FreedomPop has announced the first free mobile service plans for the iPhone. Last year the company launched the only free mobile phone service on select Android devices and now it's available on the iPhone. The free plan only includes 200 voice minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of data per month, but it's hard to compete with free if you have modest needs.
Naturally, there are a couple of strings attached to the deal: Free plans are distributed by location and you have to enter your zip code, email, and physical address to see if you qualify. If you do, you can either purchase a refurbished 16GB iPhone 5 for $349 or bring your own Sprint-compatible iPhone 4, 4s, or 5 to one of FreedomPop's BYOD plans.
If you purchase the FreedomPop iPhone 5, you can choose from two plans:
Basic 200 Voice and Text – 200 voice minutes, 500 texts, 500MB of data – free
Unlimited Monthly – unlimited voice, text, 500MB data – $5/month
If you already own a Sprint-compatible iPhone 4, 4s, or 5, the BYOD plans are:
Basic 200 Monthly – free – 200 voice minutes, 500 texts, 500MB of data
Unlimited Monthly – first month free, $11/month – unlimited voice, text, 500MB data
FreedomPop has to create revenue to offset its free plans so brace yourself for a lot of up-sell offers, including rollover minutes ($4/month), usage alerts ($2/month), Premium 1GB ($10/month) and automatic top-up. Additional voice minutes and texts cost $0.01 each and additional data costs $0.025 per MB.
The most interesting new product is the FreedomPop Free Voice and Text app for iOS (free, App Store), which provides free voice, text, and voicemail service. Unfortunately, the app only works in the US currently, porting is "coming soon," and incoming text messages "might take up to 30 minutes to arrive."
Check out FreedomPop products and coverage map if you're looking for a free plan for a second smartphone, but read the fine print and make sure that you know what you're signing up for. I still think that T-Mobile's secret $30-per-month voice and data plan is the most cost-effective mobile voice and data service, but it isn't available for the iPhone.