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Scratch Wireless takes aim at carriers with 'free' mobile service

The company offers free voice, data, and texting over Wi-Fi and provides a pay-as-you-go service when away from wireless.

A look at Scratch Wireless passes.
A look at Scratch Wireless passes.
Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET
Motorola Photon Q Screenshot by CNET

Scratch Wireless, a company that has partnered with Sprint to piggyback on its network, aims at making mobile communication a little cheaper.

The company launched on Wednesday with $5 million in funding and a "Wi-Fi First" offering. When Scratch customers connect to Wi-Fi from their Android handsets, they'll be able to make calls, send text messages, and view Web sites free of charge. When they're away from Wi-Fi, they can connect to Sprint's network to place calls and surf the Web. Texting is always free.

To differentiate its offering from other providers that have a similar service, Scratch Wireless sells passes to connect to cellular networks. A 24-hour pass costs customers $1.99 for data and $1.99 for voice. A 30-day pass costs customers $14.99 for data and $14.99 for voice.

Buying the passes is optional, according to Scratch. Customers who don't buy a pass won't be able to place calls or use data over cellular, but they would be able to send text messages at no charge. When back on Wi-Fi, all calling, data, and texting is available and free.

Scratch plans to offer Android-based smartphones to kick off its service. The company is launching with the Motorola Photon Q, which will cost customers $269. Scratch said it will not charge any additional hardware fees or force customers into contracts. The company plans to add more Android smartphones over time.

Although Scratch's official launch was today, the company's service is available only by invite. Interested users can sign up now.