RingPlus, the Sprint MVNO that made a big splash by offering free ad-supported service, is cutting off at least some free plan users, effective this Saturday, Sept 20.
Several RingPlus users have posted on the operator's user forum that they received emails from RingPlus today informing them that their Free Plan is being cancelled. The email reads:
Dear Free Member,
After over a year of offering Free Plans, RingPlus has learned a great deal about how to give away free service to our members. We’re excited about doing it again in the future, but for the moment, the Free Plans are going to be discontinued — any Free Plan will not be able to be renewed after September 20th, 2014. For example, if your plan auto renews before or on September 19th, you will have the remainder of your billing cycle of service. If your plan is set to auto renew on or after September 20th, 2014, your Free Plan will be changed to suspend status for 30 days until 1AM PST October 20th, 2014, giving you the chance to port out your number if desired. All Free Plans will be discontinued at 1AM PST October 20th, 2014.
RingPlus continues to offer the most price conscious plans in our industry, including new unlimited plans for under $10. Because you have been a wonderful member of the community, we’re offering a unique opportunity to all Free Plan members receiving this letter: switch to any new RingPlus plan before your Free Plan expires and receive a top up balance equal to that of the new plan price (tax not included).
We are also very aware that some of our members may be going through a hard financial time. If you are in one of those times, please send us a email to email@example.com and we will see what we can do as far as an extension, as well as to recommending you to one of our new partners that can offer government subsidized phone plans.
If you wish to change carriers and port out your current number, please be aware that we will deactivate any phone numbers left on the Free Plans after 1AM PST October 20th, 2014.
The RingPlus team thanks you for trying our service via the Free Plans, and looks forwarding to continuing service with you.
The RingPlus Team
However not all user's Free Plans are getting cancelled. Some are getting a different email that says (emphasis mine):
Dear Free Member,
After over a year of offering Free Plans, RingPlus has learned a
great deal about how to give away free service to our members. We’re
excited about doing it again in the future, but for the moment, the Free
Plans are going to be discontinued — any Free Plan will not be able to
be renewed after September 20th, 2014.
However! We notice that you have been actively using and promoting
RingPlus among your friends and we would like to thank you for your
trust and efforts. RingPlus is happy to let you know that we are
planning to change your free plan to a free house account plan at no
cost. All of your existing minute, megabyte, and text allotments will
stay the same and there won’t be any changes on your side. With this
change, we’ll ensure that your free service will continue with your new
We just wanted to say thanks again for being a member of RingPlus and
we’re excited to keep having you aboard! We regret not being able to
extend this offer to all Free Plan members.
The RingPlus Team
The free plan hasn't been available to new customers since March of this year and RingPlus terminated free service for many users in May, so today's action isn't exactly a surprise. Nonetheless, I'm disappointed by by change and especially by the way it's being handled. I don't think anyone believes that free ad-supported mobile service is a viable business proposition. But whether you call it an experiment or a promotion, the free plans did generate a lot of favorable buzz for RingPlus. However, terminating free users with a mass email and exempting some users on vague criteria is a public relations blunder that will hurt RingPlus' reputation.
With the end of free, RingPlan now has to compete on its innovative features, pricing, which, even with the recent increases, is still very competitive, and the quality of its service, which gets mixed reviews.
Update: 7:35 PM 9/:18: Here's some good news, T. Weaver, a RingPlus employee, posted the following on the RingPlus Forum this evening:
RingPlus to Release RingPlus Matching Magic Plan
Every minute, SMS, and megabyte of data that is used on a paid primary account will be matched with a minute, SMS, or megabyte of data on a free secondary account. The minutes, SMS, and megabytes of data will magically appear as soon they have been used by the primary paid account to be used again on the Matching Magic Plan. If you need more minutes, SMS, or megabytes of data on the Matching Magic Plan, overages are 5 cents per minute, SMS, and megabyte of data.
Specific rules and restrictions will apply. Minutes, SMS, and data used between matched accounts do not qualify for matching credit.
It I'm reading this correctly, all RingPlus paid plan users will be eligible to activate a second phone on a new free "Magic" plan. Assuming a user has a need for a second line, this does soften the blow of losing the free plans. It also provides an additional incentive for users who are losing their free plans to convert to a paid plan.
RingPlus Changes Plans And Will Offer Extra Cost Roaming
RingPlus Terminating Some Free Plan Users' Service
RingPlus Free BYOSD Plan Opens Tomorrow, Noon to 12:30 PM Pacific Time