A Side Dish of Free Data for your Cheap iPhone Plan

One of the most popular articles on this blog these days* is the one called “Our new $10.00 per month iPhone Plans“. In that classic, Mrs. MM and I took the advice of some of the clever readers in this blog’s Forum and switched our phones from AT&T to an airtime-reseller competitor called AirVoice Wireless.

It was definitely an experimental move, since we dumped a service that we had been using for ten years or so, and switched to something completely untested. That seemed perfect to me, since a key part of my job as Mr. Money Mustache is subjecting myself to as many wacky frugality experiments as possible. Only through this dedication to adventure and pain can I truly learn what works, and report back to you, allowing you to harvest the gains from the research.

$10/month and yet $17.57 remains!

$10/month and yet $17.57 remains!

Five months have passed since we made the switch, and I am happy to report that the phone service is still working perfectly. Not only have we racked up $450 in savings so far without losing reliability or reception, but these $10.00 plans even have a crude form of rollover credit. Every month, I tend to use up less than the $10.00 balance (hey, what can I say – I’m a stay-at-home Dad and there is free Wifi all over my town). But the minimum monthly plan at AirVoice is of course $10 per month, which adds a $10 credit to your account. The result? The balance keeps building up and I currently have $17.57 on the tab even after spending 2 cents to send myself a text to make the information box on the left pop up for you. (Note as of April 2013: when I first wrote this article, AirVoice required manual monthly renewal, but this has since been fixed).

But for all its benefits, this $10.00 phone plan does have a drawback: overpriced data. At $0.33 per megabyte, you’ll generally leave the “Cellular data” setting of your phone set to “off” to avoid having your background apps running off onto the Internet and eating data behind your back . It is great to have data access there when you need it, but you need to use it sparingly. I did a couple of quick measurements to put this into perspective:

  • Sending and receiving emails is no problem – On a recent trip, I turned on data access after landing in Seattle. It took only 19 cents of data to send 2 queued emails and receive 20.
  • But during a session of scrolling around on a city map in Google Maps to try to find bus routes in Denver, I burned up $1.97 in just a few minutes.

So now we’ve laid out the problem. But meanwhile, I have been conducting yet another experiment in the background which has yielded a potential solution. It is a little black gadget about the size of a package of gum, called the FreedomPop. It looks like this:


From a technical perspective, what this thing does is tune into Clearwire’s network of WiMax data towers to get Internet access, and translate that out through a second antenna to produce a little Wi-Fi hotspot that your phone, your laptop, and even your nearby friends with their own wi-fi devices can share.

The device costs $90 to buy, but then you get 500 megabytes per month of data transfer, FREE, indefinitely. (Their business model is to try to sell you additional reasonably-priced data if you exceed the free quota each month). Battery life is 6 hours, and you can charge it from any USB port.

I learned about this little technical miracle during my recent Hawaiian vacation. Host Johnny Aloha had one of these things, which he had in turn learned about by reading, you guessed it, the ever-useful Money Mustache Forum.  He lent it to me for my own travels around Oahu, and I was impressed with the results. I could just throw it into my backpack or pocket before heading out, and suddenly my phone behaved as if I had the expensive data plan instead of the $10.00 barebones one.

So upon returning from Hawaii, I drew from the generous “science experiments” budget of this blog to purchase one of the things myself. Checking the Coverage Map, I knew that it wouldn’t work here in Longmont, but there is 4G in Boulder and Denver, and many other metro areas to which I travel. Much of the country is not yet covered until a rumored deal with Sprint is completed, but it you are lucky enough to be covered right now, it is a neat option. Note that this is a relatively new invention – the service launched in beta only in October 2012.

I had a chance to really put the FreedomPop through its paces on a recent snowboarding trip to the Pacific Northwest**. Hanging out at the Seattle airport baggage carousel, I powered on the device and immediately had internet access on my phone. I was able to surf and answer emails during the 40-minute light rail trip through the city, and left it running after arriving at a pub where I met with a group of Mustachians and other friends, who were able to connect for free Internet access as well (I have mine password-protected so only people with the password can join). Later on the trip, my whole group of friends was able to use the free hotspot  as we rolled to and from Bellingham in the rental car. I even connected using my laptop to make updates to the blog and answer an urgent email or two during the late night ride.

When the expensive Airport Hilton tried to charge us $9.95 per night for internet access there, I simply powered up my middle finger, which I aimed at the Hilton logo before redirecting it affectionately to the FreedomPop’s power button – problem solved again. The MMM family will be passing through Las Vegas next month on a camping trip. The hotel we booked is also attempting to charge for Internet access. Looking at the coverage map, I can see that the middle finger will be applied in that situation as well. Even after all the recent action, I logged into FreedomPop’s website and found I still had 237 of the 500 megabytes remaining.

So it works, it’s cost-effective, and it is disrupting the old model of pay-through-the-nose data access. If there is a downside other than limited coverage, it is the somewhat pushy and automatic-opt-in nature of the company’s website. They are definitely trying to get you to buy some additional data, and I’ll be happy to do so once the coverage extends to my hometown. But given the attractive nature of 500 free megabytes per month, I can find no reason to complain. They also have a $10.00 per month home service which is ideal for light internet users (10 GB/month of transfer with speed capped at 1.5 Mbits/sec).

As a final note, the company offers incentives to invite your friends to join. For each person you recruit, you get an extra 50MB/month added to your quota. So hook up with your friends on Facebook or the MMM forum and you may get an even sweeter deal.

And if you’re too busy and important to mess with a $10.00 phone plan and this hacker-oriented data solution, check out Republic Wireless. It’s a $20/month nationwide phone service (plus you’ll need to buy the fancy $269 LG Defy smartphone). And that $20/month gets you UNLIMITED talk, text, and data. Finally, the price-gouging of the big companies shall begin to crumble and fall as the US moves into a more competitive and innovative era of wireless communications.


* I find this pretty neat.. that article comes up right near the top of Google for the search term “cheapest iphone plans”, which randomly brings in hundreds of potential new Mustachians per day.

** At this point in the story, some of the less gadget-prone readers (like Jim Collins) are probably saying, “Do you REALLY need data access and a smartphone even when you go on vacation!?”. The answer is “Get over it.. even retired software engineers must maintain lifetime mastery over the world’s gadgetry.. that’s just the way it is  :-)”

  • Giddings Plaza FI March 12, 2013, 6:45 am

    I kicked my ClearWire wifi card to the curb a couple months ago because it was wildly unreliable in my Seattle home. BUT, I am looking for a new wifi solution, so if you definitely had a reliable Seattle experience with it, maybe I will give ClearWire a second look. Anything to save some money and use my MMM-style middle finger to salute good-bye to the Man (aka work).

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 12, 2013, 8:41 am

      These fancy wireless technologies are very topography-dependent, so it probably still doesn’t work in your house. Clearwire is apparently not expanding the network right now – there is some story of financial hardships and other shenanigans we need to research a bit more. There might be other wireless service providers in your area too (there are about three in mine, somewhat hard to find since they don’t advertise).

      • Flash March 12, 2013, 4:24 pm

        The Shenanigans underlie a pretty shady business IMO. Had Clearwire as an internet provider a couple years ago – they had a habit of locking people into contracts with a high advertised speed, then drastically throttling their customers after the first month. I’d be interested to see you post some speeds over the next few months in a follow up article. Good research so far!

  • Jenny March 12, 2013, 6:46 am

    The “middle finger” solution. Love this!

    • Nurse Frugal March 12, 2013, 10:19 am

      Pretty hilarious: “I simply powered up my middle finger, which I aimed at the Hilton logo before redirecting it affectionately to the FreedomPop’s power button – problem solved again.” You’re a problem-solver indeed. I think I’ve had enough paying ridiculous phone bills. I need to get one of these.

  • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies March 12, 2013, 7:07 am

    Does anyone know if there’s an easy way to tell how much data each app is using? I’d love to be able to tell how much RunKeeper is using when it pings for my GPS coordinates on a run, since that wouldn’t be something that I could get from wifi only hotspots. Same thing with GymPact.

