In 2012, Republic Wireless introduced a new service offering contract-free unlimited calls, texts, and Internet for $19 per month. If that still sounds a bit too rich for your blood, check out Scratch Wireless, a new service that promises no-contract unlimited calls, texts, and Internet--all for the low, low price of absolutely free. Well, at least that's the idea.
Caveats and catches
The catch is you have to be connected to Wi-Fi for unlimited calls and Internet, while texts are free over Wi-Fi and mobile networks. Like Republic, Scratch's trick is to offer a hybrid smartphone that favors a Wi-Fi connection whenever one's available, but will also connect to Sprint's network when you need it. You need to pay the unsubsidized price of your phone, as well as for any pay-as-you-go minutes for those times you're not connected to Wi-Fi.
And there's the second catch: to purchase pay-as-you go data and voice, Scratch requires you to buy either a 24-hour or 30-day pass for each service. There doesn't appear to be any kind of credit system where you purchase prepaid minutes and data and then pay up again once you've depleted your usage allotment.
Scratch's day pass will set you back $2 for voice and another $2 for Internet, but that pass has some serious limitations, with only 30 minutes of voice calling and 25 Megabytes of Internet. In other words, it's borderline useless. Meanwhile, a voice and Internet monthly pass will cost you $30, with the Internet usage maxing out at 200MB and voice calls limited to 250 minutes.
Still, $30 per month is much better than the minimum $80 monthly cost you're probably paying now with one of the major wireless carriers. If you're surrounded by Wi-Fi most of the time and aren't a heavy mobile Internet user, Scratch could be a pretty good deal.
When the service debuts, Scratch will only offer one phone: the $269 Motorola Photon Q, which features a slide out physical keyboard. Specs for the Photon Q include a 4.3-inch display with 540-by-960 resolution, 1GB RAM, 8GB onboard storage, microSD slot (up to 32GB), front- and rear-facing cameras, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, micro USB, micro HDMI, and LTE. The device will run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, according to Scratch's spec sheet. A ho-hum phone by modern standards, but it will still get the job done.
As with Republic, you can transfer your existing mobile number to Scratch, or get a new number.
Scratch doesn't have a firm release date yet, but the company says it will introduce its new service before the end of the year. You can sign up for notifications as to when the service will go live on Scratch's Website.