FreedomPop is a newcomer to the US mobile service market, and they’ve previously been focused on providing service through Sprint’s network with Sprint compatible devices. That all changed in early 2016 when they began offering GSM-based service, both through devices they sell but more importantly by offering their FreedomPop Global GSM 3-in-1 SIM. So now, anyone with a GSM smartphone can take advantage of FreedomPop’s unique service offerings.
Why are they unique?
What makes FreedomPop unique is that they offer a tier of service that is totally free, using a combination of AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s towers (quite rare). Typically this monthly plan includes:
- 200 minutes of of talk time through their dedicated VOIP app (an important point to be covered later)
- 500 texts through the same dedicated app
- 200 MB of 3G data (HSPA, users reporting 3.5 – 5.0 Mbps download, 1.0 – 2.5 Mbps upload)
- An additional 500 MB of data by connecting with other FreedomPop users (for a total of 700 MB per month)
- 100 free minutes of calling to select countries
- Data can be used in most of Europe at no extra charge. (Minutes and texts, too.)
This last point is what makes this offer especially appealing to anyone traveling to Europe. In addition to the United States, the FreedomPop service works in these countries in Europe:
- Austria (on the Three Austria network)
- Belgium (on the KPN Orange network)
- Czech Republic
- France (on the Bouygues network)
- Germany (on the E-Plus network)
- Greece (on the WIND network)
- Italy (on the Three Italy network)
- Netherlands (on the KPN network)
- Sweden (on the Three Sweden network)
- United Kingdom (on the Three UK network)
Other countries beyond the US and Europe are listed as “coming soon.” For the most up-to-date list you should check here, and if you do notice some countries not mentioned, leave a comment below so we can update this list. Note that at the time of this writing, there is no planned support for Canada.
Totally Free? What’s the catch?
Well, there are a few — and that’s the reason for this guide. It’s important to note that if you want to use this service, and keep it totally free, you will have to jump through some hoops and be aware of the rules to avoid any surprise charges.
The included minutes and texts are through VOIP
This is an absolutely key point, and may be a deal breaker for some: the included minutes and texts are provided through a dedicated FreedomPop app, available only for Android and Apple iOS, which is essentially a VOIP (Voice Over IP) app. Think of it a virtual phone which runs as an app on your device, similar to an app like Skype: it allows you to make calls (including to actual phone numbers) and send text messages to people in your contact list, but it requires an internet connection to work. It can also receive any calls and texts made to your FreedomPop phone number. The crucial difference here is that most people are used to a phone that receives calls and texts over a cellular connection, which works even when the phone isn’t connected to the internet. For FreedomPop’s phone service to work, you need to either be connected on Wi-Fi or have your phone’s mobile data turned on all the time. For most smartphone users this probably isn’t anything new, as they probably leave mobile data turned on all the time (otherwise they wouldn’t get instant updates about new email, Facebook messages, etc.). If, however, you’re someone who is frugal with data and turns it on only as needed, this can be a big shift, and you can expect that your battery will run down faster than it used to.
To summarize this in another way, the FreedomPop Global SIM is basically a “data only” SIM, with an option to run a virtual phone app that will allow you to make and receive calls and send texts as long as you’re connected to the internet.
Does using the app to make calls on mobile data deduct from my data pool?
No. While your phone will show that making a call has used a few megabytes of data, FreedomPop will not deduct this from your monthly data pool as long as the call is made with FreedomPop app.
Will my phone behave the same way for calls and texts?
No. Everything goes through the app. A good example of this is, if you’re using Android, when a call comes in you don’t see the “swipe to answer” screen. Instead, you have to unlock your phone, then you’ll see the FreedomPop app, with the option to answer the call. This may be a deal breaker for you.
Does the app work well for calling?