    • Johnny Moneyseed March 12, 2013, 7:14 am

      My phone has an app called “Data Sense” it tracks (to the MB) how much data you are using per app on both WiFi and Cellular separately.

      • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies March 12, 2013, 2:53 pm

        Thanks for the rec, Johnny – looks like for the iPhone, the same company that makes Data Sense makes Onavo Count (free), which I’ve now downloaded to start tracking which apps take up the most data.

        • Mr,1500 March 13, 2013, 1:26 pm

          Mrs. PoP-

          I highly recommend this one: http://www.abvio.com/runmeter/ It uses minimal data and the app is plain awesome.

          It even works with data turned off. Data doesn’t need to be on for GPS to work, If you go this route, you have to wait until you connect up with the network to see your run plotted on a map.

    • Chris March 12, 2013, 7:23 am

      I don’t know, but instead of using runkeeper (i know it’s free now and all), you can use walkjogrun.net to map out your runs. You’ll just need to plan a little beforehand and then have a timer. Not sure what you’re running for, but when I was using runkeeper, I found that I enjoyed my runs a lot less with the time constraints. Who cares what pace I’m at if I’m feeling good!

    • Mike March 12, 2013, 8:43 am

      I switched to the Nike running app because it just uses the GPS while you are running if you have no cellular data (I got rid of mine on my iPhone) and then populates the map when you get back to a wi-fi source.

    • mike crosby March 12, 2013, 10:20 am

      I’m not computer savvy, but the way I do it on my Android is go to “Settings”, then “Data usage”. Hope this helps.

    • Joe (yolfer) March 12, 2013, 1:25 pm

      I use runkeeper with data turned off. GPS is a separate service so the app tracks my run as expected. When I get home, my phone automatically finds the wifi signal and I submit the run to runkeeper. No mobile data needed!

      • Mike March 12, 2013, 1:54 pm

        That’s interesting. When I’ve tried to use RK with data off it has acted all kludgy and messed up my runs. That’s why I switched to Nike.

  • Z March 12, 2013, 7:09 am

    Airvoice (finally) implemented an auto-renew feature. http://www.airvoicewireless.com/AddAirtimeAutoRefill.aspx

    Note that if you set up auto-renew it begins immediately, so best to wait until your current service is about to expire.

    • Simple Economist March 12, 2013, 7:27 am

      Thanks for the side note! I’ve been using airvoice for years and I’ve been waiting for them to add this feature. Thanks!

    • Lucas March 12, 2013, 8:29 am

      Just noticed that two days ago as I was adding minutes :-)

    • MikeW March 12, 2013, 1:42 pm

      Thanks! I, too, have been waiting for this.

  • Kenneth March 12, 2013, 7:10 am

    Yes, you wonder what the future of Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile are. As word gets out that you can run your iphone for just 10 or 20 bucks a month instead of $100 a month or so, you would think people would be stampeding for the exits. All you have to do is leave your serious data burning surfing for the time you get home or to a wifi hotspot.

    I’m concerned that as more and more of us switch to low priced MVNO carriers, the big guys will start taking notice and not liking it. Solution? They might quit selling spare capacity to the MVNO’s, or price it so high that there would be little or no savings to those of us that have seen the light.

    • 205guy March 12, 2013, 8:32 pm

      I’ve been wondering the same thing about the MVNO’s getting throttled or getting booted. I think as the telcos pay off their infrastructure, cell phones are going to become a commodity (at least if the customer advocates can keep them compatible and unlocked). So the prices will come down across the board. Or they’ll just keep introducing faster speeds and keep people hooked with entertainment everywhere (I should TM that) so they keep paying through the nose.

      I’m another person who discovered MVNOs through the MMM forums, so thank you to all you Mustachians. We went with PureTalkUSA.com who use the ATT network (T-mobile is a no-go in my area). I was able to get my long paid-off iPhone 3G unlocked just before the deadline and just put in their SIM card. We experimented with my wife’s phone a few months ago, so now we have the Family plan for $15 for 200+ minutes and 2 lines (even different area codes), and it auto-renews from my CC every month. The cool thing is that it also adds minutes automatically in $10 chunks (up to a preset limit) when you exceed your minutes–no need to fiddle with payments. There is one quirk: I got the “teenager” phone, so I have to log in every month to give myself more than 60 minutes allotted (takes 30 seconds).

      I just didn’t want to worry about google voice and not having a phone at all times (well, my wife does the worrying and I buy the plan that prevents it).

      So we went from two unlimited data plans at 80+80+tax+20texting, over $200) to $15 minimum and probably more like $25 every month. We do use the land-line a lot more (but we were already paying it at $25/ month and kept for antiquitated fax use and other emergencies) because mobile to mobile minutes are double instead of being free. For data, we just don’t really need email on the go. We usually go to the happy medium motels (La Quinta, Days Inn, etc) when traveling (not scuzzy like motel 6 and not ripoffs like airport Hiltons), and these usually have free wireless. And really, do you need to check emails more than twice a day, that’s what texting is for. The only actual loss of functionality is maps and routing (and real-time transit schedules) that you need when you’re traveling. I’ve learned to check before you go out of wifi range, and then take a paper map along. PureTalk also has a $45 unlimited voice, txt and 600MB, that should cover teenager or buisiness needs.

      • Sammy March 13, 2013, 1:50 pm

        Great suggestion! Does it work with unlocked iPhone or only with native T-mobile phones?

  • Johnny Moneyseed March 12, 2013, 7:12 am

    Cell phone service is the one area that the Moneyseeds can cutback on. I know how easy it would be to do this, and I really have no excuse to not have done it yet. I think the thing that initially turned me off to the AirVoice service was that you had to pay per MB for data usage, but now you’re throwing this FreedomPop do-hickey at us?? It couldn’t be a more perfect situation. My wife and I combined don’t use more than 500 MB a month, and we live in a very strong 4G area.

  • CJ March 12, 2013, 7:16 am

    Hey MMM!

    I love the idea of the FreedomPop device and service but we seem to be lacking in telecom options here in Canada, and our data rates are exorbitant.

    A semi-workaround I’ve been using is to cancel all mobile data service (face it: it’s a “nice to have” not a “need to have” unless you’re using it for business purposes) and forward all my email via SMS.

    The result: you get the first 160 characters of all your email on your phone, free.

    It’s enough to know who is emailing you and what the subject is. For short, plain text email, you might even get the whole message.

    Also: Google SMS. http://www.google.ca/mobile/sms/


  • Mike March 12, 2013, 7:25 am

    Hmmm. Have I been out-mustached? I consume 1GB data monthly and I’m able to use the Verizon network with our frugal solution, though with a higher up front cost and a monthly, no-contract $20 cost:


    “I simply powered up the middle finger…” Classic line!

  • Simple Economist March 12, 2013, 7:30 am

    Just signed up for Freedom Pop. I actually don’t live in a covered area but I travel often to major metros that are covered. When the service launched they would not let you sign up if you did not have an address in a covered area but now they will let you sign up with any address! I’m looking forward to using the little device once it arrives. It will go great with the airvoice plans. Thanks for the info MMM

  • Mr 1500 March 12, 2013, 7:36 am

    “When the expensive Airport Hilton tried to charge us $9.95 per night for internet access there, I simply powered up my middle finger, which I aimed at the Hilton logo before redirecting it affectionately to the FreedomPop’s power button – problem solved again.”

    Ha, love it!

    Sounds like a great little gadget, but did you have a chance to check out the fine print (I did not)? I’m wondering if they’ll cut back on the 500MB at some point if their original business model doesn’t work out.

  • Jeremy March 12, 2013, 7:37 am

    I had Freedompop for a little while, and there are a few little caveats worth noting.
    First, (at least when I got it) the price of the device was called a deposit, but after a year, the deposit is forfeited.
    Second, if you don’t use it for a month, they charge a $1 inactivity fee that month (so you can’t just leave it in the closet for when you want it).
    Third, though I never tested it, I think they will only let you use 300-400MB before they charge you, “so that you don’t go over your allotment” or something to that effect.

