Mobile broadband provider FreedomPop has begun offering its first phone with a free data plan. After paying $99 for the phone, users can enjoy 500MB of data per month at no cost on Sprint’s network.Mobile Broadband provider FreedomPop

Although the particular Android phone and service can’t be called top-tier, the concept could open up smartphone and mobile app usage to a large population that has not previously been able or willing to pay for it. A June Pew Internet report revealed that more than half of all American adults now own smartphones, but cheaper data access will likely boost adoption even further.

In addition to 500MB of 4G or 3G data, the free “Basic 200” plan includes 200 voice minutes and 500 text messages. However, even voice traffic goes over the data connection, not the cellular network, making FreedomPop a mobile VOIP provider. In an interview with GigaOM, company CEO Stephen Stokols said that the VOIP service will still work on 3G connections in places 4G isn’t available.

Users have the option of paying to add more voice minutes and text messages. The “Premium 500” plan includes unlimited texts and increases the voice minutes allowance to 500 for $7.99 per month. The “Unlimited” plan includes unlimited voice minutes and texts for $10.99 per month.

Under all plans, data usage beyond 500MB can be purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis for 2.5 cents per megabyte. An extra $9.99 per month increases the monthly data allowance to 1GB with overage costing 1 cent per megabyte.

Early Adopters Need Not Apply

Anyone hoping for the latest device will be disappointed. The only phone available for now is a two-year-old refurbished model, according to Prepaid Phone News. The Sprint HTC Evo Design runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and features a 1.2GHz processor, 4-inch screen, 5-megapixel main camera, and 768MB of RAM. The phone’s 4GB built-in storage is supplemented with a bundled 8GB SecureDigital card.

Rather than the more common LTE, the smartphone uses WiMAX for 4G data speeds. Stokols said that he hoped to offer LTE phones in the near future.

Although this is FreedomPop’s first phone offering, they have previously offered free mobile Internet access through hotspots and a sleeve for the iPod Touch.

Would you accept the limitations for a free mobile data connection? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: free cell phone plans, free data plan, best data plan, freedompop data plans, freedompop free plan, freedom wireless