It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t—FreedomPop offers 100% free Internet at home or on-the-go. And the Freedom Spot Overdrive Pro brings that free Internet to millions of additional potential users via support for Sprint’s nationwide 3G network. The hotspot itself only costs $39.99, but 3G support isn’t free, and is only available with one plan. And like the Freedom Spot Photon, the Overdrive Pro doesn’t feature 4G LTE support, so you’ll have to swap it out in the future for a new device. But it’s still a great deal as long as you don’t need a ton of data.
Pricing and Plans
We have a full review of the Overdrive Pro on Sprint, and the FreedomPop model looks and functions exactly the same: The FreedomPop logo has clearly been grafted onto the device and it still says Sprint on the display when you power it up. Here I’ll focus mostly on pricing and plans on FreedomPop, as well as comparisons with other contract-free hotspots.
There are three different plans you can use with the Overdrive Pro: Basic, Pro, and Premium. With the Basic plan, you get 500MB of free 4G data data every month. After that, extra data costs $0.02 per 1MB (which works out to $20 per 1GB). The Premium plan costs $17.99 for 2GB of 4G data, with additional data available at $0.01 per 1MB (or $10 per 1GB).
That means FreedomPop only offers one plan that includes 3G data, and it doesn’t come for free. $3.99 per month gets you a 500MB plan which includes nationwide 3G roaming. Extra data costs $0.02 per 1MB.
If you live in a 4G coverage area, that free plan is the most enticing, but 500MB is really only enough for email and some light Web browsing. If you want to watch movies on Netflix or listen to music on Spotify, you’re better off with an unlimited data plan with a modem from Clear or Virgin Mobile. Both carriers will get you unlimited 4G WiMAX data on the same network as FreedomPop for as little as $34.99 per month.
But if you just need a hotspot for backup, FreedomPop’s 500MB plans are a good deal, and you can even earn additional data for free. For instance, you get an additional 50MB of data for every friend you refer, up to 1GB. You can also share or request data from friends. Then there are “actions” and “offers” you can complete to earn more data. Actions include downloading the FreedomPop smartphone app, or installing the FreedomPop toolbar on your computer, each of which earn you an additional 200MB of data. Offers range from surveys to downloading and installing various programs, which can get you anywhere from and additional 3MB to 3GB of data.
The best part about the Overdrive Pro is 3G support, as it allows you to use the modem virtually across the country. That means you won’t have to worry about staying connected when you travel. You can’t say that about 4G, which has a much more limited coverage area.
Network and Performance
FreedomPop uses Clear’s 4G WiMAX network and Sprint’s nationwide 3G network. It plans to provide support for Sprint’s fledgling 4G LTE network, but Sprint has been extremely slow to roll it out. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that one day FreedomPop will have 4G LTE, and if you want to get a taste of it, you’re going to have to get a new modem. FreedomPop will credit you cost of the Overdrive Pro, provided it’s still in good working order, but you may not want to get too attached to it.
That said, right now you get either 4G WiMAX or 3G. WiMAX is decent, but it’s no match for LTE. It’s also only available in a limited number of areas. 3G support expands FreedomPop’s reach considerably, but as we discovered in last year’s Fastest Mobile Networks report, it’s on the slowest 3G network in the nation. That’s not such a big deal when you’re limited to a finite amount of data, but keep in mind that it’s slow.
In testing the Overdrive Pro in New York City, I connected to the 4G WiMAX network and saw average download speeds approaching 3Mbps, which is pretty good, but nowhere near solid LTE speeds. Uploads, on the other hand, were absolutely terrible. The hotspot struggled to reach 0.1Mbps, and didn’t reach it more often than not. Without unlimited data, however, you probably aren’t going to be uploading much, so this isn’t a major concern.
AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon all offer much faster connections than you get with FreedomPop, but they all require a contract and are significantly more expensive. Even T-Mobile’s latest overage-free mobile broadband plans start at $20 for 500MB of high-speed data per month (with much slower 2G data for free thereafter). So if you’re interested in a free or 3G plan from FreedomPop, there’s really no comparison.
The Freedom Spot Overdrive Pro is an excellent, inexpensive way to get online, as long as you don’t need much data and don’t mind trading it in for a new hotspot in the future. You’ll get much better speeds with 4G LTE from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon, but you’ll be paying a price to match. The Freedom Spot Photon is smaller than the Overdrive Pro, but lacks 3G support. Either is a good choice if you fall in a 4G coverage area. The Clear Spot Voyager also lacks 3G support, but gets you unlimited data on the same 4G WiMAX network as FreedomPop for $34.99 per month. The Overdrive Pro 3G/4G from Virgin Mobile, meanwhile, costs $35 per month and adds 3G support on Sprint. Finally, NetZero offers 200MB of free data per month with its NetZero 4G Hotspot, but that plan only lasts for a year.
|Cellular Technology||CDMA 1X, WiMAX, EV-DO Rev A|
|Number of Devices Supported||5|
|Battery Life||5 hours 8 minutes|
|Bands||850, 1900, 2600|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc