Are They Really Free?
This is the million dollar question that everyone wants to know, unfortunately the answer is not as straight forward as it should be. The answer is actually yes and no, and it is the same answer for both providers.
Difference Between What Free Means At FreedomPop and At Ringplus
Both providers do offer free monthly cell phone plans where a monthly cost does not need to be paid. The reason why each providers free plans cannot be called completely free is that each plan comes with potentially hidden startup costs that I will uncover for you in this article.
FreedomPop offers two free cell phone plans which include monthly allotments of 200 minutes, 500 texts and 500 MB (or 200 MB if choosing Global basic plan) of data. After you pay the initial startup and signup costs for either plan they do become free each month with a few caveats.
Startup costs with FreedomPop include a fee of $20 if you want to bring your own Sprint device as well as a $9.99 port in charge if you are keeping your phone number. If you purchase a phone directly from FreedomPop or a 3 in 1 Global SIM card the activation fee gets waived. The activation fee is replaced by a $9.99 SIM card purchase charge and a $9.99 shipping charge if you choose the Global SIM Card free plan. FreedomPop does run on the Sprint network with 4G LTE access and with 3G HSPA+ access on AT&T or T-Mobile’s network if you’re on the Global basic plan.
So, once those startup costs of up to $30 are out of the way, FreedomPop costs you $0/month.
It’s Free, So What’s The Catch? Is FreedomPop’s Service Compromised?
Although the plan is free, there are a few catches with it. The first is that all calls are routed over VoIP which means that they have to go through a data network, either through a cellular data network or through Wi-Fi. Calls do not however count against your data. If you want the option to route the call over a traditional cellular network (premium voice calling) you’ll have to pay $3.99/month. Voicemail is also lacking and priced at $2.49/month if you want visual voicemail. MMS and group messaging is also unavailable unless you pay a premium of $1.99/month. Tethering is an additional $3.99/month. FreedomPop does offer a package deal priced at $7.99 for visual voicemail, MMS and group messaging and for Rollover data with the option to rollover up to 20 GB of data. This package deal is for the 3 in 1 Global plan. If you are with FreedomPop through the Sprint network the premium package will still cost you $7.99/month to get the same features you get with the 3 in 1 Global plan in addition to premium voice calling, and tethering. So as you can see, although the plans are free, they do try and up sell you on as many services as they can.
RingPlus generally offers several cell phone plans that are free or at least charged at a rate of $0/month. The company currently has one free “staple” plan but frequently offers limited time “free” promotional cell phone plans that differ from their staple plan.
RingPlus’s current free staple plan is called the Mad Fiesta Free plan. The plan somewhat resembles FreedomPop’s free basic plan and it includes 500 minutes, 500 text messages and 500 MB of 4G LTE data.
Startup costs with the plan include a “top up fee” of $19.99 plus tax. The top up fee is required to pay for any overages that you man incur while you use the plan. Overages are priced at 5¢ per unit of talk, text/MMS and MB of data. After the initial top up fee is paid, you never have to pay another cent for your plan unless you spend all of your initial $19.99 top up fee on overages. If you do you’ll automatically be billed another top up of $19.99.
RingPlus also charges a one time port in fee of $10.00 + tax if you plan on keeping your current cell phone number when you switch to the provider.
It’s Free, So What’s The Catch? Is RingPlus’s Service Compromised?
Just like FreedomPop the plan does have a catch, although unlike with FreedomPop RingPlus does offer a full service free plan, meaning MMS and voicemail aren’t going to cost you extra. The compromise with RingPlus’s free promotional plans is that they are going to require the use of a VoIP dialing app just like FreedomPop’s plans do. The use of a special dialer app will allow RingPlus to serve you ads between phone calls which can then used to subsidize the costs of offering free cell phone plans. Ads or music can then be heard while placing a call instead of hearing a traditional ringtone.
Since the calls are routed through RingPlus servers, some subscribers to RingPlus complain of call lag. This means that both the subscriber and person on the other line at times may experience a delay in hearing what the other person is saying. Sometimes this results in one person talking over the other. This issue is not a problem for everyone or at least it goes unnoticed by many. In my region, I’ve had 4 extended family members on a RingPlus plan for a period of at least 6 months and only one of them has had serious issues with call lag.
Although RingPlus’s free plans do include voicemail, voicemail access is not the same as one would get with a traditional phone plan. Your phones native pre-installed voicemail app will not work with RingPlus. Voicemail notifications will come to you either via a text message or email depending on how you configured your account. Listening to voicemail will require you to either dial 1 on your phone or for you to log into your online RingPlus account where you can listen to your voicemail online.
So Which Is Better, RingPlus Or FreedomPop
Well, I have laid out a comparison of the pluses and minuses of each providers free cell phone plans. Which service is better may depend on what your individual needs are. RingPlus does seem to offer you a little bit more in a free basic plan than what FreedomPop does, however RingPlus is an exclusive Sprint MVNO while FreedomPop does offer service on Sprint it also has access to AT&T’s much bigger network as well as access to global networks. FreedomPop’s Global basic plan with a SIM card includes access to global networks in dozens of countries which is a huge differentiating factor between RingPlus and FreedomPop.