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CellNUVO is a prepaid wireless provider offering service on the Sprint network. The company had been beta testing service for the past two years but officially went live to the public last week. CellNUVO currently offers two phone plans, one that is completely free and one with an initial charge of $19.
The Infinite Plan
The free plan, dubbed "The Infinite Plan" is essentially a pay as you go plan, except that it is free. The plan starts you off with 2500 credits which get used for talk, text, and data. Sending/receiving SMS texts will cost you 1 credit of service, while using voice or 1 MB of data will cost you 10 credits. MMS picture messages get charged on a per MB basis, so if your picture message consumes 1 MB of data to send or receive, you will be charged 10 credits. The Infinite Plan is named so, because customers have the ability to earn more credits for infinite amounts of free talk, text and data.
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Credits for free talk, text and data can be earned in a variety of ways including through interactions with select advertisers, and just by using the service itself. CellNUVO lists 4 different ways that its customers can earn free credits and they are as follows:
- Receiving 1 thank you message from CellNUVO (happens at least once daily) will earn you an additional 50 credits
- 1 usage reward for just using the network is worth 15 credits
- Filling out a short survey will earn you 75 credits
- Interacting with a top up ad will earn you 15 credits
Those of you familiar with FreedomPop know that they also have a similar system in place for earning more free talk, text and data than what their free plan initially comes with. The difference between the two companies though is that FreedomPop's service is based on VoIP and a special app must be used to place calls and send and receive SMS, whereas CellNUVO is a traditional prepaid wireless provider. Unlike FreedomPop's plan which gives you a fresh allotment of free talk, text and data each month, CellNUVO's free plan does not. You need to earn more free credits to continue using the service, or you can pay $10 to get an additional 2500 credits. Fortunately, you can preserve your credits and use your phone for free when you are connected to WiFi.
Flex Monthly Plan
CellNUVO also offers a plan initially priced at $19 and it is called the "Flex Monthly Plan." The Flex Monthly Plan includes 5000 credits and it differs from the Infinite Plan in that the included credits can get renewed every month. Like with the Infinite plan, if you ever find yourself running low on credits you can always earn more and in the same ways that you can with the Infinite Plan. If you don't want to fill out surveys etc, you can also pay $10 for an additional 2500 credits. The Flex Monthly plan does not necessarily require you to pay $19/month for service. You only get charged $19 if your credits are less than 5000 at the end of the month. With both plans your credits do rollover month after month.
CellNUVO does allow you to bring your own Sprint device (BYOSD), and if you don't have a phone already to port over, they do offer a selection of their own that you can purchase. The phones themselves tend to be a little more expensive than what you may find elsewhere, for instance a 16 GB Samsung Galaxy S5 will run you $575 if purchased through the CellNUVO store. The phone does at least come with 1000 credits that are good for 12 months, although that doesn't really offset the cost of the phone given how cheap the company cells credits for to begin with.
The Fine Print
Both of CellNUVO's plans have additional taxes and fees that you will get charged each month, including for the Universal Service Fund (USF) which is something that all carriers are required to pay although all carriers don't necessarily list the charge on your bill. Local and state taxes are also added to your bill. Certain phones may require a 4G LTE sim card, and CellNUVO charges $4.95 for the card. The fee gets waived if you purchase a phone directly from them. A $25 activation fee is also charged.
Downloading the CellNUVO app is required to activate your phone and to keep the service active. The app notifies you how many credits you have, how many you have used, and how many you will need to keep your service free of further charges. You can use the app to earn more credits as well. The app is currently available on Android and in the next few weeks it will be released on iOS as well. The app is not used to place phone calls or to send or receive texts.
CellNUVO service includes domestic roaming, hotspot/tethering and international SMS to and from 180 countries. Domestic roaming charges for voice and data are not yet specified but a representative tells me that it may cost customers more credits when roaming than a regular on network call does or data usage does. Roaming SMS and international sms should cost about the same. Tethering is deducted from your plan credits just like regular data, 1 MB of tethered data costs 10 credits.
In November, CellNUVO expects to launch service on an unnamed GSM network, although the GSM partner is most likely T-Mobile.