In the shadow of a likely $26 billion T-Mobile and Sprint merger, FreedomPop was able to launch a new high-end MVNO carrier service that runs off the Sprint network and starts at a price point of just $10 per month. The June 2018 debut of UNREAL Mobile delivers unlimited data plans, talk, and text; access to privacy tools and encryption; data speed controls; ad-blockers; use your own phone number and device; rollover and share unused data; and bonus programs for customer loyalty.
Here’s a breakdown of what exactly customers will be getting with UNREAL Mobile and how the newcomer breaks down against the competition.
VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a technology that’s been offered commercially since 1995. Today, there are hundreds of VoIP services on the market for consumers to choose from, but consumers should be aware that all VoIP providers are not one in same so far as operations and offerings.
For those unfamiliar with it, VoIP doesn't use traditional or analog phone lines. It uses a broadband internet connection for voice calls by converting a caller’s voice into a digital signal package that then travels across the internet.
There are some considerations in how exactly VoIP is provided:
While some VoIP services allow users to call any local, long-distance, or even international number, others may only allow a user to either call other users of the same service or within a specified service area.
VoIP may require either a VoIP adapter or be limited to work only over a computer or VoIP specific phone device.
VoIP is a double-edged sword in that calls are free since they occur over an internet connection but also use up data anytime the user isn't connected to WiFi. The amount of data a call consumes depends for the most part on the service’s specific codec. On average, users can figure about 0.75 MB per call minute with VoIP.
How Much Talk Time Does An UNREAL Mobile Plan Translate To?
Excluding other data consumption from sources like browsing and streaming, a 1 GB UNREAL Mobile plan gives the user approximately 1,300 minutes of nationwide talk time. UNREAL Mobile offers up to a 5 GB plan, which would provide approximately 6,500 minutes of talk time over the carrier’s connection. Again, do keep in mind that this is not including other activities that count toward data usage.
Does UNREAL Mobile Require VoIP Equipment?
UNREAL Mobile uses an app to act as the adapter for VoIP, which means there aren't any special devices or equipment required for the UNREAL Mobile service. Potential customers will determine if their current device can be brought with them, or if they’ll need to purchase a new phone from UNREAL Mobile.
Considerations Before Downloading The UNREAL Mobile VoIP App
Users should make two verifications in considering UNREAL Mobile:
1. Coverage Availability
Coverage will not be available in all areas. The UNREAL Mobile website provides a “Coverage Map” for users to enter their address to determine if coverage is available in their area. Do keep in mind that the website says the map only provides coverage estimates, not guarantees. It may be best to contact a customer service representative to ensure accuracy of coverage areas.
Keeping in mind that UNREAL Mobile just launched a month ago, the 4G service map currently shows up almost exclusively in the Eastern U.S. region, and the 3G service map bleeds off a little into the Western U.S. region.
2. BYOP - Bring Your Own Phone?
Users will have to dig a bit deeper to determine if they can bring their own phone. While the UNREAL Mobile website indicates it’s a secure website address, do note the disclaimer that Unreal may use the information provided to send telemarketing calls.
Potential customers will need to enter their zip code, phone number, email, and their smartphone’s MEID/IMEI number to determine if they can use their existing phone.
If the desired devices are viable, customers will still need to manually complete a carrier reset and transfer the existing number for all phones and tablets they wish to use. UNREAL Mobile has a instruction guide for this process on their FAQ page. Otherwise, a new device will need to be purchased from the website.
How’s The Call & Data Performance With UNREAL Mobile?
UNREAL Mobile offers “unlimited data” without data caps or additional data costs beyond the prepaid plan selected, but it should be noted that the website doesn't outline VoIP specifics like codec on the website.
After surpassing limits, users will drop download and upload speed from the standard 3G (0.4Mbps+) and 4G (5+Mbps) to a speed of 2G (0.1Mbps.) This is much more transparent than consumers get from most VoIP providers.
What activities count toward data limits at UNREAL Mobile? Anything the user does that isn’t on a WiFi connection and requires an internet connection - voice calls, internet browsing, checking email, internet-connected apps like Facebook, downloading applications, streaming, and so forth - will count toward the UNREAL Mobile plan when not otherwise using WiFi for the connection.
