2 Comments

Summary:

Can you limit your mobile voice and data use to Wi-Fi networks? If so, Scratch will make your service free, selling you minutes and megabytes only for emergencies.

wi-fi-zone1

After months of conducting trials behind the scenes, virtual operator Scratch Wireless is opening up its cellular-as-a-last-resort service to the public in beta. You can register to receive an invitation on Scratch’s website.

Scratch bills itself as a provider of “free” mobile and SMS service, and that’s true if you keep all of your calls to Wi-Fi networks. Scratch founder and CEO Alan Berrey is promoting the idea that Wi-Fi is now so ubiquitous and available that only in rare circumstances would you need to use the cellular network to make a call or access mobile internet. Scratch has built its business model around that premise.

Scratch Wireless Wi-Fi graphic

On the instances where you need access and Wi-Fi is unavailable, Scratch will sell you a small bucket of minutes or data on Sprint’s network. Prices start at $2 for either a one-day 30-voice minute or 25MB plan, while monthly plans run $15 and include either 250 minutes or 200 MBs.

It’s a bit naïve to think that people will just stumble into vast pools of open Wi-Fi wherever they wander with their smartphones. But I don’t think that’s what Scratch is claiming. Rather, it’s asking people to think about mobile voice and data in a different way. Instead of paying for constant connectivity, its customers will proactively seek out Wi-Fi and use their own judgment on when and where to use their voice and data communications services.

If you haven’t trained yourself to hunt down open Wi-Fi or limit most of your smartphone activity to places where you know reliable Wi-Fi is available, this kind of model isn’t going to be attractive regardless of how cheap it is. It helps a lot, though, that Scratch exempts all SMS from charges — whether over Wi-Fi or on the Sprint network — so you can always remain in text communication.

Scratch is selling its initial phone, the Motorola Photon Q for $269 to customers after they receive their beta invites.

  1. “Instabridge” and “Mandic Magic” makes it easier the task of finding free wi-fi.

    Share
  2. How do they handle incoming calls? Do the users have to pay for calling the phone numbers that are not on Scratch?

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post