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Detailed Review of a Free Mobile Phone Plan: FreedomPop

Author:

Glenn Stok is a technical writer with a Master of Science degree. He enjoys evaluating products, and can clearly explain their features.

freedompop-cellular

FreedomPop is a cellular provider with rates starting at zero. This review includes complete instructions for activating its free service with 4G LTE talk, data, and texting.

I’ll also discuss the benefits and disadvantages of FreedomPop.

Is FreedomPop Worth Considering?

If you use your smartphone mainly for emergencies or use Wi-Fi to browse the web whenever you can, FreedomPop may be a viable solution.

The free service is limited to 200 MB of data, 200 minutes of talk time, and 500 text messages per month. You will only get charged a usage fee if you go over that monthly allotment. I’ll explain here how you can avoid that too.

What Are the Benefits?

They provide several significant benefits that I find unique among cell phone carriers.

  1. You can use your smartphone as long as it’s a GSM phone and is unlocked for any carrier. They have apps for iOS and Android. Download the “FreedomPop Calling & Texting app” from the Apple App Store for iPhones, or the “FreedomPop Messaging app” from the Google Play Store for Android phones.
  2. My iPhone displayed AT&T as the carrier, although I know they use the Sprint network in some cases. It all depends on the phone you use.
  3. There is no contract, and you can cancel anytime. However, if you want to hold on to a phone number for later use, there's no charge for keeping the account open if you're not using it. I never canceled my second account with FreedomPop, which I had used to test a SIM card on an Android phone. That SIM card is still active with a phone number if I ever want to put it in another phone.
  4. It uses Wi-Fi when available, and that works for talking and texting in any country. Therefore, you can use your phone while traveling internationally. You just need to be in a Wi-Fi hotspot.

What are the Disadvantages?

There are a couple of negatives: Poor customer support and unclear guidelines that catch people off-guard if they don't read the complete instructions.

  1. I discovered that customer support is inferior. They do respond to emails, but only after a long delay without understanding the question asked. Their replies to my questions have been useless. Being a systems analyst, I was able to figure things out on my own, and I'll walk you through the steps.
  2. The service begins with a higher-valued plan as a free trial for a month, and then they start billing you unless you downgrade. The confusing thing for some people is that one needs to downgrade to a free plan and a free service before the trial month is over to avoid any billing.

After December 2017, they completely revamped their website. It’s easier to navigate and make changes.

I see many people complaining in social media forums that FreedomPop is crooked, and they charge monthly, even though the plan is supposed to be free. I have news for you. Those forum posts are by people who never read the fine print, but I’ll help you with that here.

My Experience With FreedomPop Customer Service

The service infrastructure is excellent since it uses the AT&T network, and that's what counts. As long as you know what you're doing and understand how to stay within the free service limits, this works well.

When I first started using the service, I had questions. I received a reply to my support questions with silly answers that didn't apply to the questions I had asked. That showed that the agent didn't care to read my query carefully.

He or she should have just said to go to support.freedompop.com (I discovered that later on my own). All the technical answers are there, and you don’t need customer support from a human being.

I can understand that live support can't be given with a free service, but those online support pages should be made more noticeable.

Available FreedomPop Plans

Basic LTE 200 ~ $0.00 (This is the FREE PLAN)

  • Talk: 200 minutes
  • Text: 500 messages
  • Data Limit: 200 MB
  • Additional Data: US 2.5¢ per MB

Premium 500MB LTE Unlimited ~ $12.99

  • Talk: Unlimited
  • Text: Unlimited
  • Data Limit: 500 MB
  • Additional Data: US 2¢ per MB

Premium 1GB LTE Unlimited ~ $19.99

  • Talk: Unlimited
  • Text: Unlimited
  • Data Limit: 1 GB
  • Additional Data: US 2¢ per MB

Premium 2GB LTE Unlimited ~ $24.99

This plan is free in the first month trial.

  • Talk: Unlimited
  • Text: Unlimited
  • Data Limit: 2 GB
  • Additional Data: US 2¢ per MB

Premium 3GB LTE Unlimited ~ $29.99

  • Talk: Unlimited
  • Text: Unlimited
  • Data Limit: 3 GB
  • Additional Data: US 2¢ per MB

Premium 4GB LTE Unlimited ~ $34.99

  • Talk: Unlimited
  • Text: Unlimited
  • Data Limit: 4 GB
  • Additional Data: US 2¢ per MB

Available FreedomPop Services

You also can choose various services to tack onto your plan. Remember that you'll want to disable any of those to keep the free plan without any charges. I'll explain how to do that in the next section.

FreedomPop Premium Plus ~ $7.99

This service is free in the first-month trial.

Includes three services sold individually: Voice Mail, Up to 20GB of Unused Data Rollover, and MMS (with Group Messaging).

FreedomPop Premier ~ $10.99

Includes four services sold individually: Voice Mail, Unused Data Rollover, premium support, and secure your mobile devices (whatever that means).

I don’t find this necessary.

FreedomPop MMS and Group Messaging ~ $1.99

This service let’s you send video and image files to other cell phones. It will use your data, so be careful.

Visual Voicemail ~ $2.49

This service activates your voicemail with a personal greeting that you can record.

Without this service, people will still be able to leave a message, and you will be notified via text, but you won’t be able to listen to the messages. They will be kept for 30 days in case you want to activate and pay for this service and pick your messages.

FreedomPop Phone Premier & VIP Support ~ $10.99

I never tried this, but I assume you may get better real live support. I never found it was needed as long as one reads everything and understands the services. On the other hand, just follow what I explain in this article.

FreedomPop Premium VIP Service ~ $5.99

I never tested this one. Supposedly it gives you similar support as above at half the fee.

International Phone Number ~ $4.99

You can activate a local number to use your phone in various countries. Remember, what I mentioned earlier, that your US number works overseas via Wi-Fi. However, a local number is useful if you want to receive calls from people in that country while you’re there.

FreedomPop Data Rollover ~ $3.99

You can rollover up to 500MB of unused data per month. This feature is better under the FreedomPop Premium Plus service for $7.99 (see above).

Available International Calling Add-Ons

Global Free 100 ~ $0.00 (Free)

100 minutes of international calls per month at no charge.

Global Plus 300 ~ $4.99

300 minutes of international calls per month for a flat fee.

Global Plus 1000 ~ $9.99

1000 minutes of international calls per month for a flat fee.

Continuing With Free Service After the Trial Period

The service is activated when they ship the SIM card to you. That’s unfortunate, because it may take a week to get to you. They don’t use the fastest shipping carrier. You need to know when your 30-day trial began, so pay attention to the shipping notice.

Your service automatically starts with the “Premium 2GB LTE Unlimited” plan and the “FreedomPop Premium Plus” service. Both are free in the first month.

The 2MB plan typically costs $24.99 per month, and you will be charged this amount starting in the second month unless you downgrade to the free service.

The “Premium Plus” service is another $7.99 per month. That charge also begins after the first month. This service gives you Voice Mail and rollover of any unused data (up to 20GB). That’s a nice feature, but do you really want to pay for it?

You can opt-out of the “Premium Plus” service, change plans, or opt-out of everything and continue with absolutely no monthly billing. I know—I’ve done it. I only was charged once when I knowingly went over my free allotment.

If you ever need more data or talk time, you can change to one of their billed plans and switch back to the free plan at any time, on a monthly basis. Charges will be pro-rated based on when in your monthly billing cycle you change to a higher plan.

How to Keep the Free Service Free

Your service starts with a billable plan and service (see the list below). If you only need 200 minutes of talk time a month, 500 text messages, and no more than 200 MB of data, you can downgrade to the free plan.

You won't get cut off since you'll be topped-up with additional data charged at US 2.5¢ per megabyte in $15 increments, but you can opt out of that option.

You need to make three changes to your account to downgrade to the free service properly. A lot of people miss that point.

