If you’re anything like me, you want to save money. That kind of statement is bit of a no-brainer. Within the wireless industry, you have some options when it comes to cutting back your monthly bill. Most major wireless carriers offer pre-paid options, and there are startup MVNOs like Ting and Zact. Straight Talk offers some savings, too, but none of them are free. And what is cheaper than free?
Scratch Wireless, launching today, is looking to bringing free mobile service to customers. They’re offering what they claim is the world’s first free cell phone service. They do it by selling an Android device that is modified to run over Wi-Fi for almost everything. Calls, data and text are all sent via Wi-Fi network. You just buy the phone and then use it on Wi-Fi. If you need to use your phone on a cell network, you can pick up a pass for as little as $1.99 per day. Scratch Wireless has partnered with Sprint for cell connectivity. For $1.99 per day you get up to 30 minutes of cell phone calls or up to 25 MB of cell data. If you need a monthly plan, Scratch offers one for $14.99 that nets you 250 minutes of calls or 200 MBs of cell data.
Because the service runs over Wi-Fi, it will even work internationally, although you won’t have the option to purchase minutes or data on a cell network. The daily and monthly passes are there for when you need them, but you can use the phone on Wi-Fi without ever buying a pass. There are no contracts and there are no recurring payments. Whatever plan you are on, text messaging is always available and doesn’t cost a thing. Scratch Wireless CEO Alan Berrey says that they want to do things differently than traditional cell carriers. “There’s no unnecessary cost with us,” he says. “We have no towers, no FCC, no leasing locations to deal with.”
Scratch only has one phone available right now. Users will need to settle for a Motorola Photon Q, which can be purchased for $269. Eventually, the company is planning to roll out more Android devices that will work with Sprint’s network. Because of the way the phone handles calls over Wi-Fi, the service is tied to Android exclusively. You won’t find any iOS or Windows Phone devices available from Scratch. The service is aimed squarely at budget-minded consumers who always have access to a Wi-Fi network. “We believe consumers ought to be able to buy a compelling Android device and not pay for a plan when they already have a wireless network in their home or office,” says Berrey.
Here’s the official press release from Scratch Wireless:
Scratch Wireless Debuts with a Mission to Make Mobile Free
Launches with $5 million in funding for “Wi-Fi First” strategy
CAMBRIDGE, MA, October 16, 2013 – Scratch Wireless, the world’s first truly free mobile service, launched today with $5 million in funding and a vision to revolutionize the mobile phone industry with its “Wi-Fi First” mobile service. Combining top-of-the-line Android smartphones, access to existing Wi-Fi networks and partnerships with cellular network operators, the company promises to make free texting, voice and data services available on Android smartphones beginning in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Scratch Wireless is addressing an acute pain point for many cell phone users: mobile service is too expensive. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Americans spent on average $83 per month on smartphone service in 2012. Many families pay upwards of $3,000 annually for their mobile service, and users are often locked into two-year contracts that they cannot easily (or affordably) get out of. At the same time, consumers are using fewer voice minutes each month – about 673 in June 2012 down from 714 in 2011, and that number is dropping as people increasingly rely on their devices for data, not voice services.
In contrast to traditional and expensive cell phone contracts, the Scratch Wireless model is simple: make text, voice and data services free when a user is on Wi-Fi, and make texting free – always.
Scratch is able to take the cost and complexity out of mobile service by providing smartphones that leverage existing Wi-Fi networks to let people text, access data and talk for free whenever they are on a Wi-Fi network. When they are away from Wi-Fi, Scratch will offer pay-as-you-go access to cellular data and voice but with no contract or obligation. And Scratch makes texting free whether users are on a Wi-Fi network or not.
Backed by funding by investors including CommonAngels, the founders and industry partners, Scratch Wireless is employing a “Wi-Fi First” strategy that takes advantage of a quickly growing number of Wi-Fi network access points and hotspots, a number which is expected to reach 5.8 million by 2015 (up from 1.3 million in 2011).
The Scratch Wireless leadership team includes Co-Founder, President and CEO Alan Berrey, who has held senior leadership roles at key mobile and information technology companies including SoundBite Communications, Mobile Collect and Logica (now part of GCI). Accomplished entrepreneur and WiTricity CEO Eric Giler, who has served as CEO of groundbreaking technology companies including Brooktrout and Groove Mobile, joins Berrey as co-founder and chairman of the Board.
The Scratch team also includes Vice President of Product Development Michael DeJadon, who brings extensive technical experience to the company having previously worked as a senior software engineer for Thomson Grass Valley, and Jon Finegold, vice president of marketing, who previously held leadership positions at Swirl Networks, Thinking Screen Media and where.com.
“We live in a world where many vital technologies – from email to social networking – are free. Why not mobile phone service?” notes CEO Alan Berrey. “At Scratch Wireless, our mission is to make mobile free to all through the power of Wi-Fi, great handsets and a simple service model that will revolutionize wireless forever.”
About Scratch Wireless
Scratch Wireless is the world’s first free mobile service for text, data and voice. Through partnerships with industry-leading manufacturers and network operators, Scratch offers consumers full featured Android smartphones with free mobile service. Championing a “Wi-Fi First” approach to mobile communications, Scratch Wireless is changing the way people think about mobile service forever. To learn more about Scratch Wireless, please visit http://www.scratchwireless.com or follow @ScratchWireless on Twitter.