You pay for cell phone service, right? Maybe $40, $50, $100 a month? What if I told you there was a way to save all of that money? What if I said you could get cell service… for free?
Enter FreedomPop. FreedomPop is a cell phone service that I’ve been using for the past couple of months. It capitalizes on the fact that it offers a free plan which gives subscribers a limited amount of talk, text, and data each month. You’ll need to pay a penny to $9.99 to get a SIM card (which can fit in nearly any phone or tablet, by the way) and a $20 activation fee, but beyond that, everything’s free.
We recently reached out to FreedomPop to test drive their service and see how it compares to other carriers that offer rates that are, well, a lot more than what they charge. Here’s what we found during our test.
Let me give you a little background: we’ve been trying out one of FreedomPop’s premium plans that actually cost money. If you don’t feel like spending a monthly fee, they offer 200 minutes of talk, 200 texts, and 500MB of monthly data all for free. That’s great, but 500MB of data and limited talk and text can be pretty tight. So they have five main premium tiers:
- Unlimited talk and text with 500MB of data for $12.99/month
- Unlimited talk and text with 1GB of data for $19.99/month
- Unlimited talk and text with 2GB of data for $24.99/month
- Unlimited talk and text with 3GB of data for $29.99/month
- Unlimited talk and text with 4GB of data for $34.99/month
We’ve been testing the 3GB tier that costs $30/month. FreedomPop was gracious enough to activate a SIM for us which we popped into an iPhone 7. After getting the SIM activated, all we had to do was reboot our device and bam, 4G LTE service. FreedomPop covers a vast majority of New Jersey so we weren’t surprised to see a signal on our device.
What I was a little taken back on was the fact that the SIM actually worked. Our iPhone 7 comes from AT&T who only sells locked down iPhones, meaning you can’t take them anywhere else besides maybe T-Mobile. Without inputting an unlock code, our iPhone worked perfectly with the FreedomPop SIM. Therefore, if you’ve left AT&T and still have a phone locked to their network, chances are FreedomPop will work.
This is due to FreedomPop actually using AT&T’s towers. Back in 2016, the company added Big Blue’s towers to its network alongside the Sprint towers they were already using. By utilizing both carriers’ equipment, FreedomPop is able to offer a more widely available service that works across a great portion of the US. You’ll also get the same coverage you would with a Sprint or AT&T plan.
It’s worth mentioning FreedomPop sells their own phones which don’t require a $20 activation fee, but most of them are kind of junky and low-end. Sure, they sell iPhones and Samsung Galaxies, but their older models and you have to pay full price without an installment plan. therefore, you’re better off bringing your own device. The carrier recommends devices specifically designed to work on AT&T or Sprint which, mind you, there’s a ton of.
I really had no problems with data connections during my testing, although once in a while I did experience a drop in connectivity and missed a few texts from my mom. Other times in certain areas I’d get only 4G data, but this wasn’t a problem since 80% of the time I had LTE.
I also normally had decent speeds, too. Nothing to write home about, but I did top off with download speeds around 12Mbps and upload speeds around 10Mbps. Sure, they’re slow for today’s standards, but for what you pay, it’s not that bad at all.
What’s interesting about FreedomPop is how it offers its service. Rather having both a data and cellular connection, they stick with mainly data only. Therefore, you can’t use your phone’s built-in phone dialer or text messaging app to contact people. Rather, you need to download the provider’s apps from your app store and sign up for a free phone number. If you wanna port your own phone number, it’ll cost $10.
I simply selected a local area code and I was good to go. I never experienced any dropped calls or errors receiving text messages with this number. Rather, I only had issues when in low-connectivity regions such as the ones I mentioned earlier. Other than that, it works like a normal cell phone would. You just may have a different experience than what you’re expecting.
As for the amounts of data you can use, I find 3GB to actually be sufficient. Yes, I’ve noticed I’m using my phone a bit less while on the cellular network since I have a limit, but I tend to usually end a month with 3GB of data available with around 70% still available. Sure, if you do a lot of YouTube watching while on the go or you tether to your laptop a lot, this plan won’t do for you and you’ll probably need to go somewhere else to get your data. But for average people, this plan is probably enough.
If you don’t use all of your available data during the course of a month, FreedomPop lets you pay $3.99 per month to roll it over to the next month. You can keep up to 500mB of unused data and store up to 20GB. I’m not entirely sure if this is worth it or not since I didn’t use the feature, but if you’re on the free tier, you probably won’t need it. For those on premium tiers, though, it may be worth it spending an extra $4 per month and storing your data for future use cases.
But this doesn’t exactly tell you what it’s like getting the full FreedomPop experience. After all, it does capitalize on the fact it’s free. So what’s it like using a free cell phone plan? In a nutshell, I lasted eight days. Let me explain.
Before I was given my extra 3GB of data from Freedompop for my review, I was using the 500MB free tier for around eight days about a month ago and I felt like an anaconda wrapped around my neck. Honestly, I was a bit scared to use my phone. Making phone calls and sending text messages only ate up about 5% of my data while I was on this tier, but doing anything else like scrolling through Facebook or checking email definitely ate up a bit more than I was willing to sacrifice. Therefore, unless you absolutely can’t spend any money each month on cell service, you’re better off opting for the 1GB plan.
That being said, because of how low FreedomPop’s rates are, the carrier tells me most people actually stick with the $24.99 3GB of data plan which is why I tested this the most. And I have to say, it’s definitely worth it. I always ended up with plenty of data left over, I usually had decent data connections, and I never felt jealous of others who used big name carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, or even Sprint or AT&T themselves. All in all, I was pleased by my experience with FreedomPop.
So should you ditch your current carrier for FreedomPop? If you have a phone that works on either AT&T or Sprint, are in the carrier’s range of service, and have about $40 to get started, you’re golden. I say go for it because a) you’ll be saving money and b) you’re essentially getting the same experience with the exception of a few tweaks. Of course, if you need to buy a new phone or you’re not in FreedomPop’s range of reliable service, you might wanna look elsewhere. But for cheapskates or those on a budget, FreedomPop should definitely be considered.