USAToday story published today, free mobile operator FreedomPop will begin supporting the iPhone 5 this week. FreedomPop will sell refurbished iPhones for $349 and customers will be able to use their own iPhones as well.
The story is full of interesting details about FreedomPop sourcing used iPhones from China and the brands of Tequila served at the company's Friday all-hands staff meetings. But it's thin on details about how the iPhone will work on FreedomPop. The story doesn't say which network the iPhone's are using (current FreedomPop phones are on Sprint), if calling will still be VOIP based or give any details of calling plans other than to say there will still be a free plan and paid plans starting at $5/month.
FreedomPop uses a "freemuim" business model that gives users a limited but surprisingly generous amount of free data and phone service. The company makes money by selling devices and extra features like voice mail and by charging overage rates for data, texts and minutes after the free allotment is used up. FreedomPop's current free plan for Android phones includes 200 Voice Minutes, 500 Texts and 500 MB of 3G or 4G data per month. Additional data is 2.5¢/MB.
It looks like the USAToday story might have been published prematurely or perhaps plans have changed. There's been no announcement of iPhone availability on FreedomPop site, blog, user forum or press site. FreedomPop's Twitter account did Tweet a link to the USAToday story today, but deleted the Tweet less than an hour later. Last week's FreedomPop Instagram post (image) showing some iPhone mockups has also been deleted. Are the disappearing social media posts a weird stealth marketing campaign or are more sinister forces at work? I could see Apple not taking kindly to the idea of free iPhone service tarnishing the image of their premium brand and threatening legal action.
Update 5 PM PT 4/28: The FreedomPop iPhone 5 is now available on the FreedomPop site. It's priced at $349.00 plus $6.99 shipping. It runs on Sprint's 3G and LTE network with voice calling handled by a custom FreedomPop VOIP app. Users can also bring their own clean ESN Sprint iPhone 5. For help with FreedomPop iPhones see the new iPhone support section of the FreedomPop User Forum.
Update 12:10 PM PT 4/29: In addition to the iPhone 5, users can now activate Sprint iPhone 4 and 4s models on FreedomPop according to a forum post by the company.
Available plans for iPhones are the same as those for FreedomPop Android phones:
- Free Plan: 200 Voice Minutes, 500 Texts and 500MB of 3G or 4G data per month.
- $10.99/month or $79.99/year ($6.67/month): Unlimited Minutes and texts and 500MB
- Additional data: 2.5¢/MB or $10.99/month for 1GB extra (1.49GB total)