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Summary:

Free data, a 4G sleeve that wraps around the iPod touch, and a VoIP client — FreedomPop now has all of the pieces for a full-fledged mobile service though its technically just a data-only mobile virtual network operator.

ipod-touch-featured

FreedomPop isn’t just connecting iPhones to 4G. As we have previously reported, it plans to connect iPod touches as well, which – with the help of a VoIP client – will effectively turn them into iPhones. On Tuesday it began taking pre-orders for a $99 WiMAX sleeve that will amp up the normally Wi-Fi-only Touch with mobile broadband connectivity.

FreedomPop first announced plans to offer an iPhone sleeve back in March and since then it has been gradually releasing details of its innovative business strategy. The all-data mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) will resell first Clearwire’s WiMAX and then Sprint’s CDMA and LTE data services, but only after customers use up their monthly allotment of free data.

Subscribers start off with 500 MB of free mobile broadband and will be able to increase that total to 1 GB either by trading unused megabytes with friends or earning more data by referring customers and buying value-added services from FreedomPop. Only after customers exceed their accrued free allotment, do they start paying for access, starting a rate of one cent per megabyte. The virtual carrier hasn’t yet revealed what all of those services will be, though VP of Marketing Tony Miller has confirmed to GigaOM that one of them will definitely be a VoIP.

That voice service is key because it allows FreedomPop to behave like a full-fledged mobile carrier even though it’s technically a data-only MVNO. The sleeves it sells for the iPhone and iPod touch are essentially mobile hotspots that double as extra battery packs. They connect multiple devices to 4G including the devices it attaches to, but FreedomPop doesn’t control the iDevices themselves. In order to get voice services for the iPhone, customers would have to sign up with another carrier or use the iPhone as a data-only device with a VoIP service – in other words, use the iPhone as an expensive iPod touch.

The Touch isn’t the last device FreedomPop plans to connect with a wraparound shell. It has said it is developing products for the iPad and other smart devices. FreedomPop still hasn’t revealed a specific launch date, though it plans to open up its service to beta users this summer.

Here’s a video FreedomPop released detailing the new iPod sleeve’s capabilities:

  1. why all these different sleeves instead of a mifi type device first? all i can think if they like something specifically about the demographic that owns iphones and ipod touches.

    what i would really like to see is a service that can be activated on any second hand sprint phone with a built in wimax radio or any used wimax usb dongle or mifi.

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    1. It may have something to do with battery life. All 4G “mifi” devices that I looked at recently topped at 4 hours. Not good enough for full-day VoIP service.

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    2. I currently own a secondhand, although brand new iphone 4 that was on sprint’s network. I never ordered service but instead have a mifi device that I carry and use a voip service with. Works absolutely fine and the best part is I have no phone bill. I am interested in the above model as it does offer the most data available for that price. You are essentially getting 1.5gigs for $10 a month (if you go over 500mb monthly allotment). For someone on wifi an average of 18-20 hours per day through work and home this is a no brainer. I ditched my beloved at&t. I save $840 annually and have no contract. It is not for everyone but it is for me. $10 a month on an iphone.

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    3. It’s a sleeve because they want to access information off your iPhone. I don’t know what information they want, but they want to use it to generate a revenue–maybe targeted advertising.

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  2. I am using Line2 on a 4G iPad and no kidding it makes me wonder why I even need an iPhone. I use it with a Bluetooth headset and it works pretty flawlessly.

    The main issue I have with the FreedomPop solution is the sleeve. I am not sure there is a big market for this as a bolt on. Maybe they will get lucky and Apple will release an iPod with 4G radio. Doubt it though. Not sure they will even offer it on the rumored iPad mini. I have to say if they do offer the iPad mini with 4G I might ditch the iPhone.

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  3. i wish they would have partnered with a gsm carrier. a sim card too drop in any gsm device would be much better that selling hardware.

    i already own a few different gsm devices that would be perfect with a free 500MB or data.

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  4. Great. What else can an ipod user want from apple..! 2 products in one gadget. Cool.

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  5. I have always thought that Apple should turn their ipod touch into such a product. Maybe some Android entrepreneur will.

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  6. If you squeeze this thing just so it craps money, Stick with your iPod and free WiFi

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  7. Could it actually work? There’d be a lot of cases stopping it slipping out of your hands. The iPhone 4 is bad enough!
    Cheers
    Chris

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  8. Taylor Barcroft Saturday, August 4, 2012

    The free Wi-Fi dependent magicJack app works for me on all my iOS devices. It has my retired landline number on it. Total cost per year including audio email messages? $10.34 including tax. PER YEAR. Best kept secret in VOIP for pennies a month.

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    1. Talkatone with google voice also works well and is completely free.

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