FreedomPop’s freemium mobile voice and data services are available in mobile hotspots, home modems and smartphones, but until today there was one 4G device it hadn’t yet tackled: the tablet. On Wednesday, though, it will begin selling iPad minis and the Samsung Tab 3, both of which will come with its standard 500-MB, 500-SMS and 200-minute monthly plan at no cost.
The devices are refurbished Sprint tablets that will connect to that carrier’s LTE and CDMA networks. As a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), FreedomPop buys wholesale data from Sprint on which it builds its communications services. It gives users a small monthly pool of data, VoIP an IP SMS a to use or share with friends and then upsells its customers on additional usage and other features like VPN access, data compression and boosted network speeds.
The move to tablets, though, is an interesting twist on its business model. You don’t necessarily need a mobile broadband connection to productively use a tablet as the millions of people who buy Wi-Fi-only slates demonstrate on daily basis. According to CEO Stephen Stokols, FreedomPop is trying to make the idea of the 4G tablet more palatable by giving away baseline mobile connectivity for free and throwing in a phone number to boot.
The first-generation iPad mini will sell for $319 and the Tab 3 for $199 on the MVNO’s website. FreedomPop will also connect other LTE-capable Sprint tablets for customers who bring their own device, Stokols said.
T-Mobile is offering a similar deal to its customers, offering anywhere from 200 MBs to 1.2 GBs of free monthly data to customers with 4G tablets, but there are some strings attached, the biggest being you have to be a T-Mobile smartphone customer.
FreedomPop’s offer is particularly compelling, though, because you can buy a discounted slate without a paying a dime in service fees as long as you stay below its 500 MB monthly threshold. And if you ever wanted to cancel your service with FreedomPop the you still have perfectly functioning tablet you can use over Wi-Fi.