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FreedomPop cradle brings free 4G to iPod Touch

The sleeve itself runs $99, and you get 500MB of free data per month -- with the option of earning up to 5GB. So what's the catch?

The FreedomPop iPod Touch 4G Sleeve doesn't look especially sexy in this photo, but it's definitely sexy on the inside.
The FreedomPop iPod Touch 4G Sleeve doesn't look especially sexy in this photo, but it's definitely sexy on the inside.

Many iPod Touch owners harbor a secret dream of using their devices as iPhones, bypassing long-term contracts and pricey service agreements in favor of cheap/free calls via Vonage, Skype, and other voice-over-IP apps.

Just one problem: Wi-Fi ain't everywhere. Without it, iPods can't make calls, stream media, play online games, or do any of that other good stuff.

One possible solution: the FreedomPop iPod Touch 4G Sleeve, a case that adds 4G wireless capabilities to your iPod.

Sound familiar? Back in May, FreedomPop started taking preorders for its FreedomSleeve, a $99 iPhone 4/4S case offering WiMax-based 4G service -- and some free "starter" data to boot.

Things have changed a bit since then, and not only with the addition of a second sleeve. But let's start with that: the iPod Touch version is compatible with third- and fourth-gen models and weighs just 0.15 pound. It measures 2.4 inches by 4.5 inches by 0.6 inch -- almost exactly the same size as the iPhone 3GS.

Its built-in lithium polymer battery (1,450mAh) is good for over 6 hours, according to a FreedomPop representative. The case plugs into the iPod's docking port, then recharges via what appears to be a Mini-USB connector in the bottom.


The iPod Touch 4G Sleeve offers no-contract nationwide 4G by way of Sprint's 4G LTE and WiMax networks, as well as its 3G network and Clearwire's network. That's a big change from the original FreedomSleeve for iPhone, which was going to be limited to WiMax. A company rep confirmed that the FreedomSleeve will now also connect to these additional networks -- a major improvement.

Here's where it gets really interesting: FreedomPop will give users 500MB of data for free per month. That's not a ton, obviously, but it might be enough for e-mail, Web browsing, and the occasional phone call when Wi-Fi isn't available. In other words, if you're thrifty with it, you can probably make it last.

FreedomPop will give you an extra 10MB per month for each friend you refer, for a maximum of 1GB of free data per month. You can extend that all the way to 5GB by "engaging in partner offers and promotions," according to FreedomPop.

Of course, you'll also be able to purchase additional blocks of data for less than $10 per month per gigabyte, the rep said. Oh, and one more thing: the sleeve doubles as a Wi-Fi hot spot for up to eight additional devices.

The iPod Touch Sleeve sells for $99 shipped, and you can preorder it starting today. FreedomPop says the sleeves will ship in "late summer."

Thoughts? My initial reaction is that it looks vastly superior to the Sprint ZTE Peel, a similar iPod Touch cradle that debuted back in 2010. Though the hardware cost a bit less, you had to pay $29.99 per month for a measly 1GB of 3G data. Plus, it offered hot-spot capabilities for only two devices -- one of them being the iPod.

I'm particularly pleased that FreedomPop expanded its network compatibility to include most of the U.S. instead of just a few WiMax-equipped cities. Though it's impossible to pass judgment without actually test-driving the cradle, this could be a dream come true for iPhone-envying iPod Touch owners.