While the sound quality is fine, the biggest issue is that people have reported missing incoming calls when out and about, connected via mobile data (when connected on Wi-Fi it doesn’t seem to be a problem). Given this, it’s hard to recommend using this service as a “daily driver” assuming you like your phone to ring when people call you. If you mostly communicate by text, and you’re fine with missing calls and calling the person back, this may not matter to you.
Is the app available for Windows Phone or any other platform?
No. It’s only available for Android 4.0+ and Apple iOS at this point. There are, however, ways around this. The data works fine in a Windows phone, and given the issues mentioned above, that may be all you care about. You can then use a different VOIP service that gives you a phone number (or use Skype and pay for a phone number). Obviously in this case, because you’re not using the FreedomPop app, the data used will come out of your data pool.
I’m still interested. What do I do?
When you order a FreedomPop Global SIM card, it will typically come with a free trial of one of their paid monthly plans. If you want to avoid any monthly fees and only use this as a free service, it’s recommended that you follow these instructions exactly, and even then, read before you click, as they could very well change things. If you decide to deviate from this advice, don’t be surprised if you end up with an unexpected charge.
- Pay for the SIM card with a virtual credit card or with a prepaid debit card. If you happen to have a Citi or Bank of America, they offer a benefit which allows you to create a temporary “virtual” credit card. Alternatively, consider a service such as EntroPay, which allows you to load money onto a virtual credit card for a small fee. You can try using a prepaid debit card if you have one, but note that some people have had issues trying to pay with these. Assuming you go the virtual credit card route, create one with a low set limit (i.e. $15 if the SIM is $9.99) which will ensure that any additional unexpected charge attempts simply won’t go through.
- After the SIM card has shipped, downgrade immediately if you want the free service. FreedomPop doesn’t make this process very straightforward, so you may have to hunt for links in very small text to make this happen. Typically there are a few things you have to change to ensure you’ll be free from recurring monthly charges.
- Downgrade your phone plan. Log in to your account using the password you should have received in an email from FreedomPop. Go to My Account, Plans. You should see your free trial plan. Click “Details and Plan Management”. Look for a small link (usually below and to the right) to downgrade, and continue through the confirmation screens. You’ll probably be warned about what you’ll be missing, maybe offered something else to reconsider. Continue with the downgrade.
- Remove the Premium Plus service. Go to My Account, Services. You’ll see that you’re probably signed up for the FreedomPop Premium Plus service. Remove this. Again, you may be warned that you’re losing something special, then probably offered an alternative free trial. Continue until the service is removed.
- By default, a service called Automatic Top-Up is enabled. This final step is a matter of personal preference, but it’s a tricky issue and you need to be aware of how FreedomPop works with it, and without it. The common approach is to disable it, but you may want to actually leave it enabled. Here’s how each option plays out:
- Leave it enabled: When left enabled, the Automatic Top-Up function will kick in when you’re 100 MB away from reaching your monthly data limit, and you’ll be charged $15 which will be a credit added to your account. So, if your monthly data pool is 700 MB, once you hit 600 MB the Automatic Top-Up will trigger and you’ll be charged the $15 for credit. Then, if you go over your data limit (i.e. 701 MB), data will be charged at a rate of $.03/MB (rate at the time of writing) subtracted from that $15 credit. If you are using only minimal data, or you’re good about keeping track of data usage, you can leave this enabled and just make sure you never hit that 100 MB shy-of-the-limit mark (better make it 150 MB to be safe). Note that if you do hit that mark and the $15 charge doesn’t go through (perhaps because your credit card on file is a virtual credit card with a $5 limit) your account will be suspended until the next month (which you may be absolutely fine with). If you do get charged that $15, that credit expires after 30 days (some say 90 days). However, you can reactivate the expired credit by going Billing, Overview, click the Credit Balance tab, and Click here to Reactivate.