    Overall, the practices just felt a little scam-y. (It did work as promised otherwise though) (P.S. If you ask to cancel, they will offer to give you and extra 500MB for that month)

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 12, 2013, 8:01 am

      Good point – you’ll want to log in and turn off the “automatically top up my account” option. I agree that one is a little tricky, because it would make it impossible to use the free 500 if you don’t disable it.

      In an ideal market, I’d like to see data service be sold with no tricks at all: $10/month for the first 10GB, 10 cents for each additional GB, no contracts, works everywhere on the planet and on any device with a 4G antenna. And of course, “voice” and “text” would not be measured separately, since they are just data in reality.

      • Matt March 12, 2013, 10:28 am

        I would love to see sold that cheap but can you imagine how drastically the business model of the bloated carriers would need to change for this to even happen?

        • Mr. Money Mustache March 12, 2013, 11:01 am

          Indeed! That’s why I’m not buying any AT&T shares in the next few years despite the relatively high dividend yield ;-)

          • Mr,1500 March 12, 2013, 1:09 pm

            I predict that Google will probably be the one to do it and within the next 5 years. There have been persistent rumors about them partnering with someone (Dish Network most recently) to build a nationwide, high speed wireless network. Also, they are experimenting with WiFi networks on their campus.

            Google is disrupting everything else, so why not this too? It also supports their core business model of connecting people to information (as well as ads).

      • JohnNTx March 16, 2013, 12:14 pm

        FreedomPop offering in Dallas

        Up to 1.5 Mbps, 1 GB, free
        Up to 1.5 Mbps, 10 Gb, $10
        Up to 3.0 Mbps, 10 GB, $15
        Up to 8.0 Mbps, 10 GB, $19

        • JohnNTx March 16, 2013, 12:42 pm

          That was for home internet though.

  • rjack March 12, 2013, 7:45 am

    I use Ting for my phone service and I love it, but I use WiFi for the majority of my data access.

    However, even if I used data, they only charge $3 for 100 MB of data which is only $.03 per megabyte. It costs less per megabyte at higher data tiers.

    • Mr,1500 March 12, 2013, 8:14 am

      I second the Ting recommendation. While not as cheap as the MMM plan, its much better than than any of the big 4. The catch is that you have to buy the phone upfront. However, you can bring an old Sprint phone on to their network now.

      • Matt MSP March 12, 2013, 9:53 am

        I third the Ting recommendation. My wife and I have been on it for ~3 months and we’re saving nearly $100/mo. Not AS cheap as Airvoice but it’s very simple. My wife and I have been paying around $33/mo for two smartphones with <500mb data, then using Google Voice and an Obihai box for free calling at home. Data is cheap enough where I don't turn off 4G, but I just avoid doing phone/app updates or streaming audio/video while not on wifi. Easy enough. Also, support and billing has been flawless with Ting so far as well.

      • Kristina March 12, 2013, 12:56 pm

        We bought my husband a used, “Clean ESN” Sprint phone from eBay and set it up with ting successfully. It’s a no-frills kyocera but it was cheaper than the used phones that ting had. I think we paid about $30 including shipping.
        I too will join in on the ting love! Their web setup is incredibly user friendly.

  • Bev P. March 12, 2013, 8:30 am

    I just checked out FreedomPop’s website. Is anyone using FreedomPop for home internet? I’m in the Philadelphia suburbs and they offered me the up to 8Mbps plan for 18.99/mo. While not quite as fast as the Comcast internet plan we have, it should still be plenty for my family.

    • MrMoneyMullet March 12, 2013, 7:32 pm

      I am also wondering about the home option. Anybody who uses them for home internet, please share! Very interested to hear experiences as even the free 1GB monthly option for home internet might be a good choice for my family.

    • cats March 13, 2013, 8:44 am

      I would also be interested in hearing about home internet experiences, if anyone can share. We have 4Gbut I think the network is not super strong in our immediate vicinity (my iphone is typically only showing 2-3 bars of service, and it takes a while for email, etc. to update). I’m guessing this might also really choke the speed of an internet connection run through the 4G network, but maybe I am wrong?

  • Shedinator March 12, 2013, 8:40 am

    Retirement Police Alert! MMM said being MMM is his JOB! This Blog is now all a lie!

    I really like the smartpop idea. Residing in the KC Metro area, I can only hope that rumored deal with Sprint goes through. In the meantime, Mrs. inator and I are trying to decide whether moving from our limited talk-n-text only plan on Ting (~$50/mo) to Republic’s total unlimited plan is worth the $500 start up cost. Reviews are mediocre, but given that the reviewers are all demanding the latest and greatest technology, I’m not sure how much stock to put in them. Anyone have experience with Republic?

    (I think I’ll X-post this to the forums if it’s not already being discussed)

    • Aaron March 13, 2013, 11:45 am

      There is a new option for Republic Wireless. They have an offer of paying $99 for the phone but $29 for the monthly plan. There is no contract, so you could stop whenever you want. Get one phone only and test it out to see how you like it. You can calculate when your break even point would be. If you like it, then you can get it for the other phone too. You can decide at that time if you want to pay the higher up front cost to get the cheaper plan.

      I don’t currently have Republic Wireless, but they’ve been on my radar. The big problem is that it would be a cost increase for me (I don’t have a mobile phone, so any money spent would be an additional cost).

  • Patrick March 12, 2013, 8:52 am


    I got my cell phone use down to about $3/month using Tracphone + cheap throwaway ($10 phone that works perfectly). I had a leftover smart phone from my less thrifty days that I’ve used to download audio books or send/receive email and text through google voice when I’m in a hotspot.

    With this, I could connect in a pinch without having to rely on free coverage — which makes this freakin’ sweet.

    The downside is that I have two devices, but I equally relish a middle finger option to cell phone companies.

    Thanks, MMM.

    • Kenneth March 12, 2013, 9:06 am

      We have leftover LG Optimus V (Virgin Mobile edition) phones. We use them for yardage on golf courses using the skydroid app. Even though there is no service, the GPS works and that’s all skydroid needs, after you download the course information once at home under wifi.

      • Dillon March 12, 2013, 2:53 pm

        SkyDroid +1

        I love that app!

    • Jacob@CashCowCouple March 15, 2013, 7:40 am

      That’s a great option. I know a few people who do the same thing with a newer iPod and a flip phone.

      BTW, how many minutes does that $3 get you each month?

  • David William Edwards March 12, 2013, 9:29 am

    I recently purchased a used Droid Maxx off of eBay and had it flashed for used with PagePlus by BeigePhone. I’m currently using PagePlus’ $12 plan and the GrooveIP app to make WIFI calls (I’m fortunate to have WIFI at work). The 12 plan only gives you 10MB of data, so you can’t do much use of the phone with data “in the wild” but that so far has not been a problem.

  • Dom March 12, 2013, 9:53 am

    My minutes on airvoice do NOT roll over with my $10 for 30 days of service plan, basically the remainding money is just forfeited and I start over with $10 upon renewal. Is the roll over a new feature?? My latest renewal was Feb 23rd 2013.

    • Peter March 13, 2013, 9:00 pm

      Yeah, my Airvoice seems to work like yours … at least I thought it did, but looking at my phone now I see that my balance is $10.76, so either last month’s hasn’t expired yet (I just re-upped and signed up for Auto-Renew on Friday), or it does roll over and I’ve just never noticed …

  • Joe March 12, 2013, 10:01 am

    Nice job on the experimenting and report. I still have a cheap phone, but I probably need to upgrade soon. $10/month doesn’t sound bad at all and I can probably put that on the business expense account. I don’t really need a smart phone all that much though so it’s a dilemma.

  • Mark March 12, 2013, 10:10 am

    My brother is a tech genius (at least compared to me). It sounded like he likes it but he said this about it:

    “If you’re thinking of getting one I would wait just a bit. They currently use WiMAX, which isn’t bad, but is a dead end tech. No one is building out new WiMAX infrastructure, and the market is moving over to LTE. They should have LTE devices later in the year.”


