FreedomPop – The Price is Right for This Internet Hotspot
Published on April 10, 2014
FreedomPop is the company with intriguing promises. They are a "freemium" service provider that provides free cell phone service, which we've previously written about, and free internet hotspot plans once you buy the device.
FreedomPop recently provided us with the hardware to test out their wireless service to see if FreedomPop's offering is worth trying out. Here's what we've discovered:
When coverage is great, its great; When it isn't, it doesn't work at all
We tested the FreedomPop Photon Platinum hotspot. in a variety of areas. Most of the time, we loved what we saw. Good connectivity and quick responsiveness helped us get work done, even when the internet connection at some coffee shops (cough Starbucks) was less than desirable.
However, there were times when we flat out did not get ANY signal from our device, and when this happened, we couldn't even call the service slow - it was completely non-existent.
We believe this had to do with FreedomPop's hotspot device using Clear's 4G WiMAX network, partly owned by, and entirely leveraged by Sprint for their non-LTE 4g network. Lets take a look at the coverage map, taken from Clear's website:
The green area's indicate coverage, while the splotchy areas indicate no coverage. Not surprisingly, when we tried to use the hotspot in some of these areas, we didn't get any coverage.
We took a fair and balanced look at the FreedomPop Photon and related service. Clicking the banner image will take you to FreedomPop's site for an opportunity to purchase the service for yourself. Some transactions may result in Geek | Chicago receiving nominal promotional consideration.
Compare this coverage map to a device that was covered by Verizon's 4G LTE plan:
The dark red areas are covered by Verizon's 4G LTE coverage. While there are still some areas in red (which are covered by Verizon 3G), the coverage is more expansive and consistent here in Chicago than the WiMax 4G service.
NOTE: Both devices covered by Clear's 4G WiMax and by Verizon's 4G LTE experience issues in some dense buildings, underground, and in rooms that have no windows. This type of service issue is both a limitation of the wireless technology, and also a matter of the devices, and their small antennae.
Despite the coverage drawbacks, the price is right
We know users get cautious when they see plans that claim "100% free!" anything. With FreedomPop, however, you do actually get what you see.
FreedomPop does offer a 100% free wireless hotspot plan, that comes once you purchase the device. The free plan offers:
- 500 MB of data per month (4G service only), completely free.
- The initial device costs $24.99, plus shipping (~$6.99)
- Extra data $0.02 / MB
They also offer a 2GB plan (free for the first month, $17.99/month afterwards) and a 4GB plan ($28.99/month).
Is FreedomPop a good investment?
The "Basic" FreedomPop plan truly has no comparison for the price. If you find yourself needing basic internet usage on the go - especially text-based functions like e-mail and some light Facebook using - and you're in a location with relatively good coverage, FreedomPop is a cost-effective way to go. We'd absolutely use it.
If you consider yourself a user who would benefit from a more substantial plan and know that you'd prefer a fuller, more consistent coverage, we suggest you go for a product covered by LTE 4G service instead of FreedomPop. Know that you will almost definitely have to pay a $20+ monthly fee in order to have this type of service, however.
FreedomSpot does offer a 4G LTE MiFi HotSpot device which can be used on their 2GB plan for $19.99/month, and they charge $199.99 for the device. The comparable device sold by Verizon is $49.99 with a two-year contract (so the supplement is built-in), but they will charge you $20 just for the line (no data) and their lowest tier data plan is $30 for 4 GB.
Interested in giving FreedomPop a try? Check out their website here.
Tried FreedomPop? What has your experience been? We'd love to hear your feedback.