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Get free phone service from CellNuvo

So there really is an alternative to RingPlus. But it's one with a much more limited plan and added hoops to jump through. Plus: two great bonus deals!

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
4 min read

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This week, many RingPlus users are scrambling to choose a new carrier in the wake of the company's demise. I just updated my alternatives-to-RingPlus post to include some new migration offers from Republic Wireless and Tello.

And then there's CellNuvo. Nope, I'd never heard of it, either, which is odd given that it has "cheapskate" written all over it. CellNuvo is yet another Sprint MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator, which borrows from both the Freedompop and RingPlus playbooks. The company launched publicly in October, 2015.

Free phone service: I'm over it

Let me pause here to note that as much as I love all things free and cheap, sometimes you just gotta pay. Between the loss of RingPlus and the steady stream of complaints I get about Freedompop, maybe it's time to recognize that phone service comes at a price. Especially reliable, hassle-free phone service.

While I'll continue to seek out and share the freebie options, I'll almost certainly be sticking with an established carrier for my own needs. My current choice: Cricket Wireless, which gives me five AT&T-powered lines with 3GB of data each for $100 per month. That's $20 per line -- hard to beat for a family.

Give yourself credit(s)

CellNuvo doesn't really position itself as a "free cell carrier," but rather one that gives subscribers the opportunity to earn free service. And that service is based on credits. One minute of voice calling costs 10 credits. One text message? One credit. Each megabyte of 4G LTE data? 10 credits.

The Infinite Plan, which is free, allots you 2,500 credits each month. You can earn more by taking surveys, signing up for free trials, watching videos and so on (shades of Swagbucks). On the Flex Plan you'll pay $19 per month for 5,000 credits and the same options for earning more. Update: It appears the Infinite Plan gives you 2,500 starter credits, and that's it -- they don't renew monthly as they do with Flex. My apologies for the error.

CellNuvo has this offer for RingPlus customers: Use coupon code RPFree at checkout to bypass the $29 activation fee. That way you can make a no-cost switch, though you may need a SIM card ($4.95), and obviously you'll be getting significantly less free data every month.

Unanswered questions

The company's FAQ page answers a lot of my burning questions. For example: Do unused credits roll over? Yes. Is roaming available? Yes, but you have to email the company to activate it.

I couldn't find an answer for this big question, though: What are CellNuvo's top-up rates? It was only after I actually created an account that I learned it costs $10 for each additional 2,500 credits. That is, quite frankly, a terrible deal if you're topping up your data: $10 for 250MB. Many carriers give you an extra gigabyte for that same price. And never mind that those credits are also used for minutes and messages.

Another head-scratcher: Although CellNuvo's site mentions iPhone support in numerous places, a company rep told me it's "Android-only" for the moment. Sure enough, when I tried to port an older, Sprint-compatible iPhone from RingPlus to CellNuvo, it didn't work.

I'm waiting for clarification on this and will update the post if and when it arrives. Update: According to CellNuvo founder Tom Mannix, the company can activate and support iPhones, but there's currently no iOS app through which users can earn credits. Consequently, I can't recommend the service to any iPhone users at this time.

In the meantime, I wanted to put CellNuvo on your radar simply as an available alternative to RingPlus -- and a way to score free phone service, limited though it may be. I suspect few users will find it sufficient to actually replace RingPlus, but it might be a good option for, say, a backup phone, one you use infrequently.

If you're already a CellNuvo user, by all means hit the comments and fill in any blanks -- including how many credits you've managed to earn and whether you like the service.

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That weird-looking thing is the Fossil Q Founder's charging pad!


Bonus deal: Did you know famed watchmaker Fossil got into the smartwatch game? The company's Fossil Q Founder model compares favorably (in both style and functionality) with Motorola's 1st-gen Moto 360 lineup -- complete with $295 price tag.

However, for a limited time, and while supplies last, you can get a Fossil Q Founder stainless-steel smartwatch for $131.24 shipped when you apply promo code MORELUV at checkout. That same code works with the rose-gold version, which comes with a black-leather strap.

CNET liked the Founder's good looks and ambient-light sensor, but dinged its mediocre battery life and lack of a heart-rate monitor. This is a fashion watch, not a fitness one. (And a big watch at that: 46mm.) Ultimately, it was hard to recommend -- but that was at $295. At $131? What say you?

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Bonus deal 2: As the tech world slowly migrates to USB Type C, you're going to need cables that work with new and old ports alike. Like this one: Amazon has the Ugreen 2-in-1 microUSB cable with USB-C adapter for $5.24 when you apply coupon code ENRGWL6K at checkout. This 3-foot cable includes a simple dongle that converts its Micro-USB end to Type C.