Cell Service Under $10: FreedomPop vs. Ting vs. Red Pocket vs. Tracfone vs. H2O

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In getting back to our roots, we discovered it’s been quite some time since we looked at the low cost options that are available for cellular service, and which ones might actually be the best deals around. So, to welcome in 2018, albeit a bit late, we are taking a look at three of the leading offers that get you phone service for less than the cost of a $10 bill each month. Some are “pay for a year” plans, and others are just a straight $10 and under plan by the month. We eve worked a few pay by your usage plans into the mix just for good measure. Remember, these plans are geared to the lower volume user. Next month we will cover the best of the best in unlimited plans for power users.

FreedomPop GSM SIM – Prepaid Offer – $49.99 (save 20% more with SPRING20 code)

Plan includes 1000 minutes of talk, 1000 texts and 1000MB of LTE data
Plan cost drops to $39.99 (with super saving shipping and SPRING20 code)
Cost = $3.34 per month

The Good:
Works in any unlocked GSM Android or iOS device (with appropriate OS versions)
Full Speed AT&T connections – not throttled speed like other AT&T MVNOs
VoLTE/VoWI-FI calling allows coverage anywhere there’s Wi-Fi

The Bad:
Pay attention to overages (there is a $.002 per MB charge on data overages)
Only works with newer Android and iOS devices
Must keep a credit card on file to keep overage balance paid
Downgrading to free plan when term is up is no longer free
Does not include some “basic” services like voicemail, picture messaging and hotspot

TING (GSM or CDMA) – $108 per year

Plan includes 100 minutes of talk
Plan costs drops to $6 a month when you do not use minutes
Cost = $9 for minutes only and up to $45 a month to match the 1000/1000/1000 plans

The Good:
You never pay for what you don’t use
Works on the T-Mobile GSM network or Sprint CDMA network
No data throttling

The Bad:
Not a cost effective way to use a smartphone
Mobile data costs $10 a GB after 1GB
$6 per month of the bill goes to a “line fee”

Red Pocket Mobile – Basic 500 Plan – $120 per year

Plan includes 500 minutes of talk, 500 texts and 500MB of LTE data
Plan cost is $130 per year (30 day billing falls 5 days short of 365 days)
Cost = $10.83 per month (or $10 per 30 days)

The Good:
Red Pocket Mobile offers plans on any of the four major networks in the US
Plans are upgradable to a 1000 unit plan for $5 or unlimited plans staring at $19
Additional units can be purchased in 1000 unit increments when needed

The Bad:
Lack of local support and long waits online for users needing assistance
Switching plans often results in voicemail and messaging resets, losing saved items
Confusing short term promotional plans sometime end and don’t come back

Tracfone – 365 Smartphone Plan – $118.75 per year

Plan includes 1500 minutes of talk, 1500 texts and 1.5GB of LTE data
Plan cost is $118.75 with auto-pay discount
Cost = $9.90 per month (or $10.42 without auto-pay)

The Good:
Tracfone has a solid reputation as a provider and has the longevity to stick around
Additional texts and data can be purchased for $5/1000 texts or $10/GB of data
Can change to pay by the minute if plan is too costly

The Bad:
Technically limited to 125 minutes, 125 texts and 125MB of data each month
Cost per unit is very high
Buying additional minutes requires buying additional data/texts

Tello – Economy Plan – $120 per year or down to $60 for other configurations

Plan includes 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB LTE data
Plan cost is $120 per year
Cost = $10 per month

The Good:
Plans are 100% customizable – 100 min/unlimited text/1GB data also is just $10 a month
Go over, pay a tiny bit extra – no huge overage fees
Unlimited 2G data on a $5 plan? Really? Maybe just get the $8 plan to make sure.

The Bad:
Sprint network only? Really?
You can only use Sprint approved devices – which means 12 months old or buy direct
That’s all we found, just the lack of coverage and devices

H2O Wireless – $10 Pay-Go Plan – $40 per year

Plan includes $.05 per minute of talk, $.05 per text and $.10 per MB of data
Plan cost is as low as $40 per year
Cost = depends on usage

The Good:
If you don’t use it, you don’t pay much for it
Refills available from $10 to $100 lasting from 90 days to 365 days
For lighter use, there’s virtually no cost
Works on virtually any unlocked GSM phone

The Bad:
Cost per text is very high
Cost per MB is very high

So, who is the winner of our low-cost plan search? Well, that depends on who you ask. For the most part, we’re in agreement that the sub $4 a month plan from FreedomPop is a great way to go (even at the $4.17 it regularly costs) if you want to have a phone in your pocket for a full year. If you don’t like the commitment thing, and have a Sprint phone laying around, there’s no better choice than Tello. In fact, after looking at the options, these are the two strongest “lighter use” plans available today.

For those worried about the FreedomPop reviews of the past, don’t stress them too much as the game has definitely changed in the last 5 years. For those seeing the more recent ones about billing issues, you don’t need to worry. You are on a prepaid plan so you won’t see a billing request unless you don’t keep a valid credit card on file to pay for overages. Managing your account at your FreedomPop home page has gotten much easier.

For those looking at Tello, make sure to check ESN and IMEI numbers before you sign up for service or buy a phone. Sprint put all sorts of limits on what devices can go on to their network, so watching that is very important. Still, with deals like the $5 a month talk/text plan or the $8 a month plan that includes unlimited 2G data, it’s nuts not to consider Tello if you have decent Sprint coverage in your area.

This post contains affiliate links.

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