No Pop, Just Flop, With FreedomPop’s New Free Mobile Phone Service

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Posted 3 years ago

HR

No Pop, Just Flop, With FreedomPop's New Free Mobile Phone ServiceI really had high expectations for FreedomPop’s new free mobile phone service.

I wanted this new service to work out well.

Unfortunately, I should have lowered my expectations.

How much lower?

Try basement level.

What follows is my complete review of FreedomPop’s new free mobile phone service.

When I first visited the FreedomPop website, I was asked for my location, in order for FreedomPop to determine whether I was located within their coverage area.

FreedomPop reported that my location was within their coverage zone and I could continue to purchase my phone and service.

The rest of the order process went rather well.

I chose the free option with the visual voice mail add-on for $2.50 per month. The phone is an HTC EVO with the Android operating system for $99 — no other phones were offered to me.

After completing my order, I received the usual welcome email messages, and account confirmation notifications.

I was told that I would receive my phone within 7 to 10 business days.

I received the phone about 10 days later.

After opening the box, I activated the phone (a simple process) and placed a test call to my wife who was sitting 3 feet away from me.

She answered the call and I saw her lips moving, but I could only make out every fifth word or so; while she had the same difficulty hearing me clearly.

At this point, without hesitation, I phoned (from my landline) FreedomPop’s support line.

Nick in FreedomPop Customer Support promptly took my call, and asked me what issue I was experiencing.

I told him that the voice quality of the call was terrible; breaking up, and unintelligible.

Nick said “you might want to connect with Wi-Fi, since I’m not in the 4G coverage area, and the 3G service doesn’t work too good”

WTF

So what Nick is telling me is that FreedomPop doesn’t support their 3G network, and I’ll be better off using my own Wi-Fi network, since I’m not in the coverage zone for their 4G network.

Ok. Got it.

So I switch to my Wi-Fi network, make another test call, this time to a different number.

Same result. Same crappy connection, same broken up audio.

I tell this to Nick, who has nothing more to say.

And guess what?

During the whole time I’m on the phone with Nick, his connection keeps breaking up.

It turns out that the FreedomPop Customer Support team uses Skype for calling.

Their own phone audio connections are just as bad as the FreedomPop phone connection.

But wait — there’s more.

You’re probably wondering: “How’s the battery power?”

How about 100% to 0% in 1 hour and 40 minutes flat. No kidding. And that’s on standby!

Super annoying is a popup on the screen every 30 seconds, reminding you that “your FreedomPop phone has been activated.”

I tried to disable that with no luck.

The phone’s speaker default is either speakerphone, or just a loud setting.

The text on the screen of the phone uses an extra tiny font size, making it all but invisible without the use of a magnifying glass.

The one decent feature seemed to be the text messaging. That worked fine.

The phone also comes loaded with a bunch of apps.

That wasn’t enough for me.

I decided to ask FreedomPop for a refund.

I figured I’d be in for a rough ride — they don’t seem to have a refund policy posted anywhere on their website.

Once again, I phoned FreedomPop Customer Support, this time speaking with Robert.

I told him of my issues with the phone and the service and asked him for a refund.

He explained that he would refund me the shipping fee and afterward, they would refund the money paid for the phone.

However, he added that I would be responsible for the return shipping fee. He also told me that the phone refund wouldn’t happen until they received the phone back from the shipper.

I told him there’s no way I’m paying for the return shipping fee, and I explained to him that I’d be willing to have FreedomPop mail me a prepaid shipping label, and I’d pack up the phone and call in a Fedex or UPS pickup. I also explained to him that once the phone was picked up by the shipper, that’s when I would expect my refund.

We went back and forth about this for around 15 minutes.

Finally, he relented and agreed to refund the complete amount for both the phone and the shipping fee, and promised they’d send a prepaid shipping label, and I could call in a pickup.

So there you have it. My review of FreedomPop’s new free mobile phone service.

A few more tidbits you might want to think about before you decide to try FreedomPop’s new free mobile phone service for yourself:

1. FreedomPop originally told me I was within their coverage area. Partly true, partly false. Yes, I’m within their 3G coverage area, but their 3G service doesn’t really work. Neither does Wi-Fi. So, basically the phone was useless since I’m not located in their 4G coverage zone.

2. The HTC EVO phone that comes with the deal is refurbished. At no point during the purchase process was this clearly explained. I’m sure it’s buried somewhere in the legalese of their online agreement, but it would be nice if they were clear and open about this.

3. For the free phone option, you’ll have to pay $2.50 per month additional for the visual voice mail, if you want that feature. Good-bye “free.”

I’d enjoy reading about other peoples experiences with FreedomPop’s new free mobile phone service. Tell me in the comments if you’re satisfied with your phone and service. Especially those of you located within FreedomPop’s 4G coverage zone.

– Russ Mate

HR

5 Responses to No Pop, Just Flop, With FreedomPop’s New Free Mobile Phone Service

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  2. TuxRox says:

    Ahh, the trials and tribulations of an early-adopter. Being a “free” service, I expected service and support accordingly. You get what you pay for.

