FreedomPop will start selling an Apple iPhone 5 and supporting 4G iPhones as it starts to move toward a more LTE-focused user base in the coming months.
FreedomPop will sell the iPhone 5 directly through its website for $349, or customers can bring their iPhone 4 device and sign up for service. The phones will be offered with the operator's typical free plan that includes 200 voice minutes, 500 text messages, and 500 MB of data per month, or with more data starting at $5 a month. (See FreedomPop Sparks Mobile Internet Free-for-All and FreedomPop Phones It In (for Free).)
The low-cost mobile virtual network operator's CEO, Stephen Stokols, tells Light Reading that the company is introducing an iOS app, FreedomPop Free Voice and Text, which will let the users of any iOS device -- iPhones, iPads, and iPods -- access free voice, text, and voicemail.
Stokols tells us that the iPhone is the spearhead for a push toward LTE on both iOS and Android devices this year. "You're going to see us moving more upstream on all devices."
Stokols says that he sees the iOS app as a "Trojan horse" to encourage Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) fans to get on board with FreedomPop. He wants to build an "installed base" of users, so that when "LTE SIM chips" arrive in 12-18 months, users can "cut the carrier" altogether and go with FreedomPop. (See 5 Rules to Disrupt a $200B US Mobile Market.)
FreedomPop started with the idea to introduce sleeves to let iPhones and iPods use the service. Then the operator went to hotspots on Sprint and WiMax Android phones. (See FreedomPop Sends a Free Gigabyte to the Home.)
At the moment, Stokols says, FreedomPop sells a 50/50 mix of phones and hotspots, but he expects that to change over the next two years as FreedomPop introduces a cheap tethering plan for smartphones. "I see hotspots going the way of the USB dongle."
However, Stokols is pleased with the hotspot performance, particularly because he can get the benefit of the Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) Spark upgrade in Los Angeles. "I'm seeing north of 60-70 megs down." The Sprint LTE upgrades "can't happen fast enough" for his MVNO operation. (See Sprint Sparks to Reduce Churn, Save Unlimited.)
He also says FreedomPop is driving significant business on the Sprint network. "If you take out TracFone and Lifeline, we're their biggest MVNO partner."
The MVNO startup will likely look for more venture funding in the third quarter, the CEO explains. "We have some conversations ongoing," and there have been "some interesting offers."
FreedomPop has raised $16 million in funding so far. (See FreedomPop Grabs $5M to Support Android Push.)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading