Update (10/16/2017): FreedomPop is now pushing their LTE sim cards which I have not purchased. I recently took a trip to London only to find out my phone/account had become dormant and I was unable to reactivate my phone after several attempts with my existing 3G sim.
Readers of this blog know that when it comes to cell providers I am a big fan of Ting. A close second is Google Fi due to their international coverage, a service I strongly considered moving to when I decided instead to buy another used iPhone. When traveling to Europe most people tend to buy local sim cards when they reach their destination or simply sign up with an international plan if their provider allows it, but I found an alternative with FreedomPop, which is a much cheaper option.
I tend to travel to Europe once a year and in the past have just gotten by using WiFi, but this year I decided it would be nice to have cellular data. In this post I’m providing an honest review of FreedomPop, focusing on data coverage and usage in the UK (where I visited most recently). This is a secondary SIM for my primary phone with Ting, meaning I simply swapped it with my current SIM while I was away. Note that your phone will have to be internationally unlocked, something that Ting can help you with and other carriers should be able to help you with as well.
FreedomPop is a global service on the GSM network that offers minimal voice, data and texts for free and charges more for the larger plans and extras – this is where they make their money. I was skeptical of FreedomPop since the the reviews are mixed, but based off of the research I’ve done and now with my experience I believe you can avoid the complaints some users have with FreedomPop. The key is to opt-out of the up-sells that the company starts you off with when you join as a new customer. Similar to extreme budget airlines (such as RyanAir among others), FreedomPop charges for every little thing. Want to rollover data, voicemail, mms and other extras? Those are going to cost you extra. This isn’t a bad thing, you just need to be aware of this.
To be frank: If you’re looking for a virtually free service but don’t have the attention to detail to manage your account or read through this review carefully, FreedomPop probably isn’t for you.
But if you’re interested in decent international coverage for almost free and perhaps extra data to pad your usage stateside FreedomPop could be a good option.
Signing Up For FreedomPop
Since they are a low cost provider and make their money with add ons, FreedomPop makes signing up pretty appealing. When I signed up in September 2016, they were running a promotion where you received a sim card for $0.99 and free shipping. This included a 1 month promotion of 1 GB data and unlimited calling and text along with a free month of FreedomPop Premium Plus which includes rollover data, mms and visual voicemail.
To avoid any extra charges I recommend downgrading your plan to the free plan and removing FreedomPop Premium Plus immediately from your account even though you technically have a month. Finding where to downgrade is somewhat challenging but I’ve outlines the steps below.
Downgrade FreedomPop Plan and Services
To downgrade your services and plan so you won’t be charged, follow the below steps. First, we’ll start with downgrading your FreedomPop plan. Click on “My Account” tab and then “Plan”. It will bring you to this screen. In tiny text below “Global 1GB Unlimited” click “Details and Plan Management”.
Next click the text “To downgrade your plan, click here”
FreedomPop warns you about downgrading your account. Click “Downgrade anyway”
At the next screen FreedomPop requires you to enter your password. Then click “Submit”
Finally, they try to offer you a free month of Data Rollover. Click “Downgrade Only” to avoid signing up for this service.
If you’ve done everything right, your plan section will look like mine below. Note that the price is $0.00/month for 200 minutes, 500 messages and 200 MB.
Next, scroll down to the bottom of the page and find the text “To deactivate the FreedomPop Premium Plus service click here”.
At the bottom of the popup click “Downgrade anyway”.
FreedomPop provides you a warning about the services you will lost. Click “Downgrade and lose data”.
Finally you’ll get one last warning. Click “Downgrade anyway”.
Disable FreedomPop Top-Up
This step is optional, but FreedomPop requires you, at least initially to have Top-Up enabled. The details of what this mean can be found on this page by searching for “Top-Up” but basically it means that once you have gone over your allotment in minutes, data, texts etc. FreedomPop will automatically charge or top-up your account using your credit card to cover the costs of your usage. The default top-up is $15. If you’d like to disable this, FreedomPop charges you $5, which sits in your account to be used in case you exceed limits in the future. From FreedomPop’s perspective, this setting protects them from having to foot any bills from overages since reporting on things like data is delayed.
FreedomPop Friends – Free Extra Data
This is an optional way of earning free data. Beyond the free 200 mb service, FreedomPop allows you to earn more free data by adding friends. While I personally don’t know anyone using FreedomPop, there is a Slickdeals thread where users share their email addresses for other FreedomPop users to add. Inviting FreedomPop friends can be done through this link. For each friend you invite that accepts your request, you will earn 50 mb up to a maximum of 500 mb. For some users who are sensitive of their email or name being shared with a few people you can always use a secondary email that you check less infrequently and not use your full last name in your account settings.
After using FreedomPop for a few weeks I can definitely say it was worth it. I paid a total of just $5.99 ($0.99 for the SIM and $5 to disable Top-Up) and will continue to have 700 mb of data to use on a monthly basis – all for free. It’s convenient to be able to use data while in Europe and it provided helpful on various occasions. My experience on the coverage is limited to England and Wales in UK where I saw 3G coverage, but was sufficient enough for what I needed, namely directions and checking emails. Although I didn’t need to make any calls, I’d recommend Google Hangouts for making any cheap international calls.
If you have any questions about my experience with FreedomPop I’d be happy to answer them in the comments.