FreedomPop Review: The UK Network With Free Minutes, Texts & Internet
January 26th, 2017
FreedomPop is a UK mobile network promising a free mobile service with no monthly charges. Customers receive 200 minutes, 200 texts and 200MB of internet per month.
In the UK, FreedomPop advertises itself as a “100% free mobile phone service”. Customers using FreedomPop get 200 minutes, 200 texts and 200MB of internet per month. However, phone calls are different in that they’re made over the internet using the FreedomPop application. Basic features like usage alerts and voicemail also come with an additional monthly charge.
In this article, we’ll review the FreedomPop mobile network in the UK. We’ll look at available price plans and paid-for extras, as well as key catches that could cause you to pay more. We’ll then look at the alternatives to FreedomPop, at the level of coverage you can expect and how to keep your existing phone number.
- 1 Pricing & Tariffs
- 2 Comparison to Alternatives
- 3 Using FreedomPop
- 4 Network & Coverage
- 5 Keeping Your Phone Number
- 6 More Information
Pricing & Tariffs
In the UK, FreedomPop advertises itself as a “100% free mobile phone service”. After an upfront payment of £7.97, customers can enrol in the service and will be sent a FreedomPop SIM card in the post.
FreedomPop’s basic tariff comes with 200 minutes, 200 texts and 200MB of mobile internet (with phone calls and text messages being made over the internet through the FreedomPop application).
For customers requiring larger monthly allowances, FreedomPop also has a selection of paid-for plans:
& £7.97 upfront
& £7.97 upfront
& £7.97 upfront
& £7.97 upfront
& £7.97 upfront
* On FreedomPop, phone calls and text messages are made over the internet using VoIP technology. It’s therefore necessary to use the FreedomPop smartphone application which works in a very similar way to Skype and WhatsApp. Some of FreedomPop’s tariffs are advertised as having “unlimited minutes” and “unlimited texts”. On these tariffs, there is a fair usage policy of 2,500 minutes and 5,000 texts per month.
† The £4.99/month and £19.99/month tariffs can not be selected when initially ordering your FreedomPop SIM card. You’ll need to change to these tariffs later on through the FreedomPop website.
Occasionally, some time-limited introductory deals are also offered by FreedomPop (e.g. the first month free, or additional data for the first three months). When these introductory deals end, you’ll be moved to the regular tariff as shown in the table above.
You’ll be charged 1.5p/MB when you use up your inclusive data allowance (or 1p/MB if you’re on a paid-for plan). Your account will be topped up automatically when required and you will not receive an alert unless you subscribe to the Usage Alerts service (99p/month). There are no out-of-allowances charges for calling and texting (your only option is to upgrade to a higher plan).
The upfront fee of £7.97 to get your FreedomPop SIM card breaks down as a £4.99 fee for the FreedomPop SIM card, £1.99 for postage & packaging and a 99p activation fee. Your card details will be taken for this upfront fee. You’ll also give FreedomPop the authority to save your card details and to take payments from you in the future (e.g. for paid-for services and automatic top-ups).
A major part of FreedomPop’s business model is their attempt to sell you additional paid-for services. Some of the services you can pay for on FreedomPop include:
- Premium Voice (£1.99/month on the free tariff; free on the paid-for tariffs). A major limitation of the FreedomPop service is that calls are made using voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology. This works in a very similar way to when you make phone calls on Skype, meaning you’ll need a sufficiently fast internet connection to maintain the phone call. If you have poor coverage or poor data speeds, the phone call is likely to break up or can suffer from delays. You’ll also need a data allowance to make and receive phone calls. The Premium Voice add-on allows you to side-step this problem by making it possible to call over the normal mobile network. You’ll use your normal allowance of minutes (with a fair usage policy of 1000 minutes per month).
- Usage Alerts (99p/month). By default, you will not be told when your data allowance is running low on FreedomPop. This means you can inadvertently activate the automatic top-up feature on FreedomPop. For an extra 99p/month, you can receive a notification when your data allowance drops below 50MB.
