FreedomPop today announced it will begin selling its own branded smartphones and tablets.
First up is Liberty, a 7-inch Wi-Fi-only Android ‘phablet’ priced at $89. In the next month FreedomPop will release Frenzy, a 7-inch Android phablet with LTE and Wi-Fi for $99. And hopefully by the holidays the company will release an $89 LTE Android smartphone.
FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols said there’s a real need for sub-$100 Android devices in the U.S. but it’s difficult to convince low-end device manufacturers to come to our market.
“We looked to take it upon ourselves to fill that void,” Stokols said.
But Stokols said the move addresses compatible device supply not being able to keep up with growth at FreedomPop. FreedomPop is already gobbling up the majority of the Sprint refurbished device market. And with FreedomPop subscriber growth projected to hit between 50,000 and 100,000 a month some time during the next few months, the carrier was forced to prop up the low-cost Android market in the U.S. that OEMs aren’t currently interested in.
“To be clear we’re not looking to be the Xiaomi of the U.S.,” Stokols said, adding that the plan to sell branded phones doesn’t mean FreedomPop wants to become a device player.
FreedomPop contracted manufacturers in China and India to build its phones and tablets. To hit the sub-$100 price point, FreedomPop and its manufacturing partners leveraged existing reference designs and made tweaks to keep costs down, like going Wi-Fi-only in its first device.
Customers buying the Liberty will have the option to buy at $50 FreedomPop hotspot which will allow them to roam on Sprint’s cellular network and take advantage of FreedomPop’s VoIP and IP messaging platform, provided they don’t mind carrying a phone and a hotspot.
Stokols said the Liberty is going out first because it had the lowest price point and the fastest time to market.
The first FreedomPop-branded device also happens to be coming out on the first anniversary of the company’s official launch. It’s a time when customers appear to be flocking toward the company’s guaranteed free tier providing 200 voice, 500 texts, and 500 MB each month.
Stokols said that FreedomPop is on pace to add twice as many subs in the third quarter as it did in the second quarter, and that it’s trending toward breaking one million subs in the second or third quarter of next year.
FreedomPop’s growth has attracted attention from would-be buyers and Stokols has confirmed his company is in talks with a Tier 1 carrier and a separate telecommunications company. But Stokols said while the conversations are continuing FreedomPop is focused on accelerating some of its funding efforts.