    • Mr. Money Mustache March 12, 2013, 11:04 am

      Good point – like every gadget, this device will eventually become another thing in your drawer of discarded tech toys. If you can wait to get one which works with LTE, it will extend the lifespan considerably. But in the mean time, many non-millionaire people are wasting more than $90 per MONTH on phone plans with data access, so I thought this would still be useful for some.

      • Mark March 12, 2013, 1:20 pm

        Didn’t mean to naysay. Very glad you posted! Just wanted to bring it up for discussion.

        I’m considering getting one anyway. If I can cut my bill to $10 or $20 per month, this would pay for itself in just under 6 months.

        Plus just think of how many people would want to hang out with me if they can always get wifi!

    • Jessica March 16, 2013, 7:52 pm

      Sounds to me like it supports LTE. Their website says, “FreedomPop’s partnered with leading wholesale 4G Wimax and 4G LTE mobile broadband networks to deliver the fastest high speed Internet available and offer the flexibility of wireless Internet.” Am I missing something?

  • mike crosby March 12, 2013, 10:26 am

    My wife and I have the Verizon one. I think it’s $30-$40 per month.

    It works really good, we use it once every three months when we go on vacation.

    To tell her about this would be a waste of breath.

  • Des March 12, 2013, 10:36 am

    I use Republic combined with Freedompop. It’s not a perfect arrangement, but it beats the hell out of paying more. I felt I needed something more than the $10 Airvoice plan (though I did use it for a while) because I am oncall for work and occasionally need to go waayyyyyy over on minutes when we have a major issue come up. I couldn’t risk running out of minutes at that exact (already stressful) moment, and it sometimes takes a business day for Airvoice to process a new topup.

    Republic is great, but the data is pretty slow. That is usually fine (and always worth the cost savings) but add in Freedompop and I don’t even have to worry about it. It only works where we have a really great signal (I’ve never got it to work indoors) but it gives me a fast enough connection to stream Pandora while we are out and about running errands.

  • Sergey March 12, 2013, 10:41 am

    I use PagePlus which relies on Verizon network.
    For $12 a month, you get 250 min, 250 texts and 10 MB of data. Extra data is .10/MB.
    I use their 29.95 plan, which includes 1200 min, 3000 texts and 250MB of data.
    No contracts, no hidden fees. Plus I bought my first generation Droid for like $30. It still works fine.

  • Tawny March 12, 2013, 11:05 am

    Mustachians, this sounds great, but I know of an even cheaper option for those who are traveling! Most hotels charge for wifi, but I’d say that 90% of them DO NOT charge for plug-in internet. So put an ethernet cable in your laptop bag when you travel. Yay, Free internets! -Tawny Fan

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 12, 2013, 12:12 pm

      Good point – I always bring ethernet, VGA, HDMI and headphone/RCA cables with me if I’m bringing the laptop. Never know when you’ll need to fire up some tunes or movies for friends at a random location.

      BUT.. I often don’t bring the laptop itself. These days a phone is good enough when you are traveling light.

  • jlcollinsnh March 12, 2013, 12:20 pm


    If yer gonna use my name in vain at least highlight it with a link!

    Actually what I was thinking reading your post is:

    Does this $10 plan work for those of us who have dumb phones and only then to, gasp, make phone calls?

    We have a Verizon family plan: 3 phones, unlimited calls & texting but no data. About $130 per month. My wife and I barely use ours, but our daughter is a heavy user especially with the texts.

    I know we can do better, but thinking about this stuff makes my eyes glaze over and puts me down for a nap.

    • Jamesqf March 12, 2013, 1:06 pm

      Plain old phones, use Tracfone (or similar: our resident guru doesn’t like them much, but I’ve had no problems, except that I can only get it to ring 5-6 times before a call goes to voicemail). Currently running at $7.something/month, with like 350 excess minutes accumulated.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 12, 2013, 1:12 pm

      YES, the Collins family is definitely getting ripped off! You could all probably take those same phones to PagePlus – your daughter could get the “55”, and you and your lady could each just use a $10/month prepaid plan for 100 minutes. Total $75/month.

      Any readers have even better suggestions? (Remember that convenience is probably #1 on JLC’s list)

      • Clint March 12, 2013, 1:42 pm

        Virgin Mobile has decent options: $30 for 1,500 minutes of talk and 1,500 texts or $35 for 300 talk minutes, unlimited text and unlimited data. Not the best, but you can save at least $25 a month or $40 without the data.

      • Jill March 12, 2013, 3:34 pm

        Verizon has pay as you go plans too. I get the $20 unlimited texts for my kids plus 25 cents a minute for calls. They almost never call anyone – all texts. I recently switched to PagePlus and took the $12 plan mentioned above. I get 250 minutes and 250 texts plus some data but I don’t use data – dumb phone. PagePlus doesn’t have a cheap unlimited texts plan so I’ve kept the kids on the Verizon plan.
        Downside for Collins’ family is that it is difficult to go from contract to pay-as-you go at Verizon. They are very invested in making sure you stay on the contract. Not impossible, just can get frustrating

      • I.P. Daley March 19, 2013, 3:22 pm

        You’ve pretty well nailed it, MMM. Page Plus would be the easiest going for the Collins family so long as the daughter isn’t using a 4G LTE device. If she is, it’s either pay a provider to do the necessary modifications to make the phone activate on Page Plus, or replace the phone with a model that will work… if replacement is in order, that opens up a whole new world for her if something other than Verizon coverage is doable.

        Mr. Collins, I’m easy to locate through my website, on the forums here and MMM has my e-mail address. If you want/need, I’ll be more than happy to go over details and options with you regarding service and caveats so you don’t have to wade through the communications guide.

      • Loyalty Gets Points and Discounts May 13, 2013, 4:21 pm

        Try just calling your provider and demonstrating that you’ve been a loyal customer (in my case since i first got a cell phone in 1998), and several years ago they (sprint) put me on a employee/friends & family plan that customer reps gasp at when I call to do any service needs.

        Now, I buy refurbished, NON-smart phones so don’t know what the experience would be like with smart phones, but I get internet, unlimited data, texts, AND 500 minutes of calls (which I never use all of), all for $30/month.

        Note: For several years, while blackberries were out this worked great. Since iphones came out (about iphone 2 version, I think), they (Sprint) have since noticed this residual “glitch” in their billing system and now charge me an additional $5 service, 911, and “maintenance” fee, since I also don’t buy their insurance, other plans, but still I get all this for a total of $36 (with tax) per month ON A MAJOR NETWORK PLAN. That’s still pretty good, plus the reliability of network, and no hassles.

        Just ask. You never know what you can get unless you do.

        I do this for Concast internet at home (i rent out a room, and it is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to rent a room out without at least internet these days). I always call at the end of the 6 month or 1 yr. period before rates go up to get on another, cheaper plan. Must spend money to make money, as usual, but at least spending as little as possible…

        Again, just ASK. If you don’t get anywhere with one customer rep, hang up and call back! You will definitely get someone who will keep you as a customer over letting you cancel service.

    • PawPrint March 13, 2013, 3:45 pm

      OMG, me, too, on everything except the teenage daughter, although our 29 year old daughter can act like a teenager. My husband and I have two dumbphones and a Verizon family plan that includes my stepdaughter for an additional $12 per month. She doesn’t have texting. I prefer to text more than talk, and we never use all our talking minutes. I don’t want to shell out the bucks for a smartphone and a data plan. I went to BillShrink, but they appear to only figure out what works best using your current usage. I want more texting minutes, less talking minutes, and I probably need to cut the stepdaughter loose to find her own phone options. Trying to figure it all out overwhelms me and then I do nothing so I keep paying Verizon $97 a month for stuff I don’t use.

  • Heath March 12, 2013, 12:24 pm

    I did quite a bit of research (including all of the MMM articles, of couse), before deciding on a t-mobile $30/month pre-paid plan. It has 100 talk minutes, and unlimited texting and data. The first 5 GBs (yes, GIGABYTES) of data are at 4G speeds (I’ve never even approached that limit, usually topping out at about 1GB), and then it would drop back to 3G speeds. I was initially worried about the 100 talk minute limit, but I use Google Voice on my computer to supplement my voice minutes, and it hasn’t been a problem at all.

