FreedomPop is a very interesting MVNO, because it offers free minutes, text messages and data. And it was a year ago that FreedomPop launched its service by selling a refurbished HTC Evo Design for $99. The device included 200 voice minutes, 500 text messages and 500 MB of data a month via the Sprint network. Users can add more minutes, texts and data by paying a little bit more a month. Voice calls are handled over the data connection and this is because FreedomPop’s service is based around using wholesale data bought from Sprint; data costs around 20% that of minutes so it makes great business sense to use VoIP (voice-over-IP, essentially converting voice calls to a data connection). Furthermore, about half of FreedomPop’s customers pay something a month for either faster Internet speeds, unused data rollovers, device insurance or of course higher allowances. This means that half of FreedomPop’s customers essentially get something for nothing and I like this idea. FreedomPop has also upset the establishment: founder and Chief Executive Stephen Stokols was shouted at by an unnamed T-Mobile executive at the CTIA Trade Show in 2012.
It seems that FreedomPop have come of age and are now launching their own branded tablets and, soon, a smartphone. The first device is the FreedomPop Liberty, which is an Android tablet with a 7.0-inch screen, 4 GB of internal storage, a 1.2 GHz Cortex-A9 processor and a 2,400 mAh battery for $89. These are low end specifications and there’s no word on what version of Android or the screen resolution we’ll see, but for many people the device will almost certainly be acceptable. I need to caveat this statement by reminding readers that customers outside of reading articles on Android Headlines will likely find the Liberty a fine device. And it’s hard to argue with either free or very inexpensive service. FreedomPop will soon launch the FreedomPop Frenzy, which for $99 will come with the same 4 GB of internal storage, WiFi and LTE. Later on, they’ll launch a LTE-equipped smartphone for just $89. These new devices will be bolstered by FreedomPop’s plans to launch refurbished Samsung Galaxy Note II and Note 3 devices.
What is perhaps more interesting is the nugget from FreedomPop that a great many manufacturers and networks are ignoring the sub-$100 device opportunities for the North American market. And it’s true: manufacturers are going for the glamorous high end market, where our $700 Samsung Android smartphones compete with $800 Apple
paperweights iPhones and where market share figures are massaged twice a year by the respective releases of the new Galaxy S and iPhone models. Global smartphone growth is being driven from the bottom – take a look at Google’s Android One project – and it seems that FreedomPop is well positioned to benefit from this in the North American market. I’m encouraged, therefore, to read that FreedomPop is planning international expansion to roll out the concept across the world.