- Disable it: Given the above, you might think that disabling it has to be the better option. Well, keep reading. If you want to disable Automatic Top-Up, go to Billing, then Billing Settings. Under Automatic Top-Up, click Edit. You’ll have to pay $5 immediately, and this $5 will show up as a credit on your account balance. With this credit in place, you can use the full amount of your free monthly data (i.e. 700 MB), and if you go over, data will be charged at a rate of $.03/MB (rate at the time of writing) subtracted from that $5 credit. If you use up all $5 in credit, your service will be suspended until you add more credit, or until your next month of service begins. If you don’t add more credit and your credit balance remains $0, then the following month and from then on, if you come within 100MB of your data limit (i.e. you use 600 MB of your 700 MB limit), your service will be suspended until the following month, because you don’t have any credit to cover those overage charges. Note that, just as in the above scenario, that credit expires after 30 days (some say 90 days). And same as above, you can reactivate the expired credit by going Billing, Overview, click the Credit Balance tab, and Click here to Reactivate. (To me this seems like it would be a pain to do, however often.)
What else do I need to know?
Sometimes they offer this SIM without the free minutes and texts. If you only care about the data, this doesn’t matter, but if you want the included free minutes and texts, make sure the SIM you’re buying mentions them.
Your plan becomes active as soon as your phone ships. Yes, even though you can’t use it until the SIM arrives. Use this time to downgrade or make other changes to your plan.
If you make use of a “free trial” and then cancel it, you may be charged retroactively. Yes, this seems counter-intuitive to what people generally expect of a free trial, and I wouldn’t be surprised if FreedomPop gets investigated by certain government regulators for this interpretation of the phrase, but as it is, this is how FreedomPop works. Know the rules and take precautions.
You need to set the network APN to get internet access working. Follow the instructions that come with the SIM card. If you know how to set an APN manually, it is freedompop.foggmobile.com.
Enable roaming in your device settings. This may not be necessary, but it may prevent problems, especially if you use the service overseas. There are no roaming charges, so don’t worry about that.
The service goes through a server based in the United Kingdom. This can have some strange effects. One problem is that it means the data connection has a relatively high latency when using it in the US, as everything has to be piped across the Atlantic. Another problem is that it can make your phone think it’s actually in the UK, resulting in the UK version of Google coming up, and so forth. If you use Google Hangouts, this can cause problems making calls to US numbers. You can avoid this by making sure all numbers in your contact list are prefixed by the plus sign (+) and the relevant country code (which for the US is actually the number ‘1’). For example, a friend with a New York number should be +1-212-555-5555. (If you can’t figure out how to make the plus sign, try long-pressing the zero button.) While it may be a pain to change a bunch of numbers, you can find apps which you can use to bulk edit your phone contacts to make this easier. Ultimately, as international travelers know, it’s better to store your phone numbers with + and the country code, as it saves you from having to manually edit a phone number when you move from one country to another.
Get 500 MB extra per month, free. By adding “Freedom Friends” — other FreedomPop users — you get 50 MB per person you connect with. So if you connect with 10 friends, you get the maximum of 500 MB free extra data. Note that if you don’t know 10 other people using FreedomPop, you can find other Freedom Friends online at certain forums, such as in this thread on Slickdeals. Note that you probably don’t want to use the “Invite your email contacts” function in your FreedomPop friends page, as this requires giving FreedomPop your email password (to scan all your email contacts) and sends all of them an email (basically spamming them). If you look below that, there should be an option for “Invite by email address” where you can enter in one or more individual email addresses of the people you know who are using FreedomPop. Once they accept your request, you’ll both get 50 MB extra data per month (up to a limit of 500 MB extra).
Share data with Freedom Friends. Another perk of Freedom Friends is that you can share data with one another. You can give a friend 20, 50 or 100 MB of your data for that month if you don’t think you’ll need it.
Earn additional free data by completing offers. These will give you a data boost for your current month only.
