RingPlus, will open signups for their free mobile phone service again tonight at 10 PM PDT. The free service includes 300 minutes and 50 texts per month at no charge. It's funded, at least in part, by advertisements that play during the time between when a call is placed and the called party or voice mail answers.
Update: Free plan signups closed at 10:25 PM PDT, 25 minutes after they opened. RingPlus posted on Twitter that they will announce the next free plan signup window on Monday, Sept. 9.
Once you are in the free plan you can keep using it indefinitely, or at least as long as the company is around. RingPlus offered a similar free VOIP-based international calling service in 2009 that was also ad-supported. That service was shut down after a year. This time around the company believes that free service can be self sustaining and says that as they gain more subscribers the number of free minutes per user will be increased.
To use the free plan you need a clean ESN Sprint phone that's not currently in service with Sprint or another Sprint MVNO.
When signups open tonight at 10 PM EDT, go to https://my.ringplus.net/device_validation_requests/new and enter your phone's ESN. If your device is eligible you can activate the phone immediately. To get the free plan choose "BYOSD" from the plan drop down. A valid email address and a credit or debit card number (for overages) is required.
RingPlus says they will not automatically charge your card. If and when you need more minutes texts or if you want to use data you use your stored credit card to buy credit. The minimum purchase is $5.
Users who got in on the Tuesday promotion and the free plan's launch on August 24 seem generally pleased with the service. No one seems particularly bothered by the ads which are spoken messages and do stop as soon as the called party answers.
There are some start up issues. Data initially didn't work (it does now). Calls are being "charged" double, which RingPlus which says they are aware of and are working on a fix. When someone leaves a voicemail it uses minutes (double minutes currently). According to RingPlus, voicemail deposits are supposed to use minutes but the double charging is a bug and will be fixed.
Phone activation is also a problem for some users. As with Sprint itself and all Sprint MVNOs, the easiest and best way to activate a phone is by doing a network reset or factory reset. When the phone restarts after the reset it should do an automatic hands free activation.
Unfortunately, how you do a reset varies with phone menu model. Some have a menu item, but many require entering a code in the dialer. Google "reset phone make and model" to find out how to do yours. Common reset codes include ##786#, ##3182#, ##7278# and ##25327#. Once you find the reset code or menu, the phone will ask you for your MSL code (also called the programming code or SPC) which is shown on the RingPlus site after yo activate. Users have also reported that RingPlus customer support has been helpful with activation and other issues.