FreedomPop is offering GSM-based service that provides data in both the US and Europe – for free.
A relative newcomer to the US prepaid phone market, and formerly known as a reseller of Sprint’s devices and services, FreedomPop has ventured into the GSM world by offering their 3-in-1 Global SIM, allowing you to get service with any unlocked GSM device just by inserting their SIM card. While they offer paid monthly plans like every other service provider, a couple things make their offerings different from the competition. The first is that they offer a tier of service that is totally free, using a combination of AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s networks, which in itself is quite rare for a prepaid service provider in the US.
UPDATE: FreedomPop now offers a SIM that works on AT&T’s LTE network. This is a slightly different product. The main differences are that the LTE SIM won’t work outside the US, doesn’t allow you to use T-Mobile’s network (AT&T only) and it has higher speeds and lower latency due to using LTE and a US-based APN. In terms of billing and services, the rest of what you see here for the Global SIM also applies to the LTE SIM. Get it here: 100% Free Talk, Text, & 4G LTE Data w/ the NEW 3-in-1 SIM Kit from FreedomPop
The standard free 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+, U.S. 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 international calls to select countries
The second feature that sets them apart is that the service, including minutes, texts and data, can be used in most of Europe at no extra charge, which makes it especially appealing to anyone who might be traveling to Europe. Here’s a list of the supported countries, and relevant notes I’ve gathered on each country based on user reports.
- Austria (on the Three Austria network)
- Belgium (on the KPN Orange network)
- Czech Republic
- Denmark (reports of no service during 2016, despite it being on the list)
- France (on the Bouygues network)
- Germany (on the E-Plus network)
- Greece (on the WIND network)
- Hungary (reports of no service during 2016, despite it being on the list)
- Italy (on the Three Italy network)
- Netherlands (on the KPN network)
- Poland (on the Play network)
- Romania (reports of no service during 2016, despite it being on the list)
- Sweden (on the Three Sweden network)
- United Kingdom (on the Three UK network)
There are other countries beyond the US and Europe which 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 above, leave a comment below so I can update this list. Note that at the time of writing, there is no planned support for Canada.
Totally Free? What’s the catch?
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 initial hoops and be aware of the rules to avoid any surprise charges.
If you are someone who doesn’t have the patience to read instructions, know the rules of the game and take appropriate steps, I’d suggest that this isn’t for you. If you can read instructions, here’s what you need to know.
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 (also available through Amazon if it’s out of stock at FreedomPop), 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. $12 if the SIM is $9.99) which will ensure that any additional unexpected charge attempts simply won’t go through. Alternatively, you may have an option to simply cancel the virtual number after the initial charge, though this may not be necessary, as those numbers should be one-time-use only (but it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious).
- 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 very small text links 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 20 MB away from reaching your monthly data limit, and you’ll be charged $15, which will be added as credit on your account. So, if your monthly data pool is 700 MB, once you hit 680 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 20 MB shy-of-the-limit mark (better make it 50 or 100 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 you provide a new, valid form of payment (a new card), after which you will be charged the $15 auto top-up fee. 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. Keeping that credit active will allow you to use your full data allotment and then some, charged at $.03/MB (rate at time of writing) until you have less than $2 credit, after which auto top-up will kick in again. If you want to be sure you’re never charged that $15 auto top-up, it’s best to set a hard data limit on your device to make sure you never come close to your limit.
- 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 20MB of your data limit (i.e. you use 680 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.)
- Make sure you’re not signed up for any other paid services. There has been a report of a new account having a paid international calling plan already activated. This may have just been a fluke, or user error, but it doesn’t hurt to check your account settings and make sure you’re not signed up for something you don’t want.
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 SIM card 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” cancel it 1 or 2 days before the trial ends. I would actually suggest not using the free trial at all to play it safe, but if you insist on using it, apparently the best time to cancel it is within 2 days of the end of your billing cycle. You may experience a suspension of service until your new month begins (a reason to simply skip the trial in the first place and stick with the free plan).
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. This feature alone may be of great appeal if you have friends or family overseas. 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 only to landlines, whereas others it’s to both landlines and mobile phones – which is kind of a big deal, as calls to mobiles overseas are typically not cheap. When you sign up, make a note of the list, as it’s seemingly impossible to find again after sign-up (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. A phone from one of these carriers that is still locked will not work. Some newer smartphones from Verizon and Sprint have SIM card slots and GSM radios for roaming overseas (you’ll have to look up your phone’s specs). If unlocked, these devices should work with the FreedomPop SIM card. This applies to 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.
To make calls and texts with the FreedomPop Messaging app, you need an Android or iOS device. Other devices can use the SIM as if it were a data SIM, including Windows Phone devices and Wi-Fi hotspots. Additionally, it is possible to make and receive calls on other devices by configuring a 3rd party VOIP client with FreedomPop’s SIP settings. For more information on that, see this thread.
How do I 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 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 phone 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, as 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 exactly how much data you’ve used.
Are MMS included? Not in the totally free plans. You can add the MMS and Group Messaging service for $1.99/month.
Is there any inactivity or non-usage 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. If when buying a SIM card you’re offered an extra SIM for $.01 as a promotion, note that you may be charged $5 to activate the 2nd SIM.
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, though you will still be able to make calls and send texts over Wi-Fi.
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. Note that if you need LTE service in the U.S., FreedomPop now offers a Free 4G LTE 3-in-1 SIM that works on AT&T’s LTE network. See this update at this top of this article for a brief comparison.
Can I easily swap this SIM into another device? Yes. Your service is tied to the SIM card.
Will this work in a tablet or hotspot? Yes, if it has a GSM radio (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 have basic internet functions, if that suits you (it probably doesn’t).
How much data does Skype / Google Hangouts / Whatsapp / Facebook Messenger use for voice calls? Here’s a comparison.
I read something about an Unlimited WhatsApp plan? On the Global SIM, FreedomPop started offering a free plan that gave you unlimited WhatsApp use in addition to your data allowance. Existing users can switch, though their minutes and texts will be reduced to 100 each if on the free plan. More information here.
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!