Many people have smartphones and even more have cellular phones, but most of us are locked into lengthy contracts in order to get data and voice services. A relatively new company launched in October of 2013, Scratch Wireless aims to provide smartphone services to those who don’t want contracts, but who also want to minimize the amount they pay, ad hoc, for voice and data. In fact, you could potentially never have a mobile bill, even for text and voice.
Scratch Wireless’s business proposition is simple, you buy a particular, pre-configured smartphone from them, sign up for an account, and start doing free WiFi voice calls (and data, obviously). Yes, that’s right, free voice calls. The key here is that as long as you are connected to a WiFi network, you are connected. All of your data is handled by the WiFi connection, and, because of software implemented by Scratch Wireless on their Android smartphone, you can make Voice over IP (VoIP) calls anywhere in the United States. Sure, you can do the same thing with other smartphones, if you use Skype or Facetime or something like that, but those either do not have an actual phone number tied to it or you need proprietary hardware (e.g., an iPhone) to be able to make calls.
When I was offered to test out the Scratch Wireless service, it couldn’t come at a better time for me. My wife and oldest daughter are heading over-seas, to Paris, for a ballet intensive session with the Paris Opera Ballet School, and I was worried that I would have to add some international capabilities to my current cellular service for them. I had heard horror stories of excessive data, voice and texting service charges, and I was considering simply turning off their smartphones so that I wouldn’t be hit with sticker shock once they returned from their European excursion.
This got me thinking (and asking questions). Could my wife and daughter simply use Scratch Wireless phones to not only communicate with each other while in Paris but also keep in touch with the rest of the family in the US? The answer is potentially – YES, but I’m not going to write about that experience until after it happens. But that is the use case that I’m pursuing. Check back in a few months to find out the results of this real-world test (emphasis on “world”) here.
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