In part 2 of this series, I wrote about minimizing baseline data usage. It’s been another month and here is an update.


Now that the first month has passed I can verify it is still “free” and I have no invited any charges beyond the original $0.99 SIM and $5.00 minimum required credit balance. There was a moment or two of shock when I checked the account and no longer saw the $5.00 credit. It turns out the credit expires and you must “restore”.

For this month, I continued to monitor usage. As with prior tests, I never used the cellphone or any apps unless I was on WiFi. Even still, I watched data usage accrue. The phone used about 60mb of data – all of which was more or less out of my control. I attribute the increased usage to the phone being in the truck most of the time so it was bouncing between WiFi and cellular often. This transition caused system services usage such as “find my phone” logging, network updates, etc. I’ve concluded that it’s probably safe to assume 100mb of the 500mb will be lost every month unless the smartphone is left off or in airplane mode – just remember FreedomPop is “all data” and has no real SMS text or cellular phone support. FreedomPop requires its own app for voice and texting app because it is exclusively a VoIP service.

This month was also the first month of testing the phone features. Since the project is focused on creating an emergency backup phone I wanted the phone number to already be known by family and friends. This way, switching to the backup would be transparent. Since I already use Google Voice as the common number I have given out, I assumed it would be easy.

Sometime in the past year, Google Voice rolled out a major “upgrade” to their mobile app. The new app removed a key feature of Google Voice – call-back dialing or Click2Call. The behavior of Click2Call – when placing a call – has the following steps:

  1. Dial the desired phone number using the Google Voice app
  2. Google Voice servers place a call back to your phone
  3. Google Voice detects you answering the call
  4. Google Voice then dials the desired phone number
  5. Google Voice connects its call to you with its call to the desired number

This process means your phone receives a call rather than places it. It also means the recipient of the call sees your Google Voice number on their caller-ID.

The “updated” Google Voice app now places a call to a generated number which the Google Voice servers have temporarily designated for your call.

In theory it doesn’t change the overall experience. The recipient of the call still sees your Google Voice number. In practice it has one big flaw for my plan to creat a backup phone – Google Voice places the outbound call using the smartphone’s native phone feature. FreedonPop vomits when this happens.

What’s curious is the Google Voice service still supports Click2Call and the app even supports the feature for non-phone devices (eg tablets). However, when the Google Voice app is installed on a smRtphone, the app is “smart?” and removes the dialing feature.

Eventually I found a $2.99 third-party app for Google Voice which still has the Click2Call feature.

So, the total is now up to $8.98 for my “free” backup phone project.

Next will be seeing how easy it is to actually use the backup phone without exceeding the basic service limits.