Gone are the days in my youth of using the Internet, when dial up was a standard to use the Internet, and I once even claimed that Internet access should be free for all. The idea was that I shouldn't have to ever pay for the Internet.
Well, clearly I've had to eat those words, and I'm reminded on a monthly basis every time I look at my bill. Just today I recalled the memory of having the idea of free online access by reading about FreedomPop. It's a free mobile and ISP that clearly has been making a strong stance in the mobile service industry for well over five years now.
FreedomPop definitely isn't for everyone, but being a member means free and moderately economical choices to fit a variety of needs and budgets. Let's talk about some of their offerings, pricing plans, and their support department:
Becoming a FreedomPop member automatically gives you access to a variety of mobile and Internet services:
No-Kidding Free Cell Service
FreedomPop's leading feature in the industry is their claim to offer 100% free cell phone service, with up to 500MB of 4G data with over 200 voice minutes. Unlimited texting is also offered for those glued to their devices, but this may use a small portion of your data. Better yet, FreedomPop doesn't make you agree to any contract and you won't ever face early termination or unnecessary, mysterious fees you often see with today's cable and phone network providers.
Sprint loyalists will be pleased to hear that FreedomPop is offered exclusively to the Sprint network for now.
It doesn't take a tech-savvy person to understand that 500MB of data gets used up pretty quickly, even by casual users. Streaming music or videos will eat large chunks of data at a time. Social media apps, such as Facebook, sometimes contribute to large data usage rates. FreedomPop therefore mentions that their service is meant for the most casual of users, which usually means users who limit their mobile tech actions to checking email, browsing Facebook, or making a phone call or text from time to time.
Unfortunately, users who go over this data limit will find a $10 top up plan fee. You'll receive an email letting you know of the upcoming charge so you can avoid it, giving you the chance to opt out of any topping up authorization. Just go to Set Billing > Billing Settings > Auomatic Top Up > Enabled and switch it to No.
FreedomPop is only free for one year, which is more than enough time to figure out if it's what you want or not. After this time span you'll pay $10.99 a month for the same service you started with. Still, most people don't mind this because there isn't a commitment or contract to worry about.
Buying and Getting Extra Data
FreedomPop members aren't restricted to the smallish 500MB of data, however. Three options exist that avoid using the top-up option:
Agree to pay an additional 2 cents per MB of extra data used. This can be pricey depending on the type of mobile user you are, and you'll be automatically charged this amount once the top-up function has been disabled. You'll still be able to receive email notifications of excessive data usage, but unfortunately these notifications cost an extra fee per month.
Inviting friends is easy with FreedomPop via Freedom Friends. For each person who joins and sticks with the service under your referral link, you'll get an additional 10MB of data a month.
Offers, surveys, and downloading software can get you free data as well. The types of offers might be Netflix trials, credit report services, background check services, game installations, and more.
Pay-To-Use Plan Options
Some people automatically realize that 500MB just isn't enough to cover their mobile needs. FreedomPop gladly offers paid plans to these folks. Let's look at the different plans:
$5/Month Wi-Fi Calling Plan
Using Wi-Fi hotspots rather than towers as a way to communicate using a mobile device is starting to become a norm. This plan gives you access to over 10 million Wi-Fi hotspots across the nation, allowing you to use voice, text, and data through the hotspots. Anyone who lives in a metropolitan area can greatly benefit from this feature, as cell service won't be a need with Wi-Fi provided at every corner. Most of us call from home, work, or other places we visit on a regular basis, and these areas almost always have WiFi nowadays.
This won't be the plan for you if you live in a desolate area. This is fine for teenagers, who will most likely still be using it at homes or cafes, where Wi-Fi is a standard offering.
$10.99/Month Unlimited Talk & Text Monthly + 500MB Data
The title of this one speaks for itself. You'll get unlimited talk and text along with 500MB of data, as well as the option to choose to talk and text using Wi-Fi instead of the cellular network. This can save you data, but as with the free option, your data will automatically top-up once you hit a certain amount of used data. If you chose to opt out of topping up, you'll get charged $0.02/MB for every megabyte over the 500MB cycle limit. The first month of this plan is completely free.
$20/Month Unlimited Talk & Text + 1GB Data
Also known as the "Unlimited Everything" plan offered by FreedomPop, this is by far their most popular offering. At the low fee of $20 a month you can get unlimited talk, text, and data usage. If you happen to go over 1GB of data usage, however, your data speed will be throttled down to 3G from 4G.
Internet Service Options
On a budget? FreedomPop has your back with a variety of Internet and mobile options for those in need of something affordable. You're only a refundable deposit away from 500MB of monthly data for free. Similar to the cellular service, the top-up function will work as expected unless you opt out of it beforehand. You can purchase or be automatically charged for additional data using FreedomPop's Internet service. The referral service applies to FreedomPop's Internet program as well, and offers are available to earn free data.
Take note that browsing available hotspots with mobile devices without giving FreedomPop your email address won't be available. Expect to be offered three different devices, including refurbished options, with prices that range from $39.99 to $129.99. Shipping isn't free, usually costing about $9.99, and isn't refundable.
Take advantage of one of three FreedomPop data plans:
Basic 500MB. While free, you can only use 4G, and additional data costs $0.02/MB.
Pro 500MB. This one will run you about $3.99 a month after the one-month trial period. You can use both 3G and 4G. Additional data is charged at $0.02/MB.
Premium 2GB. Similar to Pro, you can switch between 3G and 4G. It costs $19.99/month after the one-month trial is over, and extra data will be charged at a reduced rate of $0.015/MB.
Buy from FreedomPop or BYOD
You'll have to either buy a device from FreedomPop's shop or bring your own device (BYOD) to use their service. The device must be Sprint-compatible. FreedomPop offers a large variety of phones, tablets, and other devices. Some are new or refurbished, all ensured to be of good quality. Some are FreedomPop proprietary devices.
Unfortunately, the FreedomPop website isn't the most user-friendly. Navigation is a bit cluttered, and you may find yourself confused by the options offered on the site. For example, if you don't know the difference between 4G and LTE, you won't understand the options being provided. This isn't the first time they've been criticized, being called out by users and blogs alike. Registering for FreedomPop can only be done via the website, making it a bit more of a struggle for those trying to get a clear understand of the whole process.
There is, however, a customer support line for current customers who need advice and solutions. The support department isn't top notch, but they do a good job and match up well with customer service departments at other ISPs. The representatives usually are tech-savvy enough to solve issues on the spot.
It's great to say that FreedomPop offers a quality, free mobile and Internet service. In the world of business models that run consumers hundreds and hundreds of dollars for mobile and Internet use, FreedomPop shines as the go-to for those on a budget. Keeping track of data usage is critical, but worth the cost for many.
FreedomPop comes as a no-brainer even for temporary solutions, especially considering it doesn't require any commitments or contracts, no early termination fees (ETFs), and overall it's just a great choice for anyone looking for mobile or Internet providers.
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