Actual Free Phone Plans (non-wifi):
FreedomPop is what inspired this post. BikeGuy and GoMike deserve a hat-tip for sharing this with me. And I wrote this entire thing to post last week, and then decided to see if FreedomPop has an affiliate program. They do, and now I’m posting with the hopes of making tens of dollars… or at least ten. Point is; affiliate links are after the fact, just so you know I actually love FreedomPop that much.
Link: FreedomPop Phone. FreedomPop is a free sprint phone plan. I kid you not.
Per month, you get:
- 200 minutes
- 500 texts
- 500 mb of data
For free. If you want to go over that, or if you happen to go over that, you pay for extra data. You can get a plan for more data, or pay per minute/text/MB of data that you go over.
Buying the phone: The one cost is the phone. BikeGuy was kind enough to give us one that he bought that he couldn’t use because where he lived just didn’t get sprint. So you may be able to find someone else on ebay who’s selling it for cheap. Or just buy the smart phone from FreedomPop for $79. It’s an HTC Droid.
Wifi (while traveling). The phone internationally will still make calls and texts on wifi with the same number. I tested this out and called my mom from Panama today and it was just like using the phone any other time.
This month I’ve browsed the web, talked on the phone and sent texts and haven’t come close to our limit.
Free/Cheap Phone Plans
Our current phone strategy is a rather untraditional phone set up, but it works pretty well for what we need. We are all wifi. We don’t really have a phone plane. We have options for wifi.
Most everywhere has wifi. Hotels, airports, restaurants, most stores, the walking mall in Cville, the busses and parks in Hong Kong, etc… You’re close to wifi at any given point in time.
More and more places have wifi and signals on phones and routers are getting better.
My friend swears google voice is a free, and therefore better option, but we’re locked into skype and fairly happy with it.
We pay a few dollars a month for a phone number and for a few hundred minutes of calling US numbers. The best part is that we can make calls from anywhere in the world. A traditional phone plan allows you to only make calls in the US. Seeing as we’ve spent maybe 2 months in the last year in the US… that would be kind of a waste.
- Skype is good at getting online and a few times at airports that only sell wifi, skype can sometimes charge your account to get online.
- Signals are good and communication is good even on shotty wifi… most of the time.
- Voice mail
- Being able to login and call from multiple devices. I can call from my phone or laptop.
- No Text SMS at all on your phone number.
- It’s not cloud based. Minor detail but contacts and history will be on your phone/computer and not in the cloud.
Text Apps are buggy and the free ones are ad supported, but they meet the needs. And while traveling, as long as we have wifi, Carrie is texting her family constantly.
Programs we’ve tried are “Textme,” “Text plus” and “TextNow.” Text plus sends more ad-texts than the other ones, but otherwise they’re all equally mediocre. Often people will recommend text apps they’ve heard of but the main idea is to find an app that messages a phone, not just a messaging app that messages other people with that app because people often confuse the two.
We can never get people to label our numbers though so people are constantly trying to call our text number. Luckily “Textme” (or probably most of them) notify you when someone has tried to call you, even if you aren’t able to pick up and answer (for free).
My friend Adam swears that I should cut out skype and switch to Google Voice because it’s free. I haven’t switched for two reasons. 1) I paid for a year of skype calls (super cheap). And 2) I can’t set it up. It asked for my real phone number to call through… and I don’t really have one of those.
If you figured out Google Voice as an alternative to a normal phone, comment and I’ll update this. Lol.
I do know that google allows calls and texts and it’s free. Free is great.
Getting Used Smart Phones
I promise you there are at least 30 people in your life who have smart phones sitting in a closet at home. Most people don’t want to get rid of these because… Well, it would be a complete waste to pay $200 for a phone and stop using it even though it’s nearly completely fine. Therefore, it should sit unused.
Ebay, amazon, pawn shops, thiftstores (?), or friends who realize the irony of keeping something they won’t use so it’s not a waste… There are plenty of phones that are perfectly fine, or perhaps the ways in which they’re broken won’t affect a wifi-only user.
Cheap/Free Internet Plan
Again, FreedomPop is awesome and they have free internet devices. One is a hot spot and the other is a USB drive.
It gives 500MB of data a month free. Again, you can pay for a plan or just pay per mb when you go over.
They sell them for $20 and sometimes give them away for free. I got ours from FreedomPop free because they were giving away old models (I think). Better someone use them and get roped into their plan than to let it sit… I guess?
Think about though…
Pay the one time $29.99 to buy the hotspot. Then pay $0 a month from here on out. Okay. Compare that to Boingo. Boingo is $9.99 a month or for like once use, and they have stingy fees, and their service sucks depending where you are in an airport. Since we’ll have the Southwest Companion Pass, this makes way more sense. Besides the fact I can use it outside of the airport, it’s better than a Boingo plan for domestic airports.
Update: On our road trip to the Grand Canyon (with Carrie’s family) I spent the entire time in the back of the van online, mostly answering emails, some browsing the web and forums (Saverocity forums) and the first day of all-day use I used less than 100mb. But I made sure I wasn’t logged into things I wasn’t using, like dropbox. And I turned off Facebook’s automatic streaming of videos.
FreedomPop ending? FreedomPop has announced that they will stop their WiMax (?) services by the end of 2015. No one knows exactly how this will affect/change things. When? New hardware or new firmware update? If it’s a hardware update, will your product be replaced? No idea.
Really, for the last 3 years we’ve gotten by with Skype, and then in the last two years we’ve had an old iPhone with Skype for a phone number and text apps. This keeps us connected as much as we need to be.
Does Carrie talk to her family regularly? Yes. Do we have access on long car rides? Now, thanks to FreedomPop, Yes. Before? No, but we don’t own a car. Are we as connected as someone with a full data plan via Verizon? No. But way more than anyone was a decade ago.
Internationally we’re better off. I’m not about to pay for an international phone plan. Although I know a lot of people buy sim cards when they land. We move around too much and just don’t need it. We can make calls more than 50% of the day. I have no reason to be more connected than that.
Anyways, this is what works for us. It’s not a broken system that needs fixed, but we have had a few updates.
Any other tips for phone plans internationally and cheapo plans in general? I know this is a crew with a plan.