I'm good at doing research and analysis, and I have thoroughly tested FreedomPop options. I can assure you the free service is indeed free! You just need to properly opt-out of three individual billable items, as I'll explain. They call it downgrading.

The initial offer makes it clear that you need to downgrade within 30 days if you don’t want to be billed. They are totally honest about that.

I keep seeing forum posts where people complain that they are being billed. Each time it’s because they missed the 30-day mark to downgrade, or they didn't opt out of all three items.

I can’t make that clear enough, so I’ll explain that next.

How to Downgrade to the Free Cellular Plan

This must be done before the end of your free trial month. Remember that the trial started when the SIM card was shipped to you, not when you began using it.

You can downgrade within the phone app or on their website. The process is a little different on an Android or Apple iOS, so I'll just explain how to do it on their website.

Important:

I noticed when I checked the remaining days on the phone app two days before the next billing cycle, it said, “4 days remaining.” That can cause someone to miss the deadline for downgrading, and end up getting charged.

The number of remaining days in a billing cycle is always correctly reported on the website.

To confirm the remaining days:

  1. Log into your account.
  2. Click the menu button (≡) at the top-left corner.
  3. Select “Overview” and you will see your usage.
  4. Click “Details” under "Billing," and you will see your “Next Payment Due Date” under Billing Overview.

Of course, the payment will be zero if you have the free plan and free service.

freedompop-cellular

Detailed Instructions for Downgrading

Follow along with me, and you’ll avoid any charges.

  1. Log into your account.
  2. Click the menu button (≡) at the top left corner.
  3. Select “Plan”.
  4. You will see your present plan on the left and a list of available plans on the right. Select the “Basic LTE 200” plan, which is free.

You will get a warning box in red stating the following:

freedompop-cellular


That indicates that the change to the free service is retroactive, and if you used any of the minutes or data beyond the limits of the free service, you would be charged.

I found, with two separate accounts, that if you wait until two or three days before the end of the trial month, changes will not take effect until the next billing cycle. Therefore, you will avoid retroactive charges.

5. Click the “Downgrade anyway” link at the bottom of the red warning box.

6. Password verification is requested at this point to downgrade.

7. You may get an offer, like the one below, to stay with your present plan with double the data for six months. That is up to you, but this is not a free offer. If you definitely want the free plan, click “Downgrade Only” and you will see a confirmation. Click "Next" to close that page.

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If you click the pull-down menu and select “Plan” you’ll see the new plan you’ve selected.

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You’re Not Done Yet!

As I mentioned before, I see people complaining in forums that FreedomPop still charges them even after downgrading to the free plan. These people didn’t follow all the instructions in the confirmation email:

freedompop-cellular


FreedomPop is being very honest. It's unfortunate that some people just don’t bother to read everything. Then they end up complaining instead.

You still have the “Premium Plus” service that gives you Voice Mail and rollover of unused data. Although this is nice to have, you have to decide if that’s important to you for $7.99 a month, or if you really want a totally free service.

To see your services (different from plans), log into your account, click the menu button (≡) and select “Services.”

You will see the “Premium Plus” service listed. Click on it. Then on the next screen, click on “To Deactivate, click here.”

After that, you should verify that it says “No Services Found” on your services page.

Always Refuse Paid Offerings

They always try to convince you to try something else, hoping you will become a paying customer. Can you blame them?

At this point, you may be given an option to keep just the data rollover for $3.99 a month.

I don’t think that’s worth it because the free service only gives you 200 MB. The rollover of unused data wouldn’t add up much. The little that gets accumulated isn’t worth the $3.99 in my opinion.

Also, if you ever cancel the rollover option, you will lose any data you had accumulated. I think it makes more sense to just pay for an upgraded plan when and if you need it.

Therefore, when they ask if you want the rollover plan, I suggest you click “Downgrade and lose data” to make it completely free. You’re just losing any rollover you might have had.

You will receive an email similar to the following. Don’t let it scare you. It only means that you canceled the add-on service that would have cost you $7.99 a month.

freedompop-cellular

Don't Fall for It!