    It may seem a bit pricey to some other mustachians, but it works perfectly for me, and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than any other fast-as-lightning data plan I’ve seen. And because it’s a GSM (i.e. system using SIM cards) prepaid plan, I even got to bring my own smartphone into the network, which saved a bunch as well.

    Here is a link to the plans: http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/monthly-4g-plans
    (scroll down to find mine at $30)

    • ub March 13, 2013, 8:17 am

      I just switched from ATT (at about $100/month after taxes, fees, etc.) to this plan from T-Mobile. It was a bitch to get onto (you have to order the SIM card online, and they wouldn’t accept any of my credit cards for a while so I ended up having Wal-Mart ship me the wrong kind of card and then cutting it down to size.

      However, this data plan is amazing – better than my ATT plan for my purposes, since I almost never use the phone as a voice-box, and ATT throttled my data way before 5GB I believe.

      They also let you pay the bill automatically, and on the day of your choosing!

      People better jump on it fast though because T-Mobile is changing up all of their plans and pricing structure at the end of the month, and I’m betting this “online-only, new subscriber-only” offer is going to get the boot. (Hope that they keep it for existing customers, though, otherwise I’ll probably be shopping elsewhere again.)

    • Gary Keim October 15, 2014, 1:14 pm

      Wow. So, in just more than a year and a half they’ve increased the price on that package by $US20. Bait -> switch.

  • Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom March 12, 2013, 12:47 pm

    When Freedom Pop comes to Canada I’ll be doing a happy dance!!!! With data plans averaging around $60 per month this will be a really popular alternative.

    • anom March 14, 2013, 12:03 pm

      Depending on where in Canada you are, there may be cheaper options. I know in Toronto there are – Wind, Mobilicity, Public Mobile.

  • Jamesqf March 12, 2013, 1:12 pm

    “But during a session of scrolling around on a city map in Google Maps to try to find bus routes in Denver, I burned up $1.97 in just a few minutes.”

    Might I suggest downloading actual maps (on an unlimited data connection) instead of scrolling hrough them on a wireless network? I don’t use city/street maps much, but I download USGS topo maps for hiking/riding – download once, keep them around forever, and they’re much better quality than Google.

    • The Kechi One March 13, 2013, 8:56 am

      Where do you get a hold of these maps? Can you use GPS over them? Thanks!

      • Jamesqf March 13, 2013, 12:12 pm

        Find them here: http://store.usgs.gov/b2c_usgs/usgs/maplocator/(ctype=areaDetails&xcm=r3standardpitrex_prd&carea=%24ROOT&layout=6_1_61_48&uiarea=2)/.do or if the link doesn’t work, search for “USGS topographic maps”.

        I believe there are applications that can convert the topo maps to a format that can be loaded onto a GPS, but I have never used them myself. If I bother to take a map at all (I have a good memory & sense of direction), I will usually just print out the relevant part.

        Another point on the USGS maps: many of the newer versions have different layers built into the PDF files, so you have a certain degree of choice over what to show. They also have a layer with very detailed photo imagery of the terrain.

  • Mike March 12, 2013, 2:01 pm

    Here’s a “mobile phone” recipe for those interested. The upfront cost can be less than $200 and the ongoing monthly is ZERO:

    Sub – $100 iOS Device – iPod Touch 3rd/4th gen or iPhone 3G/3GS


    + Google Voice
    + Talkatone
    + FreedomPop hotspot (or FreedomPop Sleeve for 3rd and 4th gen Touch)
    = $0.00 per month in usage charges
    and a phone wherever there is Wi-Fi or WiMax.

    Not perfect, but pretty darn close for zero monthly cost. :-)

    EDIT: If you’re a tech geek like I am and you need at least an iPhone 4 to satisfy your need to not be too far behind the curve, the above recipe is perfect for finding an iPhone 4 on Ebay.

    Look specifically for phones for Verizon or Sprint that have “bad ESN’s”. They will be MUCH cheaper, because the “bad ESN” means the phone can no longer be used on that network, which is irrelevant for the above recipe as the phone will never be used on the major carriers. I’m seeing these phones on Ebay in decent condition for as low as $125-$150.

    • I.P. Daley March 19, 2013, 3:10 pm

      I feel I should point out that “bad ESN” is actually code for lost/stolen/unpaid subsidy handset. They’re cheap because they’re usually hot phones.

  • JaneMD March 12, 2013, 2:55 pm

    We have a T-mobile family plan with 2 lines for $125, unlimited talk/text/data (though HubbyJD regularly gets throttled since he uses Youtube for the radio). It’s really $100 because we’re on that stupid smartphone payment plan. HubbyJD gets $70 paid for and the office required a Windows phone. I never come close to using any amount of data so I feel silly paying for this arrangement.

  • UK Money Motivator March 12, 2013, 3:08 pm

    For any UK readers: We have recently been experimenting with 3G wifi hotspots and routers. If you are a heavy data user, and struggle with getting good broadband (which is most of the UK outside of medium towns!) then think about getting a good quality 3G router.

    If you can get a good 3 3G signal, then using a phone to setup a pay as you go sim (need to be able to receive a password text), and using a WiBE with a pay as you go all you can eat for £15 package, you may be very happy indeed! Plus, although it is hardly a pocket sized piece of kit, it can be taken with you on the road (don’t forget your 240v-12v converter if you want to use it in your car).

    And as 4G gets better around the UK, the speed is even better. Until fibre finally comes to rural locations that is!

    • UK Money Motivator March 12, 2013, 3:12 pm

      Oh, and if you have a BT phone line, you can use SmartTalk, a BT app that lets you use WiFI to make calls from your mobile that come off your home package :)

  • Tyler March 12, 2013, 3:13 pm

    What a cool device. After reading the $10/month article I planned on switching. Then my dumb phone died, so I bought a Nexus 4 and started my $10/month airvoice. I also use my Google Voice number while connected to WIFI so its done well. I was building up a rollover balance, but then missed my renewal by a day and lost my balance :( I’m going to look into getting this new device for when I need data and WIFI isn’t available.

  • Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget March 12, 2013, 4:10 pm

    I’d be interested to know if anyone has tried Walmart’s Straight Talk service for unlimited voice, data, text for $30-$45/month. While the FreedomPop sounds like a cool option, I’m not crazy about always carrying another device on me. And a WiMAX device at that. My work requires an iPhone, so Republic won’t work either, so I’m trying to figure out the most Mustachian option that will put some money in my pocket with my employer’s $50/month cell stipend.

    • Dylan March 12, 2013, 8:11 pm

      I tried Walmart’s Straight Talk service and had some issues getting MMS to work on an iPhone. Their customer service is the worst I have seen, it is next to impossible to talk to someone. Airvoice has a plan that may work for you that has unlimited talk / text and 500mb of data for $40. I have since moved down to the $10 plan, but started out with their $40 plan and everything worked great. Customer service is much better as well.


    • Frugal_InNY March 13, 2013, 7:47 am

      I’ve been on Straight Talk $45 plan (Nexus 4) for 3 weeks. Good so far, but I haven’t traveled much yet. I had to buy a $15 SIM through Walmart (not available in store). Setup was very easy. You must have GSM iPhone (not cdma).

  • John@MoneyPrinciple March 12, 2013, 4:31 pm

    There are some good ideas both in your post and the comments. I will look at FreedomPop.

    But in the UK it is a bit different – particularly when we travel within the EU. In theory the prices should be coming down but we still get stung (although in the past it was criminal and the European Commission has actually acted, would you believe!

    Vodafone have a Eurotraveller which for £3 a day takes the calls and data out of our UK allowance. That isn’t too bad but it is cheaper to buy a sim card in Bulgaria where we go regularly – £10 gets a 30 day 500MB allowance.

    Otherwise we spend about £30 a month for ordinary phone, data and texts. 4G hasn’t rolled out here yet either…:-( Trouble is we have three phones…!

