Upstart mobile carrier FreedomPop is announcing this week its first support for the iPhone, offering a variety of free and low-cost plans in conjunction with Apple phones that work on Sprint’s network.
The company will offer “like-new” refurbished iPhone 5 handsets directly for $349, while customers can also bring their own Sprint-compatible iPhone 4, 4s or iPhone 5. FreedomPop’s free plan comes with 200 voice minutes, 500 text messages and 500 megabytes of data per month. Other plans start at $5 per month.
“This is going to be a big step for us,” CEO Stephen Stokols said in an interview. Until now, FreedomPop’s phone service worked with only a handful of older Android models.
FreedomPop says it has signed up hundreds of thousands of new customers since adding mobile phone service last October. The company began by offering free and low-cost mobile broadband via USB sticks, hotspots and other devices.
The iPhone 5, Stokols said, has the benefit of having LTE, which he said offers the best performance for FreedomPop’s voice-over-IP service while being at least moderately affordable.
The company, which is backed by Niklas Zennstrom’s Atomico, is one of a host of nontraditional cellphone companies that offer their own service on top of a traditional provider’s network. Others in that space include Republic Wireless, Solavei and Ting, to name just a few.
Stokols said FreedomPop’s business is growing quickly. FreedomPop generated on the order of $5 million in revenue for the last quarter of 2013, but Stokols said that is significantly higher already and that FreedomPop aims to be bringing in “IPO-type of numbers” of roughly $10 million per month by sometime next year, though he said that didn’t mean the company was committing to going public.
In addition to the iPhone, FreedomPop aims to offer more capable Android devices than the Galaxy SII and HTC Evo 4G models it launched its phone service with. In the next couple of months, Stokols said, the company plans to add the LTE-capable Galaxy SIII and Galaxy S4, with the former selling for under $200 and the latter for under $300 — again using like-new, refurbished models.
In addition to selling iPhone service directly, FreedomPop is also launching an app for those using iPhones with other services. The app offers free voice, texting and voicemail to any iPhone user (though data charges for one’s existing carrier still apply.)