Some people never read these things carefully. If you select one of those options, it’s only for a free trial. After 30 days, the billing starts unless you opt-out of whatever trial option you chose before the next billing cycle.

That is why it's necessary to make sure you selected both a free plan and a free service, and that you do not opt in to any extras that begin billing after 30 days.

If you follow my instructions, you will have a free service. Is there a catch? You bet there is! And I'll tell you how to control that too.

What Free Service Really Means

Now that you downgraded everything, you will not be charged going forward. It’s working for me.

What do you get with your totally free cellular service?

You get 4G LTE data, but only 200MB per month. Note that 1 Gigabyte is 1000 Megabytes, so 200 MB can get used up very quickly. If you go over your limit, FreedomPop will not cut you off. As I noted in the plan listings earlier in this article, you will be charged for the extra data, so you need to keep tabs on your usage.

You also get 200 minutes of talk time and 500 text messages.

FreedomPop uses cellular data (or Wi-Fi, if available) for voice calls using VoIP technology. If your call goes over Wi-Fi, your data is not depleted. Otherwise, your talk time uses up your data. One minute of talk time uses about ½ MB of data.

If you can live with all that, you’ll be happy with a great service that’s free of any monthly charges. But there still is one more catch. It has to do with topping up.

Automatic Top-Up

I mentioned earlier that if you go over your free allotment, you would be charged. That is called Automatic top-up.

When you get within 100MB of remaining data, more will be added to your account with a minimum $15 charge.

That only happened to me once, and I knew it would happen. I usually use data over Wi-Fi, and that’s free. I also disabled high-usage apps from using cellular data in my phone settings to control data usage.

However, I used a lot of cellular data for one month because I wasn’t near a Wi-Fi hotspot, and I watched a lengthy video on my phone. They sent me warnings that I was approaching my limit.

That was kind of them, but I was curious for the sake of writing this article, so I kept watching the video. Sure enough, my credit card was charged $15 to add more data for me to use for that month. That’s called automatic top-up. You can actually opt-out of that too!

How to Disable Automatic Top-Up

If you prefer not to have Automatic Top-Up, you can disable it in your billing settings. However, FreedomPop will need to hold a $5 fee to cover any overage in data usage because data reporting from the carrier is sometimes delayed.

I prefer to keep Automatic Top-Up just in case I need extra usage at times. The pricing is reasonable, and I’d rather not get cut off when I may need it the most. I feel that getting charged $15 once in a while (when I need it anyway) is worth it.

Opting out of it is a choice you need to make for yourself.

To opt-out, log into your account and click the menu button (≡). Select “Billing” and then click “ACCOUNT CREDIT & TOP-UP SETTINGS” as shown below.

freedompop-cellular


You’ll see an option to disable Top-Up. When you do that, you will get the following warning about the $5 charge. That will be held to cover any data leakage as they explain in the warning notice.

You will be protected from ever getting a $15 charge for going over, but remember that you may experience an interruption of service if you approach your data limit.

freedompop-cellular

Your Future With FreedomPop

If you do ever need more than 200 MB of data per month, it’s easy to switch plans by selecting any of the plan options. You can do that on the website or from the phone app.

You can switch plans at any time. If you are going on a trip and need extra minutes or extra data for a month, you can select one of the paid plans for that month.

Using Your Phone Worldwide

The GSM SIM Cards are global, so you can use them in over 20 countries outside the USA.

That works globally because FreedomPop uses VoIP to place calls using the G3 and G4 LTE data network rather than the cellular network.

Port Out From FreedomPop

If you should ever decide to cancel your service, you can keep your number. FreedomPop makes it easy for you to move your number to another carrier.

Log into your account and select “Port Out Info” under Settings. You will see a Pin number that you need to provide to your new carrier to initiate the port out process.

Do You Remember the Three Important Things?

You may recall at the beginning of this article I said there were three things you need to change in your account to have a totally free service. Have you caught all three in my instructions? Here they are once again, just to recap.