  • Kevin Wilson March 12, 2013, 5:09 pm

    Hi, I like Airvoice but I’ve moved over to Platinumtel pay as you go which has equally good rates (except for $.05/minute vs. Airvoice’ $.04) without having to renew every month on their $10 plan. The main benefit is cheaper data at $.10/mb compared to $.33. However at this time with an ATT device (has to be unlocked) you would only have edge data speeds but should improve when T-Mobile changes to 1900 mhz frequencies.

    Another tip for smartphone lovers is to buy an unlocked Galaxy Nexus from somewhere like Swappa.com or the Google LG Nexus 4 from Google Play store. These phones are pentaband which means they are compatible across all ATT and T-Mobile based mvno’s. You can switch from Airvoice to T-Mobile prepaid, or ptel or any other GSM carriers with no restrictions other than changing the sim card and the access point name in the settings. They also get Android updates directly from Google so you always are first in line to get the latest Android version and there is no carrier bloat or any carrier branding at all. It is also contract free of course.

  • CB March 12, 2013, 5:38 pm

    Headed camping out by Vegas – cool! Where abouts? If you haven’t been to Black Canyon in that area (just below the Hoover damn) it’s A.MAZE.ING. Hotsprings everywhere. Talk about living the good life cheaply!

  • Rich March 12, 2013, 7:12 pm

    Freedompop is an interesting concept. I went ahead and ordered the device. I saw you tube info on it and I can see it is a decent product. We plan to use it especially when traveling. I hate paying hotels an access charge. But it does take some paying attention when you sign up. They do have pricing plans and other add ons. For example if you do not use the data it can roll over but that is at $3.49 a month. Or if you want a faster speed or more data it will cost more. Good to know you need use it every month to stay active and also I came across the need to change the default setting in billings to avoid a charge kicking in when you hit 500 mbs. By the way it does say if they change this free plan then you agree to that so it would be wise to check your account out once a month. You can cancel the service if it is not what you want so it’s worth a try. Thanks for passing this on to us!

  • Martin March 12, 2013, 8:12 pm

    I switched to a smart phone recently (I am quite conservative as far as the phones go) and started enjoying it. But our plan went thru the roof. Unfortunately in our rural area I have no choice to escape it. So stuck with AT&T…

  • dahlink March 12, 2013, 11:15 pm

    Hey MMM,

    I have one of these too. The service is not in my area as well. I also use it when I go to for a cheap vacation (vegas). They charge a 0.99 cent fee if you don’t use 5MB (I think it is 5MB) but when I tell them I’m not in a service area they have refunded me. CS reps told me that they will be rolling out on Sprints 3G network soon (this March supposedly) and that I could do a device swap (not sure if its free or if there is a fee).

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 13, 2013, 8:56 am

      Wow, March sounds pretty soon, seeing how it’s March right now. If there is a swap available, I will definitely do it and update the readers.

      • Shedinator March 13, 2013, 9:06 am

        I’ve already emailed FreedomPop asking 1) when they expect it to go live and 2) whether current devices will migrate, or if it will require purchasing new ones. My work is in the WiMax range, but our house won’t be in range until they add Sprint. Since we use less than 10 GB of data on our home internet, I’m hoping to switch to the $10 plan at the same time as making the mobile jump

    • dahlink March 13, 2013, 12:28 pm

      This was the latest response from the CS dept:

      “We are looking to roll out into the Sprint network here in the coming weeks. We will keep all of our users on the VIP list as to how this process will proceed. Thank you for your patience and continued support of FreedomPop!”

      I’m not sure if March is still in the picture, but hopefully this is around the corner.

  • Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce March 13, 2013, 6:03 am

    That is incredible stuff! I am pretty sure that I use way too much data, and I humbly admit that I cannot come close to your sparse use of texting and data… I just can’t….So the Republic Wireless thing is very interesting. I’ll be sure to check it out.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 13, 2013, 8:54 am

      Good plan, Tony. And I definitely don’t mean to imply that my low text/voice/data use comes from any sort of self-discipline. I just don’t have a lot going on in day-to-day life that requires wireless chitchat. Only one wife and one child, no job, limited business travel, etc.

      Now, if people are paying for $100 voice and data plans just so they can browse Facebook or watch Youtube videos when they are on the train to work, (instead of reading investment books like they should be), THEN we could probably fire up the mocking engine :-)

      • JaneMD March 14, 2013, 12:53 pm

        At least they aren’t driving a car and are using the public transportation. :)

    • Ryan March 13, 2013, 11:34 am

      Since I first heard about Republic Wireless through MMM, I figured I would let you guys know how its worked out for me so far. Overall, i would say I am very satisfied with the service. The Motorola Defy phone is a bit pricy, but is an awesome phone compared to the old school one I had for years. Battery life for the phone isn’t that great though.

      Here are few drawbacks from the service that I’ve notice so far.

      1. Texting – While normal text messages (SMS) work just fine, you can’t send or receive multimedia message service (MMS). This is a minor inconvenience for me, but could be a deal-breaker for many. Hopefully in the future this won’t be the case with Republic Wireless.

      2. Call drops- As long as you stay in your Wi-Fi area, the voice clarity is pretty good. However, if you start a phone call on Wi-Fi, if you leave the Wi-Fi area your call will be dropped.

      Other than that, I love it! Hope this helps.

  • sherr March 13, 2013, 7:48 am

    Just a note of mild warning, you have to use your FreedomPop account at least some each month (I think the minimum is 2MB / month) or they will charge a $2 account maintenance fee. The fee is not discussed at all on the website, but is present in the legalese fine print if you look for it. I found that out the (mildly) hard way.

  • Freeyourchains March 13, 2013, 9:27 am

    The better solution is just straight phone calls. No texts, no data, no internet. Just phone calls. Use Facebook, Aim, whatever to type chat, use google+, skype to video chat with the expensive internet people pay for anyway.

  • Aaron March 13, 2013, 11:09 am

    Quick correction to article: Your picture says you have a balance of $17.37, not $17.57.

  • CanuckExpat March 13, 2013, 11:13 am

    I’ve been using FreedomPop combined with H20 Wireless (another AT&T reseller) for several months and have found the two together to be a pretty good solution, and definitely cheap. I thought I’d add a few observations:

    1) Freedompop coverage and signal is not as good as you get with the normal cell phone networks. In my case, I’m in a large east coast city, so most of the area should be covered, but I can easily lose signal if I walk into a building. When I go inside I have to remember to turn off the Freedompop device so that my phone switches to WiFi. Similarily, when I travel or drive outside of the city, I often find myself without Freedompop coverage.

    2) As someone mentioned, the device is actually marketed as free, but you pay a “deposit” of $90 + shipping. If you look at the fineprint, you will see that after a year, you lose the deposit. $90 is still not a bad price to pay, but it is not as good as free. I may try returning my device before one year is up, and see if I can get a second device on deposit.

    3) The Freedompop business model definitely seems to be based on either convincing you to upgrade plans, or to nickel and dime you (auto-top up, inactivity fees, lots of promotions for “free” upgrades that you have to opt out of later). I haven’t incurred any fees yet, but you do have to be careful.

    4) The 50 MB/friend is a nice touch, and it’s pretty easy to get an extra 500 MB free per month. You actually don’t have to invite someone new to join. You just have to be added as a “friend” on Freedom pop. If you check this thread for example: http://slickdeals.net/f/5276432-FreedomPop-Friends you will find a list of people who are already on FreedomPop and want someone added as a friend. I’ve had the extra 500 MB/month free since I’ve started (though I never come close to needing it).

    5) A different note: The requirement to renew every month is part of the reason I went with H20 Wireless instead of Airvoice, with the former, you can actually buy a years worth of airtime for $100, so you get a slight discount and don’t have to worry about topping up every month, which I tend to forget.

    In general, FreedomPop is nice (if you have coverage). However, if you are someone who just expects your gadgets to work, and doesn’t want to have to fiddle with something else extra it may not be for you. Also, you do have to be sure you are careful enough to make sure they don’t charge you extra fees.

