UppWireless offers $15 BYOD phone service

Too good to be true? There are some strings, but this might be an attractive option for operating an unlocked GSM phone on the cheap.

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
2 min read
A $10 SIM card and $15 monthly buys you unlimited calling and texting from UppWireless, plus 1GB of data.
A $10 SIM card and $15 monthly buys you unlimited calling and texting from UppWireless, plus 1GB of data. UppWireless

Looking for dirt-cheap phone service for your smartphone? If it's an unlocked GSM phone that began life on AT&T or T-Mobile, you might want to check out UppWireless.

For as little as $15 per month, you can stock your smartphone with a no-contract SIM card that leverages Wi-Fi and 3G/4G connectivity for calls, text, and data. But is it really as simple as that?

I'll let you know once I've had the chance to test UppWireless for myself. In the meantime, I can tell you that your $15 buys you unlimited calling and texting and 1GB of 4G data. (It's not immediately clear what the charges are if you go over.) I can also tell you that the service piggybacks on T-Mobile's network, but does so via the Red Pocket Mobile MNVO.

First things first: check the coverage map. I find it disappointing, as there are large swaths of the country (including the entire upper half of Michigan, where I live) with no coverage at all. It appears you'll have service mostly in major metropolitan areas and corridors.

Another possible catch: Although Android users can stick with the stock dialer and texting apps, iPhone users will need to rely on the UppTalk app (which can't send picture messages unless the recipient also has UppTalk). Again, I'll know more about these options -- and what kind of impact they have on day-to-day use -- after I've been able to put them to the test.

If you're not interested in bringing your own phone to UppWireless but like the idea of a bargain-basement monthly bill, the company currently offers four no-contract phones for purchase, including the Samsung Galaxy S4 for $549. And if you need more than 1GB of data per month, the $35 plan gives you unlimited access (though only the first 3GB at 4G speeds).

For anyone who's cast an eye toward Republic Wireless but wanted to bring their own device, UppWireless would appear to offer a viable solution. I'm hoping to have a hands-on update for you soon.