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Everyone knows there's no such thing as a free lunch, but free cell service? Believe it or not, that exists.
FreedomPop, for example, has long offered free plans, but the company's Web site remains a confusing mess, and I've heard nothing but complaints about coverage and customer service.
Then there's RingPlus, which hit the scene last year with some eyebrow-raising (though limited-time) offerings. And it was offering unlimited calls/texts and 1.8GB of data at no charge as recently as January. There were a few catches, of course, the biggest one being potential overages. If you went past your data allotment, you had to pay by the megabyte.
No longer. The RingPlus Infinity Plan gives you unlimited calls, text messages and data for $0 per month. It's available between now and Monday -- though if you miss out, there will almost certainly be another deal in the weeks to come.
Let me clarify a few important items. First, that "unlimited" data plan consists of 500MB of 4G LTE; after that, RingPlus downshifts you to 2G (suitable for "email and search," the company says -- correctly). Personally, I'd rather have 1.8GB of 4G LTE and risk paying overages, but I suppose beggars can't be choosers.
Second, this is a Sprint-based carrier, meaning you need to BYO compatible unlocked phone or choose from a handful of options in the RingPlus store. (Interestingly, you can also bring an iPhone 6 from AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon, or a Nexus 5/6.)
Third, RingPlus still charges 4 cents per multimedia message (MMS) -- hardly a deal-breaker, and easy enough to work around if you use iMessage or another data-driven messaging system.
Finally, the big change: Signing up for the Infinity Plan requires a subscription to the new Member+ program, which costs $49.99 for a lifetime subscription. The benefits include priority support (always a good thing), discounts on various products and services and so on.
I'm bummed, but given that most mobile carriers charge an activation fee, this doesn't seem too outrageous -- especially considering the rest of the service is free. What's more, that subscription cost covers the initial $10 top-up balance that you need to maintain in case of MMS or other charges. Note that if you burn through that $10, you'll be charged another $10. It doesn't draw from the subscription fee.
By the way, if you feel 500MB of LTE data won't suffice, you can add another 1GB for $14.99 per month. Or add 2GB for $27.99 per month. Of course, at that point you're getting close what you'd pay, say, Cricket.
No, RingPlus is for folks on a serious budget, who want to operate a smartphone for as close to $0 monthly as possible. Obviously there are going to be a few catches and limitations, but ultimately it's a pretty amazing deal.
If you took advantage of one of the previous RingPlus offers, hit the comments and share the experience with your fellow cheeps.
Bonus deal: Calling all parents! Google Play is offering the new animated film "Bling" for free. It's so new, in fact, that it's not even in theaters yet.
Needless to say, you can watch the movie on any Android device, or fire up your Roku box for big-screen viewing. I have no idea if the movie is any good, but, hey, it's free!
Bonus deal No. 2: I don't know how much longer this will be available, but Google Play is also offering "Footloose: Music from the Motion Picture" for free. It's the 2011 remake, not the Kenny Loggins-powered original. The bigger letdown: You still have to endure "Let's Hear It For the Boy." [Shudder.]