FreedomPop offers free cellphone service

Photo courtesy HTC

(MoneyWatch) You might already know about FreedomPop: I told you about this company earlier this year as a way to get a free Wi-Fi hotspot using a small $35 gadget that leverages Sprint 3G and 4G networks.

FreedomPop has taken the next step and transformed into a full-service mobile operator. For $99, you can purchase a FreedomPop smartphone outright (there's no contract) that delivers completely free voice, data, and text - no monthly fee.

Here's what's going on: Freedompop buys data in bulk from Sprint and uses it to offer voice-over-IP (VoIP), text, and data services via the HTC Evo Design handset (more handset options will likely become available later). This phone is not the newest handset on the block, but it's perfect serviceable; it runs Android 4.0 and has been modified to use the Sprint WiMAX service.

All the usual caveats about Sprint's network apply; this is a wonderful deal if you happen to live, work, and travel within the WiMAX coverage area, but many people might find Sprint's network lacking.

FreedomPop delivers 200 minutes of voice, 500MB of data, and 500 text messages per month. That's' actually reasonably generous, as long as you have frequent access to Wi-Fi so you don't depend upon the Sprint network and your free minutes and data for all of your mobile needs.

If you do need more, you can pay for extra usage or upgrade to a monthly plan. FreedomPop offers an $8/month plan that includes 500 minutes, 500MB, and unlimited texts, or an unlimited plan (unlimited voice and text, 500MB data) for $11/month.

I haven't had an opportunity to try the service yet, but based on my past experience with FreedomPop's Wi-Fi product, I expect some rough patches due to Sprint's less-than-optimal network. But if you can live with that - and the limited phone selection -- FreedomPop could reduce your cell phone bill by about 95 percent.

Photo courtesy HTC