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FreedomPop launches its freemium phone service without LTE

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HTC Evo Design 4G FreedomPop
HTC Evo Design 4G FreedomPop

FreedomPop's freemium mobile phone service is now up and running — launching on the company's one-year anniversary and after the cellular offering was announced in June. The approach the startup is taking to phones is largely the same one it takes with Wi-Fi hotspots, USB dongles, modems — your first chunk of data is free and after that, you start paying. In the case of phones, you buy a FreedomPop compatible phone up front and then you get an allotment of 500MB of data, 500 free text messages, and 200 anytime voice minutes free each month.

As of now, FreedomPop offers only one handset: the aging HTC Evo Design 4G, which was an entry level phone last year on Sprint. And this lone phone is only available through the company's website, at a price of $99. FreedomPop told The Verge in an email that more Android handsets are on the way, but it didn't say what phones or when. If you go over on data, or text messages, or minutes, paid tiers kick in: $7.99 for another 500MB of data, unlimited text messages, and another 500 minutes; and beyond that, $10.99 for another 500MB of data, unlimited texts, and unlimited minutes.

An aging phone on a slower network

FreedomPop runs on Clearwire's WiMax 4G network, which is owned by Sprint — it's not 4G LTE by any means, but speeds are quicker than 3G and 2G networks. Eventually, FreedomPop says it will offer LTE service, but the carrier isn't saying when that'll happen. Whenever, if ever it does, those who pick an Evo Design won't see the benefits since the phone isn't LTE capable. The company's service is entirely VoIP, so everything takes place over a data connection — essentially you're placing calls over the internet rather than a traditional mobile voice network. Still, FreedomPop says it knows when its users are placing a phone call, sending a text message, or surfing the web and voice minutes don't count against web data despite the two taking place over the same network.