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FreedomPop Review UK: Testing FreedomPop's SIM service in 2017

Tempted by a free FreedomPop SIM? Here’s our full review of the UK service in 2017, from ordering your SIM online and taking delivery to the kind of experience you can expect when using FreedomPop.

What is FreedomPop?

FreedomPop is a US-based mobile company who just came to the UK, offering free-to-use SIM cards to British consumers. That might sound a bit too good to be true, but it’s completely legit. You can order a SIM from FreedomPop today and in no time at all be enjoying free calls, texts and web browsing on your phone. All that’s involved is a small activation fee.

What do I get for free, and what are the premium FreedomPop UK tariffs?

FreedomPop offers a small number of different tariffs, starting with the Basic 200 tariff. This is completely free every month and gives you 200 minutes, 200 texts and 200MB of data to burn through however you see fit.

If your personal needs are a bit more demanding, you can always upgrade to one of FreedomPop’s premium tariffs instead. These involve a small monthly fee, but are more than reasonable when compared to the best deals on offer from many UK networks.

The Premium 1250 contract gives you 1250 minutes, 1250 texts and 1250MB of data per month, and all you’ll pay is a subscription fee of £4.99. Web junkies and video streamers will no doubt prefer FreedomPop's Premium 2250 tariff, which offers unlimited minutes and texts as well as 2250MB of monthly data for a £6.99 subscription fee.

FreedomPop offers special deals on a regular basis, so it’s worth checking every so often to see if you can bag yourself a little something extra.

Can I order a FreedomPop SIM to use in my current Android phone or iPhone?

Yep, no problem. FreedomPop SIM cards work with any iOS handset that’s on at least iOS 7, as well as Android mobiles on Android 4.0 or later. However, this will only work if your phone isn’t locked to a specific network such as O2, Three or Vodafone.

If you bought your phone through your current network, chances are it might already be locked. However, if you bought it through a retailer such as Amazon with no contract attached, it should be unlocked and free to use with any network. To check, just find a friend on a different network and try their SIM card in your phone. If it’s not accepted, that means you’ll need to find a new handset.

Ordering a FreedomPop SIM card

Wer pointed our browser at FreedomPop’s website and tapped in our postcode and email address to get started. With this done, we were offered a number of options.

We could get ourselves the basic SIM-only option for a one-off fee of £4.99 (plus 99p activation fee and £1.99 shipping costs). This gives you a SIM card that can be converted into micro SIM or nano SIM formats, to fit whatever smartphone you like. Alternatively, FreedomPop is offering customers a choice of three affordable phones to get them started.

This selection includes the own-brand FreedomPop MXG 408 for £40, which is a basic smartphone designed primarily for simple tasks - texting, instant messaging and so on. You can also upgrade to one of two Samsung blowers: the original Galaxy A5 for £169 or the Galaxy S4 for £269. These are both older handsets which nevertheless provide a dependable everyday smartphone experience on a strict budget.

We opted for the Galaxy S4 and continued to the plan selection. At this point you can choose the Basic 200 package, which costs nothing each month, or upgrade to a premium plan. At the time of this review, FreedomPop was also offering a one-month free trial of the Premium 1GB tariff, so you can try the 1GB of data and free premium voice feature for no extra cash.

With phone options and plan chosen, it’s just a case of paying the up-front fees (via card or PayPal) and then kicking back and waiting for your FreedomPop package to arrive. We suggest a nice cup of tea and a Breaking Bad marathon to pass the time.

FreedomPop delivery and setup

We ordered a Premium 2250 FreedomPop SIM with the Samsung Galaxy S4 to test out the service for this full review. Thankfully we weren’t waiting long for the package to arrive. Just two days later the box showed up with our Galaxy handset (complete with charger plug and cable of course), plus the SIM card and a handy quick start guide.

As we got the phone direct through FreedomPop, it was already set up and ready to use. All we needed to do was slip the SIM inside and away we went. If you want to use a different phone, however, you’ll need to activate your SIM before it’ll work. This is a simple enough procedure, however. Just head to FreedomPop.com/activate, or call +44 11 3887 0823 and follow the instructions and you’ll be ready to enjoy the service.

Note that you may need to alter some of your phone's settings too, in order for the FreedomPop SIM to work. All of this is covered in FreedomPop's app, which we'll touch on later.

That paper quick start guide steers you through all of the basics of running a smartphone, in case this is your first time handling such a device. For everyone else, you’ll be ready to call, text, download apps and everything else as soon as your mobile is charged.

Can I transfer my old number with FreedomPop?

You’ll get a new phone number when you sign up for a FreedomPop account, but it’s also possible to transfer your old number across to the new account. To do so, you just have to login to your account online, using the details you provided when you signed up. Sign into FreedomPop’s website and head to the ‘My Account’ section to get started.

FreedomPop network coverage in the UK

FreedomPop piggybacks on the Three network here in the UK, which means you can expect 4G coverage across a large portion of the country. Even when 4G isn’t available, you can still get a signal almost anywhere in the UK, with a respectable web connection.

When testing the FreedomPop SIM around the London area (including boroughs around the outskirts and some rural parts of Kent), we noticed no significant difference between the FreedomPop service and that on Three. Messages were sent and arrived instantly, calls could be placed with satisfactory quality and web browsing was typically nippy, when we weren’t stuck in the congested Central London area.

Messaging, web browsing and data allowance

When you want to text someone, you can do so via the FreedomPop Messaging app. This isn’t too dissimilar to stock messaging apps, giving you fast access to your contacts and using whichever keyboard you have installed at the time. And yes, that includes full emoji support.

If you’re using a FreedomPop SIM in your own handset rather than one bought through the company, we can imagine this would be a little disruptive at first. You’ll need to download the app and install on your device before you can get to texting. However, the app comes pre-installed on any mobiles bought direct from the company.

Web browsing can happen through any mobile browser you have installed, including the likes of Google Chrome. You can also stream media via YouTube, Netflix, Spotify and any other online services you’re a fan of.

If you find yourself with some data left at the end of each month, it can be really annoying to lose it all when your next allowance kicks in. However, FreedomPop does allow you to rollover your unused data to the following month - for an extra charge.

To activate this feature, head to the FreedomPop app and go to the Services section. In here you can opt to pay £1.49 per month to rollover your data. This caps out at 500MB each month. If you want to boost that cap to 1GB, that’ll cost £2.99 per month.

Managing your FreedomPop account

Thankfully it’s pleasingly simple to check your account details, monitor your usage and get support right there on your phone. All you need is the separate MyFreedomPop app, plus the FreedomPop Diagnostic app if you want to do some proper troubleshooting.

Yeah, it’s a shame that all of your FreedomPop functionality can’t be handled via one app. And there are some bugs which occasionally pop up, overlaying text over pictures and so on. But the core functionality is sound and you can also manage your bits online if you’d prefer.

The MyFreedomPop app shows you exactly how much data, minutes and texts you have remaining in your allowance, so you never need worry about going over. This is a live update, so anything you use is immediately added to the balance. You can also change your current plan at any time, or add/remove any services to your account.

Meanwhile, FreedomPop Diagnostic offers plenty of support if you’re having issues with your SIM or phone. You can select from a number of possible issues, including problems setting up your SIM, call failure and so on, and attempt to fix them via the app. You can also test your phone’s main features and download more FreedomPop apps.

Confusingly, support contact details are actually found over on the MyFreedomPop app instead. From here you can email the customer support for a direct response.

Check out FreedomPop's current UK deals, including a 30-day test of the Premium 2250 service at no extra cost.

Read next: Win a Samsung phone and FreedomPop Premium plan

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