FreedomPop aims to slash voice and data bills with Wi-Fi first smartphone

FreedomPop says it will launch a new smartphone that prioritises Wi-Fi and runs on the Intel SoFIA processor.

The FreedomPop Privacy Phone. Image: FreedomPop
Budget mobile service FreedomPop is launching a new handset that prioritises Wi-Fi for voice, text, and data, with the aim of helping consumers save on expensive mobile services.

The Los Angeles-based company, which has ambitions to shake up the US mobile market, has announced plans to launch a budget smartphone in 2016 that will use Intel's SoFIA Atom x3 processor -- which looks to cut costs by merging the modem and processor on a single chip.

The plans were unveiled as Intel's investment arm, Intel Capital, announced more than $22m in investments in 10 startups, one of which is FreedomPop.

FreedomPop operates a virtual mobile network that runs on Sprint's network in the US, something akin to Google's Fi service. It also sells refurbished phones and in September launched a beta of its free mobile service in the UK, where it's using Three UK's network under a mobile virtual network aggregator deal with London-based X-Mobility.

In the UK, it offers 20 minutes, 200 texts, and 200MB of data for free and then charges for additional minutes, texts, and data.

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Details about the FreedomPop device are scant, however, according to ZDNet's sister site CNet, the Intel-powered device will cost somewhere between $99 and $199 and is scheduled for launch in 2016.

That price puts the device in a growing class of mid-range smartphones from the likes of OnePlus, Huawei, and Motorola. In the US, it will be available through FreedomPop's unlimited talk, text, and data offer, which costs $5 a month.

Intel hasn't enjoyed the same fortunes in mobile as it did with the rise of desktop computing, and FreedomPop's CEO Stephen Stokols appears confident the tieup with Intel and the Sofia processor will be a positive move for the chipmaker.

"We are going to showcase their technology more than they could on their own, for sure," Stokols told Recode.

The device will be made by an unnamed but well-known manufacturer and is set to launch in multiple markets, he added. The investment from Intel and another strategic backer takes the company's June funding round to $36m.

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