    I’m sure lots of people will find the original article helpful, hope these observations help as well.

  • Nick @ ayoungpro.com March 13, 2013, 1:58 pm

    Very interesting, thanks for being the guinea pig! :)

  • Rob March 13, 2013, 6:51 pm

    Excellent post…one month into my Airvoice plan and loving it, thanks to this blog.

    btw–you can get a balance update free of charge by dialing *777# then call–saves you two cents!

  • My Financial Independence Journey March 14, 2013, 9:38 am

    The biggest problem with a lot of these low cost wireless options is that they are entirely hit or miss. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that gets good reception, you can save a ton. If you’re not so lucky, you wind up with a service that is just painful to use, assuming it’s even functional at all.

    So make sure you try it out first (at home, work, and anywhere else you frequent) before cancelling your higher cost service.

  • Matt March 14, 2013, 12:17 pm

    “Indefinitely” may vary. The word is that Clear is going to transition over to LTE (they currently use WiMax) in a few years, at which point this device will probably stop working. $90 for two years may still be worth it to you, but mileage may vary.

  • Mike March 14, 2013, 2:58 pm

    If you love Verizon’s coverage (who doesn’t??) try page plus cellular. I have been using their talk and text 1200 plan (1,200 minutes, 3,000 text, 250 megabytes of 3g data) for almost two years now. Works all over the U.S. with just a couple pockets of roaming. $29.95 per month no taxes or fees and they have an auto bill payment so it’s completely painless. I started using it with a $50 unlocked Palm Pixi Plus from Newegg, now I inherited a family member’s old Motorola Droid X smartphone. All the bells and whistles and nobody knows I’m being Mustachian!

  • Mr HighFalutin HillFolk March 15, 2013, 9:53 am

    when i read this, i punched myself in the face. then i read about the 1.5 gpm shower head (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/11/30/an-800-gift-from-me-to-you/) and punched myself a few more times. Mrs HighFalutin was convinced that i was giving myself black eyes in order to get raw sirloin steaks to put on them, so she put ice down my pants and sent me back to the computer to work on my money mustache!

  • Tea Anemone March 15, 2013, 4:18 pm

    Went to FreedomPop page, but did not see anything about FREE data. Here is what I did find:

    Casual 2GB – 100% FREE for the first month. This trial is only available for a limited time. You can cancel your trial anytime on site or by calling customer support. You’ll continue to receive 2 GB every month for only $17.99 after your trial period expires.

    That’s more expensive than AT&T iPad plan I currently use. :-(

    • Mr HighFalutin HillFolk March 15, 2013, 4:56 pm

      i saw the free data option. when i went to the FreedomPop page, i entered information so that it could be determined if service is available in my area. on the next page, i select On The Go Internet. then on the next page there are 3 options. the 3rd option (on the right) is Basic 500 MB $0

    • Mike March 15, 2013, 6:00 pm

      Has anyone tried using a SIP client for Android over this? I imagine latency would make it unusable, but if it worked that would be amazing… Free calls over free WiFi, all you need is the buy in for the FreedomPop and an unlocked Android phone.

      I’ve got my dumb phone running on PlatinumTel which is costing me under $10 a month, but I’ve been considering picking up a Google Nexus 4 for better access to Google Voice. All the pieces are there to make this work technically (voice over IP, smart phones and cheap 4G data) it just needs the right service.

  • Melinda Gonzalez March 15, 2013, 4:44 pm

    My only problem with all the non-major network plans is I cannot get cellphone reception in the hospital where I work. For whatever reason the hospital doesn’t get cell reception unless they have a line from the carrier company in the hospital. The only cell services are T-mobile, ATT, and Verizon, which pretty much limits me. I have to have cell reception for work.

    I wonder if the MMM plan would work though? Hmmmm…

  • JohnNTx March 17, 2013, 5:04 am


    FreedomPop now allowing rollover data for $3.49/month, up to 500 mb/month. You can also give away bandwidth to another person.

  • JohnNTx March 17, 2013, 5:15 am


    Karma is competitor MVNO to FreedomPop. Buy the hotspot for $79, and 1 GB for $14 has no expiration. Each user must sign into their own account to use the wifi signal (social wifi), so they never use your bandwidth.

    I have not seen all the fine print.

    • Tea Anemone March 17, 2013, 10:45 am

      There appears to be no “free data” option. They give 1GB outright, and then 100MB per joining person… So it sounds like for average user FreedomPop is better in the long run (the danger I see, though – will FreedomPop actually BE there in a couple of years?)

  • Riley March 17, 2013, 4:39 pm

    I was an early adopter of FreedomPop and it works pretty much as advertised. One thing to be wary of is that they’ll try to hit you with fees. On 2 separate occasions I noticed a fee charged without my consent. The first was 17.99 for some kind of automatic upgrade. The second was 1.00 for an “inactivity fee” during a month I didn’t use it. Both times I emailed them and requested a refund, and both time they complied. So watch yourselves!

  • JohnNTx March 19, 2013, 7:41 pm

  • reader from the rockies March 25, 2013, 2:50 pm

    The combo is airvoice wireless $10/mo plan plus either an old smartphone or my laptop with freedompop works amazingly well. I live in a suburb of a large metro area. Freedompop does not work at my home, but there I use my own wifi. In the bulk of the metro area, freedompop works great and at blazing speeds. Thanks MMM, love your stream of recommendations. Glad the server is up and running.

  • Stephen March 26, 2013, 2:24 pm

    This might be helpful information for new people finding this thread: FreedomPop is transitioning networks this year, and I’ve exchanged emails with FreedomPop customer support in an attempt to figure out whether I’d need to buy a new device. FreedomPop’s replies:

    “In the next 3-5 weeks [from late March 2013] we will be rolling into the Sprint WiMax network and will be in the LTE network by the end of the year. If you ordered a device today then you would receive one that has access to the Clearwire WiMax network.”


    “Our current devices will work on the Sprint network. However, they will not be LTE compatible. We are currently brainstorming various options that will allow our current users to get an LTE device when we the service becomes available.”

    My thought is that even if I had to repurchase a full-price device, if I get at least five months of use, then that’s $20/month or better for data access. I can’t find cell plans that include usable amounts of data for less than $30/month, so it still seems reasonable to sign up with FreedomPop right now. If this were September, I’d be a lot more wary.

    • Tea Anemone March 27, 2013, 6:05 pm

      Why would be wary if it were September? The devices they sell today will, presumably, work on Sprint network?

      FreedomPop sounds really good, and I am seriously considering it, but would like a better prognosis than just 5 month?

      • Stephen March 27, 2013, 8:12 pm

        I just meant that if it were closer to their transition to LTE, I might want to wait the extra month and buy something that could access the LTE network. I don’t know what they’re going to do for current customers when that happens, but they probably won’t make you rebuy an access point at full price.

        I also didn’t mean to imply that I thought FreedomPop would only be around for five more months. I’m sure they’ll be around for longer than that. I meant that after using the service for five months, I would have saved more that the price of adding data over that period.

        FreedomPop does sound really good, and the emails I quoted above convinced me it was worth trying now. I signed up for it today. Even if it doesn’t last forever, I think it’s likely that their free data plans will be around long enough to make the initial buy-in well worthwhile.

        • Tea Anemone March 27, 2013, 8:30 pm

          Thanks for the clarification, Stephen

  • reader from the rockies April 13, 2013, 1:22 pm

    Great post. We are on airvoice wireless $10/mo. Works great and minutes roll over. Also tried the freedompop. Does not connect in my own house, but works in the large metro area where I live. I am now using my freedompop with google voice on my phone, so that I use less minutes.

  • blissing April 25, 2013, 12:30 pm

    I just got an email offer for the 4G/3G device for ~$40. They automatically sign you up for the 2G/mo. plan @ $19.99. There is no free plan, as far as I can tell–the 500MB plan is $3.99/mo. Still a good deal, which I signed up for, as we are hitting the road in an RV for several months.

    • Shedinator April 25, 2013, 1:04 pm

      There’s still a free plan. The 500 MB $3.99 plan is for 3G access. You can do free if you stick to 4G only. Still no LTE.

