Kickstarter spotlight: Freedompop Sleeve
Mobile wireless routers have taken off since the MiFi first came out, and now someone added plastic to it so it would stick to an iPod Touch. That’s really what the Freedom Sleeve is, a 4G wireless router that also doubles as a case for the fourth generation iPod Touch. It has been circling the web for a while, and now it’s up for “pre-order” on Kickstarter, in the sense that anything on Kickstarter can be classified as such. The case works much like other mobile wireless routers, turning a 4G signal into a WiFi signal that both the iPod Touch and other devices can connect to.
Perhaps the more unique aspect of this product is the price for the data it consumes: Nothing. Well, at least that’s what they want you to think. 500MB of data is included per month, so if you stick to that, it’s free. If you want more than that, you can buy more capacity at a currently unknown rate. You can also get up to 1GB more by referring friends. There’s no contract, so once you have the case, you’re all set. That case will run you either $99 or $149 depending on which of the two limited reward tiers you go for on Kickstarter.
It’s important to point out that 4G here means 4G and nothing else, as there doesn’t seem to be a fallback on anything else. That means you should study the map carefully to see if you’re in one of the relatively few (compared to country-wide coverage) areas that have coverage. This is a US-only product, so forget about grabbing one from elsewhere.
It’s an interesting product, but I don’t know if I would call it anything more than that. Technically speaking, it’s an existing concept with some form fitted plastic on it. The service is the more interesting part, and offering 500MB each month for free is definitely an interesting concept. Considering that they’re heavily pushing video and audio streaming as usage scenarios for this device, things that eat up a 500MB plan in no time, the idea is obviously to get people hooked on the convenience and sell paid capacity upgrades that way. That’s not a bad business plan though, and it gives people who use little data the option to simply stick with the 500MB of included data (or refer friends to increase that) instead of having to pay for something they rarely use. The iPod Touch is also very popular with the younger generation, and this is definitely a safer way to go in giving them mobile internet access than handing them a device with a plan that is a lot harder to control.[Kickstarter]