Free international calls to certain countries. At the time of writing, there’s a free international calling plan called Global Free 100. Go to My Account, International and you should be able to add it there if it’s an option for you. The plan gives you 100 minutes of calling to a variety of countries. For some of these countries, the free calling applies to both landlines and mobile phones, whereas for others the free calling applies to landlines only. Make a note of the list, as once you sign up, it’s seemingly impossible to find again (a couple screenshots here). Note that your international minutes are completely separate from your domestic minutes: i.e. a call made to Germany will only deduct minutes from your international minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What size is the SIM card? As the name implies, it is a 3-in-1 SIM card. It’s a standard “old” style SIM card but you can break away the outer plastic to make it a micro-SIM (smaller) or nano-SIM (smallest). Keep the outer plastic, as you can it as an adapter to put the SIM into a device that uses a larger SIM card.
Will the SIM work with my device? You need an unlocked phone or tablet which is compatible with AT&T or T-Mobile. Some newer smartphones from Verizon and Sprint have SIM card slots, and, if unlocked, may also work with a SIM card for AT&T or T-Mobile. This includes the Verizon Moto E and the newer iPhones. If your phone doesn’t have a SIM card slot, there’s no way you can use this SIM.
How to log in to my account? After you order you should receive an email containing your account info and your password. Some people never get the email, in which case you’ll have to contact FreedomPop support.
I’m can’t sign into the app but I know my email and password are correct. If your email address on your account contains a special character, like a plus (+) sign, this may be the problem. Change your account email to one with no special characters and try again.
I’m being asked to enter a code after I insert the SIM. What’s the code? This probably means that your device is not unlocked, and you’re being asked for a subsidy unlock code. Generally you can only get this from your provider (i.e. AT&T) or through a pain unlocking service.
I put the SIM in and can access the internet, but I can’t make calls. Calls and texts must be made through the FreedomPop app mentioned above. This isn’t a regular SIM; it’s a data SIM with a VOIP service over the top.
How is data rounded? Data is rounded to the nearest 100 KB (0.1 MB). So if you turn on data and only use 10 KB, they’ll deduct 100 KB from your data pool. Unfortunately, if you log in to your account to view your data usage, they only show data usage rounded to the nearest MB, so it’s hard to see how much data you actually used (and it wouldn’t surprise me if this is on purpose).
Are MMS included? Not in the totally free plans.
Is there any inactivity fee if I don’t use the SIM for a few months? No. (There used to be.)
Can I have more than one SIM? Yes, but it’s best to have one SIM per account/email address.
I’m trying to buy a SIM but I keep getting the FreedomPop UK website. You must have clicked a link to their UK site at some point. Once you do, it constantly redirects back there. Clear all cookies with the name FreedomPop in them or use another browser.
How do I get the internet to work over mobile data? Try reading the instructions that came with the SIM about setting the APN. If you’ve done that and you’re still having problems, try installing the FreedomPop Messaging app. Some people have reported that this fixes your APN settings for you.
I’m trying to use the service in a supported country, but getting no signal. Try doing a manual network search and selecting the various options.
Will this work at all in countries not on the list of supported countries? No.
Since the service is based in the UK, can people in the UK call me as if it’s a local call? No. Your FreedomPop number is a US phone number. For what it’s worth, there is also a FreedomPop UK SIM, which you could try to get through a friend or relative there if this is important to you. I’d suggest there are probably better, easier ways to keep in touch though.
Does this use LTE? No. 3G (HSPA) and 2G (EDGE) only.
Will this work in a tablet or hotspot? Yes, if it’s compatible with AT&T or T-Mobile’s network in the US.
Will this work in an old ‘flip’ phone? No, not for making calls or texts. Technically it would still work for data, and most old phones do often basic internet functions, if that suits you (it probably doesn’t).
How much data does Skype / Google Hangouts / Whatsapp / Facebook Messenger use? Here’s a comparison.
If I call FreedomPop customer service with the app, will it deduct from my minutes? Apparently, yes, those minutes will be deducted from your plan minutes. This is true whether you’re connected over mobile data or Wi-Fi. So, if you have to call customer service, do it from a landline or another service.
If you have a question that isn’t answered here, leave a reply below!