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: