If you've ever struggled with a monthly cell phone bill, you've probably looked for cheaper alternatives like prepaid plans from big box stores or startup carriers like Zact and Ting. Well, what's cheaper than free? That's exactly what Scratch Wireless aims to offer with what it claims is the world's first free mobile service, which launches today. It manages to do so with a modified Android OS that pushes the phone to connect to WiFi for pretty much everything -- calls, text and data. However, if you do want to use your phone outside of a WiFi area, that's when the charges come in. Scratch Wireless has a partnership with Sprint to offer $1.99 per day for up to 30 minutes of cell calls and another $1.99 per day for up to 25MB of data. There's also a monthly $14.99 pass for either 250 minutes of voice calls or 200MBs of data.
Both daily and monthly passes are entirely optional, and it's up to the consumer to add those services. Payment is not recurring, and there's never a contract. Regardless of which you choose, Scratch promises us that text messaging is always on and free. CEO Alan Berrey tells us that Scratch Wireless wanted to take a different tact from traditional cell phone service. "There's no unnecessary cost with us," he says. "We have no towers, no FCC, no leasing locations to deal with." Because of this so-called "WiFi First" strategy, the phones will work internationally as well, as long as you have access to a WiFi network of course.
Right now Scratch only offers one phone with the specially modified OS, and that's the Motorola Photon Q for $269. Berrey did promise us that a long list of Sprint-compatible devices is in the pipeline, but we should note that this modification is unique to Android, so we wouldn't expect anything with iOS or Windows Phone to be in Scratch's portfolio. While the non-WiFi daily and monthly data allotments seem mighty skimpy to us, Scratch is clearly aiming its service primarily for those who are constantly in range of a WiFi network. "We believe consumers ought to be able to buy a compelling Android device and not pay for a plan when they already have a wireless network in their home or office," said Berrey. If that sounds intriguing to you, hit the source for more info or head past the break for the promo video.