  1. Select the “Basic LTE 200” plan.
  2. Disable FreedomPop Premium Plus Service
  3. Disable Automatic Top-Up

How to Get the FreedomPop SIM Card

To activate your FreedomPop Service on your smartphone, you need to get a SIM card kit. The kit includes all SIM sizes, so you'll have the right one that fits your iOS iPhone or Android phone.

You can see the FreedomPop 4G LTE SIM Card on Amazon, but I suggest you don’t buy it there. Do a Google search for “FreedomPop SIM Card” and you may find deals for $5 or less direct from FreedomPop or from Target, Walmart, or others.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do I need an unlocked phone to use the FreedomPop Cellular service?

Answer: If you have a GSM phone, then it needs to be unlocked.

FreedomPop uses both the AT&T network and the Sprint network to provide cellular service. FreedomPop will give you a SIM card for your unlocked GSM phone that will use AT&T LTE service.

If you have a CDMA phone, that’s more complicated. FreedomPop uses Sprint's CDMA network to provide service to its CDMA phone customers. These phones do not use SIM Cards. Sprint pairs a SIM to the phone's MEID numbers.

Therefore, if you have a “Sprint Locked” phone, that should work. Some newer CDMA phones are a hybrid — they are “Sprint Unlocked” but also contain a SIM tray to use for other networks. That would work too.

Question: Do you have to switch from an existing service to begin with FreedomPop? If yes, how difficult is it to cancel the contract to leave the previous carrier before switching to FreedomPop?

Answer: You do not need to switch from an existing service unless you want to keep your old number.

FreedomPop lets you chose a new number from a list of available numbers when you open an account. You need to do this even if you decide to keep your old number. Once you have the service activated, you can request to port over the number from your previous carrier and drop the temporary number. Or you can just keep going with the new number you selected.

To answer your other question about how difficult it is to cancel a previous contract, that all depends on the rules your previous carrier has. If you are still under contract, they might not release your number or they may charge a termination fee. You need to contact them for the details.

© 2017 Glenn Stok

Comments

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on April 25, 2018:

Terry - I discussed this under “How to Disable Automatic Top-Up” in this article. You only have to pay a one-time fee to disable automatic top-up. Don’t select the “safety mode” option when you see the offer appear. Decline it. You don’t need it and it will cost you a $6.99 monthly fee. Just select the “disable automatic top-up” option with the slider switch. That only has a $5 one-time fee. See the details under the subheading above in this article.

Terry on April 25, 2018:

Regarding the DISABLE AUTOMATIC TOP OFFS. A page on their web site says in order to disable automatic top offs you have to have Freedom Pop Safety mode services which costs 6.99 per month. Is this right?

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on December 26, 2017:

Eric Farmer - Since you use over 200MB per month, FreedomPop wouldn’t work as a free service for you anyway.

As for upselling, they are in business to make money, so you can’t blame them, as I mentioned in the article. If they didn’t have paying customers (who needed more data) then they wouldn’t be able to offer free service to those who don’t need that much data.

Eric Farmer from Rockford Illinois on December 26, 2017:

I have heard of this service before. I saw it on a Google or Facebook ad. While I do truly believe FreedomPop offers a free service I don't like how they are trying to upsell you and hope you end up paying for something. I can understand for truly low usage this would be great but it sounds like lots of hoops to jump through to me.

That and I use over 200MB of data each month in one APP alone. But like I said I can see this service being good for some people. A very informative Hub either way.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on December 13, 2017:

Natalie Frank - I recommend this for low-usage customers.

If your usage is higher than the free limits, this may not be good for you. You’d have to compare the pricing of the various non-free plans that I included in the table in this article.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on December 13, 2017:

Heidi Thorne - I noticed that they don’t advertise too much, maybe because they get a lot of word-of-mouth references.

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on December 13, 2017:

Your articles are always so fill of information! This is the first I've heard of this carrier! I plan to read over this again as my monthly phone bills are so high. Thanks for writing this!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on December 12, 2017:

I didn't even know this existed. Good to know. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, as always. Happy Holidays!

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