If you're someone who reads this blog but is still waiting for the cost of smartphone ownership to drop enough for you to get one (I used to be one of you, so I know you're out there), then newcomer Scratch Wireless might have something to say that will pique your interest. This company pitches itself as the world's first truly free mobile service, and it does this by relying first and foremost on Wi-Fi access for voice and data. This isn't the first time we've heard this idea, but this is the first such offering that doesn't require a monthly bill of any kind.


Scratch Wireless plans to offer free texting, voice, and data services on Android smartphones before the end of this year. But here's the catch, while text, voice, and data are all free on Wi-Fi, only texting is free when you're pulling down signal from a cell tower. At those times, Scratch offers contract-free, pay-as-you-go access to cellular data and voice. So it's not actually free, just mostly free.


Now sure, someone can make their service virtually free by actively hunting down wireless hotspots and mostly talking while at home, but most people are likely to want to make the occasional phone call while driving. So how much will that set you back? Well, 24-hour passes cost just $1.99 each for data or voice access (i.e., $3.98 for both). A month-long pass costs $14.99 each. So if you want to reliably have access to voice and data each month and aren't interested in getting a new pass each day, you're looking at a monthly bill of $30.


But wait, there's another catch. 24-hour passes only allow for 25MBs of data or 30 minutes of voice. 30 day passes only allow for 200MBs and 250 minutes. Gee, that's enough minutes for you to ask your significant other what brand of milk you always buy, but please, for the love of your monthly bill, don't let the conversation wander off towards discussing what to get your in-laws for Christmas. Save that for when you get home.

So Scratch Wireless obviously isn't for everyone, but if you're already stringent with your cellular usage, then maybe this is the service for you. In that case, you'll have to order a Motorola Photon Q from the company for $269 in order to get started.


The Photon Q isn't a bad phone by any means, even if it is over a year old now. The phone comes with Android 4.1 and has a 4.3-inch screen with a 540 x 960 resolution. What's more notable about it is its qwerty keyboard. It's, sadly, probably still the best option out there for Android users with an appreciation for physical buttons.


Scratch Wireless doesn't make any mention of the cellular networks it partners with, but given that the Photon Q is a Sprint phone, this looks like another Sprint MNVO. As someone who uses Ting, I have no problem using Sprint's network to save myself money, but I know for many of you, this is a deal breaker.

Anyone who's interested can request an invite to be notified when the service is up and running. Scratch Wireless isn't going to work for everyone, or even most people, but it's good to see another option emerge that allows people to stay connected at a rate they deem fair.

Scratch Wireless: Press Release, Website

Bertel King, Jr.
Born and raised in the rural South, Bertel knows what it's like to live without 4G LTE - or 3G, for that matter. The only things he likes sweeter than his tea are his gadgets, and while few objects burn more than a metal phone on a summer day, he prefers them that way anyway.

  • http://www.tylerwatt12.com/ Tyler Watthanaphand

    And it's sprint. So not only does the data cap out at $25, but it's also dial up slow!

  • atlouiedog

    RingPlus seems like a better option to me as VOIP is easy enough to do yourself with Google Voice. Their free service is closed to signups right now, but will be opening back up in December. 325 minutes, 70 text messages, and 10 MBs free per month. You can top off your account with money that doesn't expire at the end of the month and it will pull from that for any use over those freebies. Additional use is 2 cents per min/text/mb. It's BYOD so you can use any new or used Sprint devcie that you have lying around or want to buy.

    Now, the catch. It's ad supported. They play an ad instead of ringing when you call out. It's unobtrusive and if the person you call answers immediately you only hear a couple of seconds of advertisement. I feel like it's handled really well from the customer side. I've been using the service quite a bit since signing up as a second phone and I'm happy with it so far.

    • Jkix23

      I couldn't find the link that talks about free service from ringplus. Could you share it?

  • FrillArtist

    You guys seriously need a better editor. What is this sentence supposed to mean???:

    "that's enough minutes to ask the significant other what the brand you milk you always drink is"

    • GalaxyS3modder

      He was just giving an example to the people who might not know exactly how much minutes they would neen or if they are new to cellphone contracts in general. Leave him alone

  • Freak4Dell

    I got excited about free texting. Then I saw Sprint. No thanks.

  • Cory_S

    Totally free service...as long as you don't use their...service.

  • Scott Hendry

    sounds like a bad deal wrapped in good marketing.

  • David Marion

    Data is free when I'm connected to Wi-Fi? What a deal!

    • Ror

      Reminds me of when wifi radios were optional in phones.

  • Tim Clayton

    "This company pitches itself as the world's first truly free mobile service"

    Freedom Pop made that claim last month. 200 minutes, 200 texts, 500mb a month for free. you pay for extras like usage alerts (2 dollars a month), visual voicemail, and the likes( although you could just use google voice for free). completely free, no contract, and they offered an HTC evo design for 99 dollars.

  • Frank Lopez

    No - wireless should not be free. It is expansive to mainatain. With that claim alone - this company is simply doing what the industry as a whole been doing.

    Get in cheap - get used to the service and in a few years SPIKE the price.

    I rather get ripped by a conscious decision than to support a shitt ycompany with motives other than "helping"

  • Nick

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  • CaptainDisillusion

    Wouldn't this be a great thing to have to use as a "home phone" instead of paying $10/month to AT&T Uverse or whatever? You pay a one time fee, leave your Photon Q at home, and that's your home phone. Set it up for wireless charging and just leave it on the wireless charging panel overnight.

  • Steve

    I'm interested in your experience using Ting. Have you written any reviews of your use of this service recently? Thanks.

  • subramanianv

    I don't live in US. But it does seems decent idea, albeit it is not free completely. Wouldn't the same 30 day plan cost more in AT&T or Verizon? As far as I know they charge for texting.

    However, if you have to choose Sprint compatible phone only, then that would be a deal breaker.