Piggybacks on: Sprint
Starts at: $0 per month for 200 voice minutes, 500 texts, 500MB data
In business since: 2011
FreedomPop's claim to fame: free service. Whether you bring your own phone or buy a refurbished iPhone 5S or Motorola Moto E ($279.99 and $149.99, respectively), you'll get a monthly stipend of sorts: 200 voice minutes, 500 text messages and 500MB of data. If you hit those caps, extra data runs 2.5 cents per megabyte and a penny per voice minute or text message -- competitive rates all around. There are also monthly and annual plans for users who want unlimited calling and messaging and more data.
But FreedomPop has an almost user-hostile website: It provides no information about phones, plans or coverage unless you first enter a ZIP code and email address, and even then, it's extremely difficult to browse the available options. In addition, its phone service relies heavily on voice-over-IP rather than cell towers, often with mixed voice-quality results. Assuming you bring your own device, however, you have little to lose (save for a $10 number-porting fee) by at least trying the service. And if you're a fairly light consumer of voice minutes and data, this could prove an unbeatable deal.
Piggybacks on: T-Mobile
Starts at: $20 per month for unlimited voice minutes/texts, 250MB data
In business since: 2013
Hate the idea of paying a small fortune every month to a greedy, faceless corporation? You might feel a little better knowing some of that money is going to a good cause. Giv Mobile donates 8% of your plan payment to one of your choice of charities, including the American Red Cross, Alzheimer's Association and United Way.
Giv carries a modest selection of new and refurbished phones, including the iPhone 5C and Motorola Moto X, but for $5 you can buy a mini/micro SIM for use with any unlocked GSM phone. From there you choose a plan; most users will need at least the The 30, which for $30 includes unlimited everything (but a 1GB cap on high-speed data). All plans include unlimited global texting and a small amount of international-call credit. Other carriers may give you a bit more bang for the buck, but only Giv gives back.
Piggybacks on: AT&T
Starts at: $27 per month (with auto-pay) for unlimited voice minutes/texts, 500MB data
In business since: 2005
Maybe the water reference in H2O Wireless' name is a nod to the oceans that separate continents, because every plan the carrier offers includes unlimited international texting and unlimited calls to landlines in over 50 countries (with calls to mobile phones in "select" countries as well).
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