What is FreedomPop
FreedomPop offers 500MB free 4G data on Clear’s 4G WiMAX network, you can see the coverage map here http://www.freedompop.com/coverage. They currently offer two different types of hot spots the photon and the overdirve, a USB Stick, and a sleeve which turns an ipod into a smartphone. FreedomPop plans to launch a smartphone program this summer (2013) where they will offer refurbished Sprint smartphones phones with 500mb data, 200 voice, and unlimited text for free every month. I will be reviewing the FreedomPop Photon hotspot in this post.
Why I decided to try FreedomPop
My wife and I were looking at getting smartphones this coming year. After some research I realized going from our 2 dumb phones up to 2 smartphones with the lowest amount of data possible our bill would double. As I did not want to start paying 120$/month to have 2 smartphones I decided to start looking elsewhere. My fellow wallet engineer suggested the following options: Zact, Republic Wireless, and FreedomPop. After looking at each I decided to give FreedomPop a shot as it was the only free option month to month and as I had an old Droid smartphone I figured I could just use the hotspot to get my Droid internet. This way I could also check out the network for when the smartphone options launched.
- The photon is a small sleek good looking piece of equipment.
- Setting up the hotspot is super quick and easy, I was online with my laptop within 10 minutes of the package arriving.
- It’s legitametly free data, you pay for the hotspot and your good to go. Some people have complained about strange fees for not using enough data but so far in my experience I have not paid a dime since getting my hotspot.
- If you are located in the coverage area the 4G provides super fast internet. My wife and I recently lost power while watching a Netflix movie on our Wii. I pulled out the hotspot, fired it up and we were able to finish the movie on our laptop no problem.
- Although I have not taken advantage of this option it seems getting extra free data every month is relatively easy. They have different surveys/tasks you can complete for additional data and for every friend you get to sign up you get an additional 500MB for that month. This extra data can also be transferred back and forth between friends. Again I have not partaken in this FreedomPop offering but they seem to be a good idea.
Unfortunately in my experience this is where the good ends.
- First of all when you start your account with FreedomPop they start the clock on your data. This means the moment you pay for your hotspot the time you have to use your data starts even though your equipment has not shipped. In my case, as I did not want to pay for expedited shipping, my HotSpot took 2 weeks to arrive so my first month was half over by the time I could start using the service. This was rather annoying as with the first month bonus I had 3GB of data to burn, I only ended up using ~800MB.
- They advertise their hotspot as having 4G and 3G support, the 4G comes from Clear’s 4G WiMAX network and the 3G comes from the Sprint network. The issue with this is they do not tell you in order to get the 3G coverage you have to chose the FreedomPop Speed Plus option which is a 3.99$/month charge. This was far from obvious considering there is no note of this on the screen where this option is offered.
- The 4G network is extremely limited, if you don’t live in a major city you are SOL. What makes this even worse is once you get your FreedomPop Photon hotspot and figure out you cannot connect to the 3G network you have to pay to return your Photon for the Overdrive model with 3G capability. I am currently on my 3rd day of waiting for a response from their customer service department on setting up an RMA for my Photon.
- The hotspot does not penetrate walls/windows very well. At my house I cannot get a signal anywhere inside whether I put the hotspot directly against a window or at any other point in my house. However if put the hotspot in my truck on my driveway 10’ away the connection is fantastic.
- Once I had my hotspot I wanted to see how well my Droid would work on their network. To my dismay my Droid could not even connect to the hotspot. I contacted their support in hopes to get a fix but never received a response, it has been over a week. More on their support below.
- Their customer support is essentially non existent. Not only do they force you to click through a million options (see below) just to get an email form, once you have sent your request they say their response will take 24-72 hours but as I have not heard back at all it could be infinite. On top of this they do not even have a phone number published for you to call, you can sign up for a 2.99$/month service which they say will get you one on one support but I am not going to sign up for this service just to find out.
- Besides making it extremely difficult to get help on their products they are very quick to bill you for anything you click on. When an offer such as the 2.99$/month one on one customer service shows up in a window there is a button to sign-up, typically you would expect a confirmation page after clicking something like this. FreedomPop just goes ahead and starts billing you for the option as soon as the button is clicked. Of course once you have clicked on one of these offers getting it removed is not very clear.
- Finally beyond the base free data if you need more than the 500mb/month FreedomPop is not a great deal as there 2GB plan costs 20$/month which is comparable with the big boys with better customer support and a better network.
Although I think what FreedomPop is trying to do is a great idea they are currently doing a poor job of delivering this service. There are a decent amount of scam/ripoff reports concerning this company and rightfully so considering the way they setup their site. Granted an intelligent person can easily avoid any pitfalls and get 500mb/month for free with little to no hassle I feel if they were straightforward with their offering they would be much better off. I will be keeping my photon to use as backup data for my new smartphone I plan on getting through either Zact or Republic Wireless, once I chose which carrier I am going to use I will post a review. All in all the dream that is FreedomPop has been popped for me.