Clark Howard: Scratch makes use of Wi-Fi

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I told you recently about the offer of limited free smartphone service from FreedomPop. Now a company called Scratch Wireless has another offer.

Research from Cisco finds that smartphone users are near free Wi-Fi around 80 percent of the time. So the Scratch Wireless business model affords you free texting all the time on the Sprint cellular network, and then free data and voice minutes when you’re near Wi-Fi.

If you’re not near Wi-Fi and the need for calling arises, you buy a pass for either $1.99 by the day or $15 unlimited for the month. Same thing for data, though the price point is $25 for 1 GB. (Texting remains free and unlimited all the time, no matter whether you’re on Wi-Fi or a cellular network.)

The reality is teens don’t really talk on the phone. So if you have a kid who is dying for a smartphone and you don’t want to deal with the bill every month, they can use this option.

How can you get in on this deal? You buy a no-name Chinese Android phone for $99, the Coolpad Arise. Once you buy it, your service is free with the stipulations I outlined above.

I see Scratch as a perfect service for a parent who wants their child to have a smartphone. You can always reach them by text thanks to the free and unlimited service that doesn’t require Wi-Fi. And you don’t have a big cellphone bill every month.

It’s like a poor man’s cellphone service, even if Scratch Wireless is a niche player at best. It won’t serve a big number of people, but if it works in your life, think about all the money you’ll save! Plus, it’s yet another sign of the trends that point to cheaper and cheaper service to come.

Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website

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