- Voicemail (99p/month). By default, voicemail is not offered on the FreedomPop service. It costs 99p/month to add voicemail to your service.
- Data Rollover (£1.49/month). For an extra £1.49/month, you can roll over up to 500MB of unused data to the following month. You’ll be able to accumulate a maximum of 20GB of data.
- Data Rollover Plus (£2.99/month). This is a more expensive version of the Data Rollover add-on. It allows you to roll over up to 1GB per month, and to accumulate a maximum of 40GB data.
One thing that’s worth watching out for is that many of these services will be offered on a one-month free trial. You’ll need to cancel the service if you don’t want to be automatically charged for it in future months.
When you order your SIM card from FreedomPop, you’ll be offered a one-month free trial of FreedomPop Premium. This gives you a number of additional features such as support for tethering, Premium Voice, MMS, data rollover, voicemail and usage alerts. You’ll also get 50% off additional data charges outside of your allowance. Customers with an Android smartphone can also take advantage of data compression, VPN and ad-blocking in the FreedomPop browser.
If you don’t want to be charged automatically for FreedomPop Premium, you should click the option reading “I don’t want free stuff” when ordering your SIM card from their website (highlighted in the screenshot below).
By default, your account will be topped up automatically with £5 of credit when your data allowance drops to 20MB or less. If you’d like to receive a notification before this happens, you should subscribe to the Usage Alerts service (99p/month).
It’s possible to turn off the automatic top-up feature in your FreedomPop online account. If you do this, you’ll need to manually top-up when your allowances run out. Please be aware that it may not be possible to make and receive phone calls when your data allowance has run out (as phone calls and text messages on FreedomPop use the internet connection).
Pay As You Go Credit Expiry
On FreedomPop, your Pay As You Go credit will expire 30 days after the date of the relevant top-up. This means, for instance, if you were to top-up on January 1st, any unused credit from that top-up will expire on January 31st.
Thankfully, FreedomPop does provide the ability for you to re-activate expired credit. This requires logging in to your online account and clicking on the relevant link to re-activate your credit.
In the UK, most other Pay As You Go mobile networks will not expire your credit automatically (typically, you just need to use your phone at least once 180 days).
Surveys & Offers
For customers not wanting to add extra money to their account, FreedomPop also provides the ability for you to earn extra credit through partner offers and surveys. For instance, you might earn some additional data by providing your information to other companies and signing up to their services. Caution is advised when taking advantage of these offers, as some negative feedback has been given on the offers in the past.
You can also earn 10MB of additional data for each person you recommend FreedomPop to (up to a maximum of 50MB additional data each month).
Comparison to Alternatives
At present, we’d recommend against choosing the FreedomPop service. There are four main reasons for this:
- Coverage is limited especially for phone calls. The main downside of using FreedomPop is very limited coverage, especially for making and receiving phone calls. As phone calls are made over the internet using the FreedomPop application, you’ll need not only good mobile coverage but also good mobile internet speeds. If your internet connection isn’t sufficiently fast, expect poor sound quality, delays on the phone call or the phone call dropping entirely.
- It’s too easy to run up unexpected charges. When signing up for the FreedomPop service, you’ll give them authority to automatically take money from your credit card in the future. With the number of time-limited trials you need to opt-out from and with features like automatic top-up, it’s incredibly easy to run up unexpected charges.
- Even basic services come with an additional monthly fee. For instance, it costs 99p/month if you want to receive an alert when your data allowance is low (this is worth having if you want to avoid unexpected automatic top-ups).
- 200MB is actually very little data. FreedomPop’s free tariff only includes 200MB of data per month. The average smartphone user uses significantly more than this.
FreedomPop also has some poor reviews online.
