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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.

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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+.