  • orangedata April 30, 2013, 4:38 pm

    I use Clear for home internet. For those who are curious, my speed was 3.21 Mbps (download) and 0.96 Mbps (upload) according to a test I just ran online. The download speed used to be closer to 2 Mbps after the first month and, like another commenter on this site, I suspected them of throttling.

    I realize these speeds are pathetic compared to cable and fiber optics, but I’m able to work, send email, watch videos, and basically do everything I want. I’m not a gamer.

    Very curious about this FreedomPop thingamajiggy.

  • BostonMoney May 8, 2013, 7:15 am

    Your Hilton comment about not paying for the Wifi, I encourage everyone to Google how to get free Hilton Gold status using an Australian address trick. This will allow you free wifi at all Hilton properties and a continental breakfast. Worked last month for me.

    Btw just found your blog from a friend and it is absolutely amazing! Keep it up.

  • GubMints May 31, 2013, 7:02 pm

    Sorry MMM, FreedomPop stinks!

    We don’t have 4G in San Diego yet, but I jumped at the FreedmSpot Overdrive Pro when it was announced in April (it was advertised to do 3G/4G for $3.99/month).

    Let’s see…

    1) I was charged $50 for the device on April 29th, product was on ‘backorder’ and did not arrive until May 14th.
    2) Product never worked on 3G network. I did EVERYTHING to try to make it connect, including going to SPRINT’s website to download, read, and follow the entire Overdrive Pro user manual (you have to go to Sprint’s website b/c FreedomPop can’t even be bothered to copy/paste the pdf user manual file on their own website).
    3) The product worked on 4G when I visited Denver, but still refused to connect to 3G when I instructed it to do so. So I know the product can work with 4G (just not 3G as advertised).
    4) FreedomPop refuses to respond to email, web customer service forms, and their calling tree has hung up on me 3 times. All I want is an RMA number to return this brick and they refuse to return my calls/emails/web customer service requests.
    5) On top of that, FP took the liberty of charging me for the next month’s service (yes, the 3G service that they are not providing). I tried to cancel the service in advance at the 29-day point- But once again their phone number, email address for support, and web forms were unresponsive.

    Bottom line: FreedomPop sells bricks.
    Don’t purchase anything from them. I’m disputing the charges with my Visa provider since I can’t get FreedomPop to respond to ANYTHING.

    PS I hope readers who follow the Pied Piper to Republic Wireless don’t have a similar experience.

    • blissing May 31, 2013, 11:50 pm

      I agree. I bought one when the new offer came out. The unit they sent me was obviously very well used with scratches all over it. The battery doesn’t hold a charge for more than a day, which seems low, but may be the way it is.

      Worst of all, it never connects with anything. Right now, I’m in Sprint’s darkest green area according to their map, and it can’t connect. How do I know if it’s been dropped too many times? I keep getting a “Connection Error” (67).

      I haven’t had the time to troubleshoot the way you have but maybe I should follow your lead and reject the charges.

      • Stephen June 2, 2013, 11:58 am

        That’s a shame. :-( My experience with FreedomPop has been exactly the opposite. I have the Photon, and it’s been working great for me. Good reception in Chicago, Denver, and Columbus so far, and acceptable battery life. I haven’t tried phoning them, but I’ve contacted customer service twice through their website. Both times they responded within a couple of days and were friendly and helpful. I paid ~$100 for the Photon, but I’ve had 1000 MB of free data every month since. Still seems like a great deal to me.

        Maybe the Overdrive is a problem? It’s a refurbished Sprint device, and I understand the battery life is not quite as good as the Photon. If you don’t need the 3G, consider getting a Photon, even if it is a bit more expensive.

  • Julia August 8, 2013, 11:08 am

    As of last week, they only offer data free the first month (2GB, or 3GB if you create a log in, leave and they entice you to come back). This device is now only $49 and they offer a total of 3 products.

    However, I’m not sure the $17.99/mo for 2GB of data is worth it when tacked onto the cost of a cheap no-data cell phone… I would have to do more research.

    • SoundFuryBacon August 11, 2013, 5:54 pm

      I just logged on to the site just now, and they still have the 500MB free option. They’re also putting together a free cell phone plan that’s supposed to launch later this year which will have unlimited texting, 500MB data, and a minutes cap (I think 200). I’m holding out for that one.

  • steve October 4, 2013, 3:30 pm

    Any ideas how i can connect with friends so i can get more of that free shared data? I would like to cancel my home internet and live mustachian style. ;)
    Feel free to reply to this and i will add you as a friend on Freedom pop.


  • Sally March 17, 2014, 12:11 pm

    FYI, Clearwire’s WiMax network will be decommissioned in 2015, so those of you currently using Clearwire or Freedom Pop will need to find a new solution before that happens :/ So sad that Sprint bought them.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 18, 2014, 10:10 am

      I didn’t realize that – I am currently talking with some people at FreedomPop about newer offerings. Any of them reading right now and want to offer comment?

    • Dave March 20, 2014, 6:08 am

      Decommissioned? That’s good to know. We just dropped Clear home internet, but only because for the next 6 mos we’re in an apartment that’s wired for fiber optics. For what it’s worth, Clearwire gave me no hassle when I called to drop them, and even refunded the payment that went through the day before cancellation.

      Contrast that with Verizon Wireless which insists that I pay for the next 28 days instead of canceling me on the day that I called. “It’s in the contract!” they kept saying. I’m sure it is.

      Dave (“orangedata” above”)

  • MrMelmoth March 25, 2014, 4:13 pm

    Attention current and future Airvoice $10 iPhone plan users!

    Data is now cheaper–now only $0.066 cents / MB (versus the $0.33 / MB from at least a year ago). Since when do services get cheaper overnight? (I’m not sure when it changed, but guessing a few months ago?)


    Anytime Minutes $.04 per minute
    Text Messages $.02 per message
    Data $.066 per MB

    I made the switch, wife and I enjoying our iPhone 5 phones for about a year now, for about $30 total / month. Each phone account automatically charges my bank account for the $10, then my wife’s phone needs another $10 every month or two. We now just keep our cellular data ON but only keep the apps using cellular data to what we actually want (email, maps, Talkatone for free phone calls, Facebook, whatever). I can’t seem to use more than $10 a month, and my balance is stuck around $30! Love it!

  • Barry Spar May 9, 2014, 3:19 pm

    FreedomPop does some shady stuff. They used to have a $15 10GB/month plan for thier Hub Burst. Now I got an email saying that $15 only gets you 5GB from now on. You can get a slow 5GB for $10 or 10GB for $19 from now on. Existing customers are being “grandfathered out” (huh!?) of their plan.

    images: http://imgur.com/a/gV9xq

    1) Sell old surplus hardware for double or triple their value with a temporary promise of free data.

    2) Jack up data rates.

    3) Profit!

    No contract works both ways. Don’t invest up front in hardware on the assumption they won’t switch up on you.

  • Gerri Detweiler June 3, 2014, 3:59 pm

    I spend a lot of time at the barn where my daughter rides her horse and there is no wifi available. I was debating between an overpriced Verizon hotspot data plan and StraightTalk when I read this review. I immediately purchased the Freedompop Overdrive ($25 for the device and $20 a month for 2GB) to give it a try.

    I received it on Sat. and nearly pulled my hair out trying to get started. The main problem was the documentation they mailed with the device had an incorrect password. Their online customer service is difficult to navigate, but I eventually found the correct password on their forums. (Of course, that feels less than secure so I still have to figure out how to change it.)

    Once I did set it up it worked beautifully. I mainly need it to access my email and do online research, and for that I was fine at the 3G speed. My two 45 min sessions have used about 2% of my monthly allotment so I figure the $20 plan will be about right for me for the month.

    I agree the marketing for this site is cheesy and there is no way I will participate in their “earn free data” option by turning over tons of personal info to advertisers. (I checked them out and it won’t happen.)

    Still it’s straightforward, fairly priced service in my view, and so far easy to use. So thanks!

    Next step is to try Republic Wireless…


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