPop website. The setup only takes a few minutes. Of course, you will want to be careful that if you accept any of the free offers to make sure you cancel them before your trial runs out. These can range from the $2.49 monthly fee for voice mail to the $10.99 unlimited talk and text bundle that is included with your start up. The only fee that is due at sign-up is either the cost of the device or the $19.99 activation fee.
From there, you will be asked to select a phone number. Good luck with this one as there are very few area codes that actually come up. We were able to grab a number that was based in Ohio by just not specifying a location.
After finalizing the order, an email is sent out. If you are ordering a phone, you can begin programming it when it arrives. If you are using a qualified Sprint device, an email will arrive shortly after your payment clears with the MSL number to reset your device. Once this is done, a quick trip to the Play Store will allow you to download the FreedomPop Messaging App and you are all set.
The phone dialer at in the FreedomPop App is decent enough. The three commands at the top of the menu will open up your messages, contacts or the dialer. It is simple enough to use and makes for an overall good user experience.
The messaging portion of the App is also very good. If you are a heavy messenger, it handles the basics quite nicely, but does leave the user feeling a bit flat as far as the flashy experience goes. The messaging App definitely does the job, but when there are ‘free’ options like TextPlus Free for sending free SMS messages, it’s tough to justify the smaller 500 text limit that FreedomPop offers for no cost.
Overall, if you need a phone, and have a WiFi connection at home, FreedomPop is a pretty sweet little setup. If you have a Google Voice number, the Ohio number that FreedomPop gives you will be the perfect forwarding location for it, and with 200 minutes, you basically get around the Google Voice issues that Apps like GVoice and other SIP Apps used to supply answers to.
It’s worth noting that the FreedomPop App can also be installed on any Android device and is actually a free solution, with no activation or monthly cost. Honestly, services like Republic Wireless that offer hybrid calling will serve most people better than FreedomPop, but for a $20 bill and an old Sprint device, you can have access to that great place to forward that GV number to at the least.