In our opinion, you’d be much better off choosing a traditional paid-for service without the above limitations. For instance, both ASDA Mobile and giffgaff offer Pay As You Go bundles from £5/month. There’s much better coverage, especially for calling (ASDA uses the EE network and giffgaff uses O2). There’s also better control over your spending, better customer service and a more established brand name behind the service.
For around £10/month, the major networks also have a Pay As You Go tariff without the disadvantages of the FreedomPop service:
For more information, please see our guide to the best value Pay As You Go SIM cards.
If you’re looking for a mobile broadband SIM card (e.g. for your tablet), Three’s Data Reward SIM card will give you 200MB of free data each month.
If you choose to try the FreedomPop service, you’ll need to have an unlocked smartphone. The smartphone will need to be compatible with the FreedomPop application for iPhone or Android. This is because phone calls and text messages need to be made through the FreedomPop application.
If you don’t have a FreedomPop-compatible smartphone, a number of handsets are currently available to buy from their website:
- Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505 (£269)
- Samsung Galaxy A5 (£169)
- FreedomPop MXG 408 (£39.99)
Network & Coverage
97% Mobile Internet Coverage
FreedomPop is a virtual network operator that uses Three as its network coverage provider. At the time of writing, there’s about 97% population coverage for 3G and 4G internet.
Before ordering a SIM card from FreedomPop, we strongly recommend checking the coverage in your area. The easiest way to do this is by entering your postcode in the FreedomPop coverage checker:
Limited Coverage For Calling & Texting
Unlike all other mobile networks in the UK, FreedomPop provides a voice-over-IP service. This means phone calls are routed over the internet using the FreedomPop application (in a similar way to how phone calls on Skype work).
If your data connection isn’t fast enough to support the FreedomPop phone call, expect poor sound quality, lag or dropped calls.
Customers with the £1.99 Premium Voice add-on can somewhat side-step this by making calls over the normal mobile network (this gives 97% population coverage for outgoing phone calls).
It’s not possible to use your FreedomPop SIM card when travelling abroad in other countries. The only exception to this is if you’re using the FreedomPop WhatsApp SIM Card. This gives you a 1GB monthly allowance for use in 25 countries through the WhatsApp application only. You’ll also get 100 minutes and and 200 texts through the FreedomPop application.
Tethering or personal hotspot refers to the process of sharing your smartphone’s internet connection with other devices (e.g. your laptop or tablet).
On FreedomPop, it’s only possible to tether if you buy the FreedomPop Premier add-on for £3.99/month. In contrast, many other mobile networks allow you to tether at no additional charge. For more information, please see our in-depth guide to tethering on UK mobile networks.
Keeping Your Phone Number
If you’d like to keep your existing mobile phone number, it’s possible to transfer it from your current mobile network to FreedomPop. There’s a charge of £4.99 for bringing your phone number to FreedomPop.
If you’d like to do this, you should start by asking your old mobile network to provide you with a PAC Code. A PAC Code is nine digits long and authorises the transfer of your phone number to FreedomPop. It’s a legal requirement for all UK mobile networks to issue you with a PAC Code, and they’ll do this free of charge within 2 hours of your request.
Once you have a PAC Code from your old mobile network, you can order your new SIM card from the FreedomPop website.
Once the SIM card has arrived and once you’ve set up your account, we recommend spending a bit of time to try out the FreedomPop service (particularly so, given the vast difference in how it works compared to other mobile networks). Your PAC Code will be valid for 30 days so you can try out the FreedomPop service in that time before transferring your phone number over.
To complete the transfer of your phone number, log in to your FreedomPop online account and go to My Account > Phone Number > Transfer Existing Number. You’ll need to pay your £4.99 fee and you’ll need to provide a valid PAC Code to complete the transfer of your phone number.
For a step-by-step guide on transferring your phone number to FreedomPop, please select your current mobile network from the drop-down menu below:
|PAC Code Finder: Transfer Your Phone Number to FreedomPop|
For more information, please see the FreedomPop UK website.
My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.
Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.