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Optimum Debuts Cheap Wi-Fi-Only Smartphone Service

Optimum has a simple solution for making cell service cheaper — cut out data networks entirely. The cable company's new Freewheel service is powered entirely by Wi-Fi hotspots, and will be available next month for $30 per month or $10 per month for existing Optimum customers. 

A Freewheel plan consists of unlimited data, talk and text, and comes devoid of an annual contract. Instead of relying on a cellular service provider, Freewheel uses Optimum's network of Wi-Fi hotspots, which Optimum says there are over a million of in the Tri-State area alone. Freewheel will automatically connect you to the fastest Optimum hotspot within range, and, naturally, can be used on your own Wi-Fi network.

MORE: Best Smartphones on the Market

Freewheel is offered exclusively with Motorola's $99 Moto G, which packs a 4.5-inch HD screen, quad-core processor and touts a custom Freewheel widget for easy access to Wi-Fi calls, texts and voicemails. In our Laptop Mag review, we loved the Moto G for its rich display and comfortable design, and Freewheel lets you nab the phone for half of its original asking price.

While the prospect of getting unlimited mobile service for $30 a month is enticing, Freewheel isn't for everyone. Optimum's stateside hotspot service is largely relegated to the Tri-State area, rendering the service near-useless to anyone living outside of it. Freewheel also doesn't seem optimal for someone who's always traveling, as it's easy to imagine a call being interrupted in the middle of switching hotspots.

Freewheel isn't the only way to make calls on a budget; Skype's Unlimited US and Canada plan offers unlimited calling for $2.99 a month, with texts costing 11.2 cents per message. Also, existing Optimum customers already have access to the company's hotspots, meaning you can essentially receive Freewheel-like service using a Wi-Fi only device, such as an iPod touch.

Still, for New York-based college students, children or anyone else who primarily uses their phone in Wi-Fi zones, Freewheel is significantly cheaper than even some prepaid carriers. The service offers one of the better low-end handsets on the market, and, at a mere $10 per month for existing Optimum customers, is a wallet-friendly way to get yourself or a loved one their first smartphone.

Mike Andronico is an Associate Editor at Tom's Guide. Follow Mike @MikeAndronico and onGoogle+. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • remyj
    1) Republic Wireless already offers a wifi only smartphone plan for only $5 and offers on the fly plan changes to allow using the phone over traditional cell phone networks: $10/month for all the wifi you can eat and includes cell voice anywhere on the sprint network. For $25 a month you unlimited phone, text, and data over wifi and sprint's 3G network. You can make plan changes up to twice a month.

    2) If Optimum was smart, they would have made this free to their customers as a value added to their accounts to keep customers loyal. Might have been smart to offer this for free to non customers too to try to get new customers for their cable service.

    As it stands now, the Republic Wireless plan is less expensive and offers better choices to add services later, They also offer Moto X, as well as the Moto G so there is a choice of phones too.
    Reply
  • joaompp
    I have optimum, and optimum Wi-Fi is terrible in Westchester County NY. Personally, cricket wireless is way better and you can bring any GSM phone, I pay $35 a month after $5 auto pay credit. And, if you sign up for Google Voice you can already make phone calls and texts for free over Wi-Fi.
    Reply
  • derekullo
    Tri-State area means?

    Most states have 3 nearby states ...
    Reply
  • rezaraquib
    Tri-State = NY+NJ+CT
    Reply
  • digitaldoc
    Tristate = NY, NJ and CT.
    Reply
  • fuzzion
    I used to carry a 12v Car Battery, a wireless wifi router and a laptop with a USB phone. Now i can do away carrying all of these with this invention Holy cow, i must buy me some!
    Reply
  • remyj
    15151161 said:
    I have optimum, and optimum Wi-Fi is terrible in Westchester County NY. Personally, cricket wireless is way better and you can bring any GSM phone, I pay $35 a month after $5 auto pay credit. And, if you sign up for Google Voice you can already make phone calls and texts for free over Wi-Fi.

    Yes, Cricket is probably the best all around deal out there and being able to use any GSM phone is a huge plus. Cricket also gives you the first GB of data at 4G LTE which certainly beats the RW/Sprint 3G speed. But, if one wants to get by on the cheapest of cheap, and does not mind the Sprint 3G speeds when away from wifi, tough to beat the Republic Wireless deal.

    Reply