Free Government Cell Phones vs Other Free (FreedomPop/Republic/Ting) and Cheap Options

bestdealspart1There is no doubt about it, owning a cell phone is expensive but many deem having a cell phone with cheap calling a necessity. The U.S. government's Lifeline program collects taxes from telecommunications services so that people with low-incomes or disabilities can can have access to phone calls.  The services were designed when there only landline options available, in the last few years, the services have been updated but do not the latest technology yet.

Lifeline service has changed recently, the definition household as an “economic unit” so that separate low-income families living at the same address can get connected. However there can not be more than one Lifeline account/service per "economic unit" it is check against a database. The FCC has been fining companies for not following guidelines to the tune of $90 million.

Additional minutes on government subsidized cell phones costs vary depending upon the provider. In Georgia, Lifeline service will not longer be free, starting January 1, 2014, the state of Georgia will charge a monthly $5 fee for people using the Lifeline program.

A very popular carrier for families with multiple phones is MetroPCS offering  $25 unlimited talk and text is for each family member in the family plans.

Pop Goes the Freedom Pop

If you don't quality for Lifeline services that give up to 250 minutes and 1,000 text messages, you may want to look into FreedomPop, this service claims to offer free cell phone service, you do however have to buy a compatible phone or outfit an iPod.

The free FredeomPop plan includes 200 Voice Minutes, 500 Texts and 500MB 4G/3G Data. Additional voice minutes and texts can be purchased on a pay-as-you go basis for j 1 cent per minute or text. Additional data can be purchased for 2 1/2 cents per MB.

Unlimited voice (VoIP) minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of data costs $10.99 a month. The only thing you have to pay for a is phone the HTC EVO 4G which costs $149.99 from Freedom Pop.

On the other hand, if you already have an iPod Touch, you can turn it into a iPhone and get 500MB of free data with a sleeve that costs $99.99 up front.

The real deal is if you previously were a Sprint subscriber and your contract is over, you can bring a Sprint CDMA WiMAX, LTE device to the plan for free. An other option is can buy a used Sprint device, before doing that you should check with Freedom Pop if the device will work.

Sometimes, Freedom Pop sells refurbished devices through Groupon or for 60 to 70 % off the original price.  For example in October was selling the iPod Touch 4th Generation refurbished Freedom Pop sleeve for $29.99 with free shipping. On Friday, December 21, is offering the Freedom Pop mobile hotspot for $24.99.

Other Low Cost Options Cell Phone and Smartphone Options

Republic Wireless uses Wi-Fi when available for voice calls, to use one their specially adapted smartphones for Wi-Fi calls only it costs $5.00 per month or $10.00 per month for unlimited voice and texts.  The voice calls are over 3G or 4G data. $25 a month includes unlimited 3G data while $40 a month brings unlimted 4G data.

You'll have to buy a special Republic Wireless phone- the Motorola Defy XT is $99 and the Motorola X costs $299.


The average Ting users' bill is $21 a month which they calculate to be a $440 annual savings. Prices for smartphones start at $163 for a new device or $68 for a refurbished LG Optimus Black or you can bring a used Sprint device (check for eligibility).

Rates start at $6.00 a month for a device charge 101-500 minutes cost $9.00 a month, 101-1000 texts cost $5.00 a month, megabytes start at 1-100 MB a month.  Mobile hotspots are included.  On top of the fees you have to pay surcharges.

Ting will even give new subscribers up to $75 towards an early termination fee for leaving their present carrier. Ting uses the Sprint network and will support Tri-Band LTE devices.

Depending upon what services you have on a landline, these services may cost less than what you are already paying.  You should also note that sometimes cell service doesn't go through thick walls.

The most important thing to remember when you buying any kind of cell phone is to make sure there is coverage in the areas you are the most.  We have used many cell phones by the top carriers and believe we are located near a AT&T and Verizon Wireless tower.  However, Sprint towers for the fastest LTE service were not close by.

There are areas in our neighborhood where Verizon or T-Mobile are the only carriers to offer service. You can check maps at carrier websites.  For iPhone buyers the best deal is still an iPhone 4 from  Virgin Mobile. (see price comparison).

Read about other low-cost options including Tracfone.