Lunar Wireless offers $0/month service, charges 25 cents per app


Many carriers have come and gone with grand propositions of vastly reduced smartphone service, whether that’s a lower flat-rate cost due to using a traditional MVNO business model, or truly unique elements like Project Fi where you pay for only what you actually use.

So when we heard about a new carrier — the Detroit-based Lunar Wireless — that offers service for $0 per month, we were completely floored. Can it be true? Free wireless service?

Well, sort of. It’s not that you’re not paying anything, but you’re not paying anything until you actually decide you need to. We understand if it sounds a bit confusing, so let’s dive deeper.

How It Works

Let’s jump right into the service model of Lunar Wireless, which is pretty cool. The idea here is instead of paying a minimum monthly service fee, you pay a quarter for anything you want to do on your phone for an entire day.

If you want to watch YouTube? Pay $.25, and you can watch as much as you want for the entire day, no data caps or overages to worry about. Need to make some calls? $.25 gets you unlimited outbound calls throughout the day (incoming calls are always free, too).

For apps, the $.25 rule applies per app, so if you want to go on a Tweet storm then you’ll need to cough up another $.25 to use Twitter for the day. And, of course, use is totally free if you are on WiFi.

You can add balance to your account through their smartphone app in denominations as low as $1, and they’ll take the quarter out automatically whenever you need access to something. One last cool nugget: if you happen to live in Detroit, they’ll actually drive to your home and get you setup with your new service.

Do you actually save money?

Well, as with anything of the pay-as-you-go variety, it all depends on you and your usage. Some quick and dirty math tells me that 30 straight days of access to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram — the usual social media clutches of your average millennial — would run me $37.50. Add maybe 7 days of outbound calling, that’s just another $1.75.

And that’s assuming I would use all of these apps every day off WiFi for 30 days, which — in my case — is actually a vast overestimation.

I really only use Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis, and even then I’m mostly on a WiFi network when I do check out the latest goings-on from friends and family. I’d say I’m away from a WiFi network just 2-3 times per week, and that time usually isn’t spent on my phone save for a quick YouTube clip or 2 if I have a long wait at the doctor’s office. At those figures, I’m paying around $9 per month.

Exact usage will obviously vary day-to-day, but even just $2-3 covers the wiggle room I’d need under extraordinary circumstances. That’s a far cry from the $90 I pay AT&T for the very little activity I tax their network with.

Side-note: Lunar does suggest their customers pay $10 per month on average when all is said and done. That’s a nice low number I can get behind, but this obviously doesn’t tell us anything about usage habits. Is this the average because people are being more mindful of the apps they use when they’re not on WiFi (which I would be if I were using this service), or is this indicative of the more liberal usage they’re likely to have if they were on a more traditional data model? That’s tough to say, and that’s why it’s important to consider your own scenario.

Too Good To Be True?

With anything like Lunar, it’s natural to second guess their swathing promises. I’m not sure how legit the service is yet as I haven’t yet been able to test it. Their promise sounds good, and there is no fine print that I can see which would steer me away.

Lunar says their customers have access to a nationwide 4G LTE network, though they don’t disclose which one. It’s likely they’re providing access to one of the big 4 carriers’ networks through an MVNO agreement. We’re still awaiting more details from the company in this regard.

If nothing else, they do offer a 60-day money-back guarantee, and since there’s no monthly fee to commit to then giving them a try costs nothing more than the phone you’ll need to use it. That’s where the lone issue for me comes in, though.

Downside: Your Phone Will Suck

That aforementioned lone issue? Phone selection. Unfortunately, it looks like you’ll need to buy your phones straight from Lunar. That wouldn’t be a big problem, if not for a couple of reasons:

  • They only have 2 phones available — the original Moto G and the Nexus 5, at $49 and $129, respectively.
  • Those 2 phones are nearly 4 years old, although they are priced appropriately.
  • Those 2 phones aren’t even in stock as of this writing.

I’d love to use this service, but that would require me to buy a worse phone than I already have. And even if I were in a position where I wanted to or had to buy the phone, I couldn’t do it.

Lunar would be the dream service for me if I could bring my own phone or at least buy something that was even just 1-2 years past its prime, but hardware is important and I don’t know if their interesting service model is interesting enough to deal with the hardships of having an outdated phone.

We also have to consider the network itself. Since we don’t know what they’re running through, we don’t know what actual coverage is like. If it’s Verizon, I’m all game, but if it’s Sprint then that could be a deal breaker.

Would You Try It?

There’s one thing we can’t deny: no one else is offering anything quite like Lunar. All things being perfect, I could see myself dropping AT&T to give them a shot, especially since it costs virtually nothing to do so.

How about you? Take a look at your own usage habits, consider what you could and couldn’t cut out of your daily patterns, and think about how often you do the things you do on WiFi. Would the service be cost effective for you? Enough so that it’d get you to drop your current carrier? Hit us with your thoughts below!

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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