T-Mobile may be trying to disrupt the traditional wireless model in the US with its Uncarrier initiative, but there’s another level of new mobile service providers that have taken things a step further. Scratch Wireless just opened up invitations to its free wireless over WiFi plan, joining companies like FreedomPop and Republic Wireless in piping voice calls and texts over the Internet to cut costs.
You’ll need to buy Motorola’s Photon Q QWERTY-slider smartphone from Scratch Wireless for $269 to get started. The carrier will provide free calls over WiFi for life, even when you’re overseas. Texting is free over cellular and WiFi.
If you need to use data or make calls while you’re away from WiFi, you can buy passes that will temporarily let you onto a cellular network. A 24-hour data or voice pass costs $1.99 and offers either 25MB or or 30 minutes of calling. A 30-day voice and data passes costs $14.99 and come with either 200MB of data or 250 minutes.
While Scratch Wireless will appeal to extremely budget-conscious customers, going WiFi-only does kind of defeat the purpose of having a “mobile” phone. The operator claims that WiFi access is “everywhere,” but that’s simply not the case for me. Scratch Wireless would actually cost quite a bit more than my existing T-Mobile plan if I wanted to get equivalent access.
If you only use your phone occasionally while out, you can probably pay less than your current plan by buying a couple passes every month, but you’ll also have to switch to the aging Photon Q.
We’re glad to see innovative wireless plans like Scratch Wireless offering free service, as it makes wireless service available to budget consumers. The company’s plans aren’t a good fit for our line of work, but it’s nice to have the choice.