I tried FreedomPop. The phone service worked, but it fell short of the expectations FreedomPop had set. By the end of the first month, I was eager to do business with a different carrier. Here is my experience.
The Unreal Mobile web site advertised $10 per month for unlimited mobile, risk free. Sign me up!
I clicked the “bring your own phone” link at the top, started filling out forms, and got an error message about their system having trouble. The error message suggested calling their sales department.
Talking To Sales
The phone number took me to a computerized phone menu. I selected the option to bring my own phone. After a brief time on hold, a man answered. He seemed not to have gotten the message from the computerized system, and started walking me down the path of buying a phone from them.
I gently stopped him, clarified that I didn’t want to buy a new phone, and asked some questions. He gave useful answers, and I learned some things that were not clear from the web site.
- FreedomPop provides the phone service. “Unreal Mobile” is just a brand they use in marketing.
- The web site says “unlimited mobile”. Actually, data costs extra after the first gigabyte.
- The $10 plan is only if you buy a phone from them. If you bring your own phone, it’s $23 / month.
- I would not be able to start at the $23 level. I would have to start at a $25 tier (so that I get 2GB before I start to pay for more data.)
- The plan required a sim card that would cost me $20. That sim card comes with a free month of service at the $25 tier. If I paid an extra $7, I could speed up shipping to get the card in a couple days.
- Transferring my old phone number to FreedomPop would cost $10.
I had started the call thinking I would get $10 / month service. During the call, I learned I would pay $37 to get that first month of service. I signed up anyway, and accepted the offer of an extra sim card for one cent.
More Unpleasant Surprises
Once that $20 sim card arrived and I got my phone set up for FreedomPop service, there were more learnings:
- FreedomPop phone service only works if you use their phone app. If I dialed a number with my own phone app, it would switch to the FreedomPop phone app.
- Phone calls some times had a stuttering quality, and I got complaints that my voice sounded distorted. I don’t know if the app is to blame, or if it is something inherent to the VOIP service FreedomPop provides.
- FreedomPop text messaging only works if you user their texting app. Having the freedom to pick my apps is one of the reasons I use Android, so this was disappointing.
- Voice mail is free, in that people can leave messages. But you must pay an extra $2.49 a month to listen to the messages. A FreedomPop help document said that I could listen to my voice mail at a certain phone number without paying the extra fee. I called the number, and got a “this number has been disconnected” message.
- Texting is free, but to be in group texts or send / receive images costs an extra $1.99 / month.
I had gone into this expecting $10 / month for unlimited service. Instead I would be paying $29.48 a month for 2GB / month.
Toward the end of my first month, I got a series of emails telling me that my trial was almost over, and that FreedomPop would charge me when it was over. Strangely, I was getting two of each email.
I eventually realized that, even though I only got one order confirmation email when I agreed to do business with FreedomPop, they had quietly activated that extra one cent sim card. They would have charged me a total of more than $50 at the end of the month for the two accounts. But I clicked around on the FreedomPop web site until I found where to cancel the service I had not ordered on that one cent sim.
Later, I contacted support and explained that I did not know there would be a plan activated on that extra sim. Part of their response was:
To ensure that our customers are aware of the plan and cost a device may generate, all charges are disclosed prior to checkout and reiterated in a follow-up email
It’s nice to know that they have a policy of clear communication, but my own experience was not consistent with this policy. In practice, clear communication is not happening.
The Support Experience
It was clear to me by this point that FreedomPop is risky to do business with. They had not outright lied, but they had set expectations and then failed to meet them. I did not feel safe trusting FreedomPop with my credit card.
I picked a different carrier and went back to the FreedomPop web site to get my port out information. FreedomPop has a page for that…but my info was missing. From posts around the internet, it sounds like that page had been broken like this for a long time.
I created a support ticket. A day later I had no response. The ticket form had said that a response may take two days, but given the battering that my trust in FreedomPop had already taken, I started wondering if FreedomPop trying to “run out the clock” on me so that they’d have an excuse to charge me for another month of service.
FreedomPop’s Facebook page support was much faster. I sent a direct message, and had a response in just over an hour. I got my port out information there, and started the porting process.
In the days that followed, I got a response to the support ticket (just a little over 2 days after submitting.) I also sent some more questions to the Facebook page, and got useful (and faster) responses there.
When I ported my number into FreedomPop, it transferred pretty quickly. I don’t recall the exact time, but I think it was a couple hours or less. FreedomPop took several days to port my number out. I’ve read that porting a number out of a VOIP provider like FreedomPop just takes longer than porting it out of a traditional phone provider.
Free Plan Is Not Free
While I was waiting for my number to port out, I thought I’d switch the account to the free plan, just in case the billing date arrived before the transfer was complete. The free plan allows a small amount of phone use per month.
I went to the FreedomPop web site and followed a link to switch to the free plan. The site showed me a notice that I had to pay $20 to do so. My understanding is that this would add $20 of credit to my account in case I used more minutes or data than the free plan allowed. But, since I had no intention to use that credit, I wasn’t interested in paying for the “free” service.
FreedomPop Was Not All Bad
I didn’t hate FreedomPop’s service. It was the string of unmet expectations that soured me on doing business with FreedomPop. Had the web site said “Phone service with 2GB data for $30 a month”, I would still have tried them out, and then been happy. I would probably still be doing business with them.
The support people at FreedomPop deserve respect. They did have useful answers for me. They are contending with customers that were set up for disappointment by the marketing & sales sides of FreedomPop. Support has a tough job there.
The texting app worked fine. It was attractive and functional. I also liked that I could access a lot of account information within the app.
Coverage was decent. I took the phone on a road trip through some pretty remote areas, and had phone service in the places I’d expect.