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6 things you should know about FreedomPop's Unreal Mobile service

With prices starting at $10 per month, it sounds like a killer deal on phone service. Is it?

unreal-mobile-plan-list

Unreal Mobile's plans are among the cheapest you'll find anywhere, and rollover data is a useful perk.

Unreal Mobile

FreedomPop has made a name for itself by offering free and inexpensive phone plans. Now, the company is expanding into the premium-service end of the market -- but without the premium pricing.

Unreal Mobile is a FreedomPop spinoff that hopes to lure customers away from soon-to-merge Sprint and T-Mobile. Is it a carrier worth considering? Let's answer that question by answering some other questions.

How much will it cost?

Unreal Mobile offers contract-free plans starting at $10 per month. That base plan includes unlimited calls, texts and data, with 1GB of high-speed data that can roll over from month to month.

A $15-per-month plan bumps you to 2GB, and for $30 you get 5GB. How does that compare with other budget-minded MVNOs? Mint Mobile, for one, also offers 2GB per month for $15, but you have to prepay for 3 or 12 months at a time.

Tello charges $14 and $19 per month for unlimited service and 1GB and 2GB of high-speed data. And TextNow recently introduced an unlimited single-line plan for $40 per month.

So Unreal's rates are definitely among the lowest around, though some carriers get pretty close.

What else is included?

All plans include ad-blocking, VPN, live online support and rollover data: Any unused high-speed data is added to your overall pot. Unreal also lets you use your number on a tablet or computer in addition to your phone.

That last part is interesting. Although your phone will have a traditional SIM card and use a traditional mobile network (see below), your phone number will be virtual, and therefore accessible via voice-over-IP on other devices.

If mobile hotspot is either included or available separately, we have no idea: It's not mentioned anywhere, including Unreal's FAQ pages.

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What network does Unreal Mobile use?

FreedomPop has long been a Sprint MVNO and Unreal is as well -- until mid-August, when the carrier will offer an AT&T-based SIM. According to an Unreal spokesperson, plan pricing will be "comparable" to the Sprint-based options.

Which phones are compatible?

As you might expect with a Sprint MVNO, you'll need an unlocked, Sprint-compatible CDMA phone. Once the AT&T option arrives, however, you should be able to bring nearly any unlocked GSM phone. (Sprint and Verizon employ CDMA technologies in their networks; AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM.)

Unreal also sells phones directly: The Alcatel Dawn for $50, certified preowned Galaxy S6 ($299 at Amazon.com) for $150 and certified preowned iPhone 7 ($538 at Amazon Marketplace) (32GB) for $400.

When can I sign up?

Unreal Mobile's beta program is now public, so you can sign up for service immediately. However, as with FreedomPop, you'll have to jump through the hoops of entering your ZIP code, email address and phone number -- before you can even see what plans or phones are available.

What's more, if you merely click "Check Availability Now," Unreal will assume that you plan to buy a phone and you can't proceed to checkout without selecting one. If you're bringing your own phone, be sure to click that option in the upper toolbar.

What about customer service?

In my capacity as The Cheapskate, I've written about FreedomPop multiple times. Every time, readers get in touch to complain about the carrier's customer service: unexpected charges, unanswered support requests and difficulty navigating the web portal.

It remains to be seen whether Unreal Mobile will suffer from any of these same issues, but the spokesperson did tell us that customer service will be based in the US and the company "looked at consumer concerns across the industry to ensure this service is a standout."

From what I've seen of the Unreal site so far, however, it seems similar to FreedomPop's, just with a fresh coat of paint.

The Cheapskate: Red-hot deals, every day.

Originally published May 25.
Update, June 21: Added new information.