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Updated: 12:40 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 | Posted: 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014

Scratch Wireless: Free smartphone plan

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By Clark Howard

Here's another new option for FREE text, talk, and unlimited data on your smartphone from a startup out of Boston.

I told you recently about the offer of limited free smartphone service from FreedomPop. Now a new company called Scratch Wireless that launched in October 2013 has another offer.

Research from Cisco finds that smartphone users are near free wifi around 80% of the time. So the Scratch Wireless business model affords you free texting, data, and voice minutes when you're near wifi.

If you're not, you simply buy a pass for $15 a month that lets you get cellular service for voice and another pass for data. (Texting remains free and unlimited all the time, no matter where you're on wifi or a cellular network.)

So how can you get in on this deal? It starts with you buying a Motorola Photon Q for $269. It's a fancy smartphone with a 4.3 inch screen that runs Android 4.1 (Jellybean). Once you buy it, your service is free with the stipulations I outlined above.

If you choose to get the cellular network pass for $15 a month, why would you do Scratch Wireless rather than, say, Republic Wireless for $25? (Read my review of Republic here.)

Well, 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 wifi. And you don't have a big cellphone bill every month!

It's like poor man's cellphone service. All these services like FreedomPop, Republic Wireless, and Scratch Wireless are a niche; they won't serve a big number of people. But they're all another sign of the trends that point to cheaper and cheaper service to come.

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