    I highly doubt your problems would’ve been fixed via 4G if they weren’t fixed on Wifi. The fact that their support phone cut out is another indication their internal systems are lacking, not your network connection. Again, they’re a new company offering bargain-basement services that’re still in beta. Set your expectations accordingly.

    Yup, their phones are old. They installed their app(s) on a factory-defaulted used/refurbished Sprint phone. It has all the crapware Sprint loads on their phones. I recommend going into apps and disabling them if you don’t want to root it to remove them. The good news is that they have a newer option available and allow you to activate a few other models as a part of their bring-your-own-device (BYOD) plan. The best one they have there IMHO is the Galaxy SII — aka Epic 4G Touch. They say they’re working on allowing more models, so it may be a good idea to wait longer. They’re beta, be patient.

    I find it interesting that you gave it such a short test before returning it. Are you abbreviating your experience? Did you give it a few days to “magically” clear up? I have tested out their service on the Evo 4G (admittedly not the model you used) and found it to be on par with my T-Mobile phone (so now you know how low I set the bar, eh?)

    As for the battery, one thing I noticed on my BYOD phone was that the battery life was about 60 minutes. I popped out the battery and saw it was swollen. This was a sign it was on its last legs. Installing a new battery got me much better results. With my regular usage, I get from home to work and back. Okay, I don’t talk much or surf the web on it continuously, but their plans are obviously for the light user. I’m never very far from a charger anyway.

    Congrats on getting your shipping refunded, that surprises me, to be honest. When upgrading my hotspot, I had to keep on them to get a refund for my old one so I could purchase the new one. I wasn’t about to complain about shipping charges since I get mooch their service. Okay, you didn’t get that benefit

    As for my experiences…

    — If you want more than one service (a second phone or a hotspot), you have to open a new account with them. I don’t know why that is, but they do appear to encourage this. Unfortunately, that means multiple email addresses too. Hope you can keep track of them!
    — Yup, the phone’s old and underperforms by today’s standards. If you’re not willing to deal with that or upgrade to a better one soon, wait until better ones are allowed on the BYOD.
    — I had to tweak it a bit to keep the phone connected to FreedomPop. Keepalives weren’t fast enough to avoid losing connection.
    — Regular SMS is okay, but not to short numbers. Sending pics haven’t worked yet.
    — It didn’t intercept the phone’s usual phone dialer and that tries to connect as a Sprint phone, so I have to use their app to make calls. Inconvenient, but I can live with it.
    — My calls have been very good considering it’s a VOIP call over a high-latency network. It’s not Ma Bell, for sure, but she was mighty expensive and attached to a wall.
    — The 3G coverage is great where I am and the 4G coverage is spotty. Go rural, however, and the 3G coverage can leave you back in the 80’s. They don’t offer roaming outside the Sprint network and that has an awful lot of gaps that they use roaming to fill.
    — Get Google Voice for voicemail and Talkatone to place/receive calls and SMS via wifi. It’ll likely save you some precious phone minutes and text messages. And yes, you can use it to get voicemail even if you’re not paying FreedomPop for it.
    — Stay on wifi as much as you can, 500MB isn’t much for one month.
    — If you know of others using FreedomPop, connect to them. It’ll get you another 500MB (I’ve seen it could be higher, but I haven’t gotten that high. I’ve read about lists of FreedomPop members to connect with. Perhaps that would help
    — Consider getting a second account to connect with. Then you can connect to that for the free data, and also share data from the second account to the first.
    — If you want to avoid overages, disable the automatic top-up feature and use a virtual credit card (which you subsequently expire/cancel). This may mean you lose service mid-month, though.
    — Consider getting a second phone and use Google Voice to switch over to it in the event you run out of minutes/data. Yeah, it’s a bit of a hassle for you (but not your friends/family), but it effectively doubles your allowable usage at no additional cost (other than the hardware).
    — If you’re going BYOD and don’t already have a Sprint phone to use, verify with them before you buy one. The list in the articles I’ve read is NOT accurate.
    — If you just can’t stand their plans and can’t/won’t use my workarounds, look into Republic Wireless. They have plans with fewer limits, but then you’re paying significantly more for the service (though likely less than the four main carriers).

    My verdict is: it’s a tolerable service right now. You have to ask yourself if you’re willing to take a risk on their plan to see if it works for you. With a $40 BYOD phone and free service, it’s pretty low risk. For me, it has the potential of saving $134 a month. That’s a right nice vacation over the course of a typical contract. The difference in quality/service isn’t enough to entice me back to my old plan. Perhaps it will be in a few months as I use it more?

    Oh, and if you end up liking the service, consider getting SOME sort of add-on so you can pay them something for the service you’re getting. It takes money to stay in business, and all of their users have an interest in keeping them afloat. Yes, I pay some for their 3G/4G hotspot service. I wish I knew their break-even point on my accounts.

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