Signing Up For UNREAL Mobile
While UNREAL Mobile representatives have told various media outlets that their services will be available at major retailers like Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon in the near future, the only way to currently sign up for UNREAL Mobile and purchase equipment and plans is through the Unreal Mobile website. Once you’ve verified coverage, it’s basically a three step process:
Step One: Pick A Phone Or BYOP
From the UNREAL Mobile website, potential customers can browse the phone models available if they’re not bringing their own device. At present, there are four options:
Alcatel Dawn: $49.99
Samsung Galaxy S5 : $99.99
Samsung Galaxy S6: $149.99
Apple iPhone 7: $299.99
Purchases are accompanied by a 30-day money back guarantee on the equipment. Note that the start date of the guarantee is from the shipping date, not delivery date. Also note that equipment must be in “ like-new condition,” include all accessories, and include original packaging for the return. Defective equipment can be exchanged within 90 days of shipment.
Step Two: Pick An LTE Plan
Once a phone has been selected or the customer has verified they can bring their own device, they’ll be asked to pick an LTE data plan. All plans are labeled as “unlimited everything” to include:
VPN service for data encryption and privacy
Share data with friends
Live agent support
No hidden fees
Unlimited talk, text and 2G data
The customer simply needs to select the amount of LTE (high speed) data from these three options and prices:
1GB: $10 per month
2GB: $15 per month
5GB: $30 per month
UNREAL allows customers to downgrade and upgrade between plans directly from their account at any time. However, the carrier does caution that downgrading can result in losing extra data and that upgrades are accompanied by prorated charges and data amounts. It would be most prudent to make such changes at the end of a billing cycle.
Step Three: Checkout & Pay
Once the phone and data plan have been selected, proceed to the checkout cart and pay with either PayPal or a major credit card.
While there’s no contract at UNREAL Mobile, service does automatically renew each month at the agreed upon rate until the customer cancels service online or via customer support.
How Does UNREAL Mobile Stack Up Against The Competition?
The most recent big leap and bound in VoIP tech like UNREAL Mobile offers is in the iOS and Android smart phone apps. When comparing carriers this may be a major consideration in addition to contracts, fees, and limitations on voice and video calling. Here’s a sampling of seven other popular VoIP providers and their key features for comparison against UNREAL:
Mint Mobile - similar pricing, offers prepaid plans for up to 12 months, and standalone SIM card must be purchased.
Ooma - added capability of integrating with business phones and home security for an added cost, calling app for iOS and Android is free, and requires minimum hardware purchase of $99 bucks.
WeTalk - iOS only, plans starting at $1, record calls, and credits for checking in with the company online.
Vonage - virtual numbers, link with business and residential services, and price point is under $15 a month.
magicJack - 3G/4G/LTE availability, worldwide unlimited free calls through app, premium plan is $10 per year, caller ID, voice mail, and call waiting.
Rebtel - $10 per month and uses landlines to connect international calling without data usage to 56 countries.
Aside from comparative choices based on similar offerings, there’s also the major carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint to consider. Plus, there are some free options in the arena, such as Skype and Google Hangouts, to consider.
Selecting from the above is highly contingent upon understanding what’s being offered, how it’s offered, and what’s most beneficial to a consumer’s unique need. As an MVNO, UNREAL Mobile is basically buying data from Sprint and then reselling it through more flexible and cost-friendly plans than the major carrier offers the consumer. The catch is often in the data cap. While AT&T, for example, caps LTE speed at Over 20 Mbps, its MVNO Cricket Wireless caps LTE data at 8 Mbps. Quality of service aside, the decision ultimately comes down to how much data the consumer will use over the carrier’s connection in relation to the appeal of a discounted and more flexible plan and pricing.
Consumer Opinion And UNREAL Mobile
Reputation for UNREAL Mobile’s parent company could be better. According to the Better Business Bureau, STS Media has over 400 reviews, almost 2,000 closed complaints, and a B rating. The rating may be quite generous considering over 70% of the reviews are negative. Each complaint is marked as resolved, however, and most involved service and support concerns. That said, the context is mostly surrounding STS Media’s FreedomPop brand since UNREAL Mobile just launched recently. How UNREAL Mobile will perform in consumer reports remains virtually unknown at the present since it hasn't been around long enough for mass consumer vetting.
UNREAL Mobile Bottom Line
One of the biggest draws for UNREAL Mobile is that it’s one of the few VoIP providers offering data. The price point and offerings from UNREAL Mobile VoIP are comparatively attractive. Unlimited 2G data paired with the reasonably priced high speed data plan options may be a good fit for those with frequent and reliable WiFi access. This is especially true if the consumer doesn't need to make high volumes of international calls.
Transparency is also appreciated with exactly how and when excessive data use will slow speeds, and it seems that UNREAL is dedicated to standing behind their equipment offerings with defective product and refund guarantees.
The above said, depending on where and how a consumer prefers to make contact, free options may still be a better fit. Consumers using handheld devices to stream the majority of their media are also likely to find that the resulting rapid consumption of data doesn't fit well within the parameters of UNREAL Mobile’s offerings.
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