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Red Pocket Mobile review

Red Pocket Mobile is a nationwide wireless service that’s very easy on the budget — but there are some tradeoffs.

Red Pocket Mobile
(Image: © Red Pocket Mobile)

Our Verdict

Red Pocket Mobile’s potential savings make it worth investigating, just be sure to test it thoroughly before ditching your current carrier.

For

  • Works with your existing phone and number
  • Four different plans cover most US regions
  • Pay as you go provides flexibility
  • Low fees

Against

  • Potentially terrible wireless service
  • High-speed data caps
  • Free international calling is limited

Mobile phones have become an integral part of our lives, but their wireless plans can be prohibitively expensive for folks on a budget. Red Pocket Mobile is a low-cost option that aims to give consumers the confidence and freedom of solid wireless coverage for as little as $10 a month. If you’re in the market for a new phone, plan, or both, first check out our guide to the best cell phone providers to get a feel for the options, then read on to learn more about Red Pocket.

Red Pocket’s appeal is clear from the start: unlimited talk, text, and data for significantly less than plans from AT&T, Verizon, et al. You can use your own phone, don’t have to change your number, and switch plans as need or finances demand. There are, of course, some caveats and limitations, the most important of which being the limits on how much “high-speed” data you can get. Each plan throttles your data speed once you hit your limit, which may be a deal-breaker for anyone hoping to use Red Pocket to power their business.

If Red Pocket’s service works well in your area — and that’s a significant “if” — it’s a solid option, especially for families, students, or anyone looking to have a secondary phone line. The potential savings make it worth investigating, and the pay-as-you-go plans allow for experimentation with different carriers to see which one works best for you. 

Red Pocket Mobile review: Unlimited plans

  • Unlimited plans start at $20/month
  • eBay exclusive plans provide the best monthly price

If all of Red Pocket’s plans offer unlimited everything, why are there pricing tiers? Excellent question: to determine how much data you can download at “high speed.” At the lowest rate, $20/month, you get “3GB at highest speeds, unlimited at 2G speeds thereafter.” Higher pricing tiers bump up your high-speed cap: $30 gets you 10GB/month, $40 nets 22GB, and $50 allows 50GB at high speeds. 

Red Pocket Mobile

(Image credit: Red Pocket Mobile)

Cheaper plans are, bizarrely, available from eBay, but you have to pay up front for an entire year. Their per-month costs is lower than the $20-$40 range of monthly plans, but their high-speed data caps out at 20GB, so there’s no comparable version of the $50 monthly plan. 

Red Pocket’s family plans offer unlimited everything, with $30 for the first line and then $20 for each additional. The site helpfully has a dynamic calculator that makes it clear exactly what different numbers of lines will cost both up front and each month, which alleviates a lot of potential confusion.

Red Pocket Mobile review: Basic Plans

  • $10/month
  • 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of data.

If you don’t need unlimited data, Red Pocket’s basic option is quite the bargain. For $10/month, you get 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of data. There is no basic option for family plans. 

This won't be a hugely popular option for most people, given how important data is to cell plans these days, but it's great to see a cheaper option available for very infrequent cell phone users.

Red Pocket Mobile review: Coverage

  • Red Pocket Mobile uses the same networks as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
  • Quality isn’t guaranteed and can vary wildly

Red Pocket Mobile lets you choose from four different networks that blanket the US: GSMA (AT&T), CDMA (Verizon), or GSMT (T-Mobile). As is true of any other carrier, coverage and signal quality will depend on where you live. There is no 5G coverage with CDMA. 

Red Pocket Mobile

(Image credit: Red Pocket Mobile)

The Red Pocket Mobile site has maps of each network’s coverage areas, though some are more precise than others. The GSMA and GSMT maps do a good job of letting you check your precise location, either by inputting your ZIP code or zooming in on a map. For CDMA, however, you have a map of the US that’s color-coded. No zooming in, no nothing. For anything more precise, you ask Red Pocket via live chat.

At least Red Pocket is very upfront with its disclaimers about quality: Actual coverage will vary based on network, location, device used, and other factors. We cannot guarantee coverage in a specific location. 

Red Pocket Mobile review: International Calling

  • Free international calling, but where you’re calling matters

Red Pocket Mobile offers free international calling, but caps the number of minutes based on the country and sometimes the phone number you’re dialing. Calls to UK mobile networks are unlimited, but personal numbers are capped at 24 a month. Calls to Celtel in Kenya are capped at 55 minutes, but those to Safaricom are capped at 95. Minutes share a pooled credit with all capped destinations, so if you chat with your Safaricom friend for an hour, your Celtel buddy will have to wait until next month to hear from you. 

Red Pocket Mobile review: Cell phone selection

  • Decent selection of iPhone and Android phones
  • Monthly installments available for iPhone

Red Pocket pretty clearly expects you to be bringing your own phone to the party, but in case you need another unit, it has an up-to-date selection of both iPhone and Android phones. An option to pay via monthly installments is available for iPhone, but not Android. Red Pocket also has a single HotSpot from Franklin Wireless on offer.

Red Pocket Mobile

(Image credit: Red Pocket Mobile)

Red Pocket Mobile review: Customer reviews and satisfaction 

  • When it works, it’s great 
  • When it doesn’t, it’s terrible

Getting up and running with Red Pocket using your existing phone is clunky and possibly beyond the abilities of less tech-savvy users. Upon receiving the SIM card, you register it on Red Pocket’s website, then follow the instructions you receive via email. At the time of this writing, there also seems to be a known issue with SIM cards on Motorola phones not placing calls. There is a fix, but it requires placing the SIM card into a non-Motorola phone, making a call, and then putting it back. A less than ideal user experience if you have access to another phone, and impossible if you don’t. 

The reason Red Pocket Mobile can offer such low rates is that they don’t have the overhead costs of maintaining physical storefronts. The downside of that is if you have any kind of issue, you have no choice but to contact customer service and wait times can be several hours long. That said, most cheap mobile carriers don’t offer customer service at all, so the fact that Red Pocket has options to call or use live chat is a point in their favor. 

Many user reviews point to problems with porting an existing number or simply getting set up on their current phone. In some cases, the number took several days to transfer to the new SIM card, in others, the data or calling didn’t work. Unhappy customers also consistently mention dropped (or never connected) calls. Happy customers, on the other hand, have had excellent call quality, fast download speeds, and positive interactions with customer service. Which reality you experience with Red Pocket seems to be defined in part by geography and in part by pure luck.

Red Pocket Mobile

(Image credit: Red Pocket Mobile)

Should you choose Red Pocket Mobile?

Red Pocket Mobile has the potential to be a budget-friendly phone option, with nationwide coverage options, 5G (for some networks), and unlimited data. The big “if” is whether or not it will work for you. The user experience with Red Pocket seems to be either great or awful without much in between. When it works, it delivers exactly what it’s selling: a mobile experience on par with what you’d get through traditional plans, but at a fraction of the cost. When it doesn’t, however, it’s an unreliable hassle that drops calls and has terrible customer service. 

Fortunately, Red Pocket’s prepaid model makes it easy to take it for a test-run before committing to anything. Pick a network and test it out. If the service isn’t great, select another one that has coverage in your area (if there is one). If none of them give you a quality experience, all you’ve lost is some time and a small bit of cash. The potential savings is worth the risk of experimentation.

Susan Arendt

Susan Arendt is a writer, editor, and consultant with more than two decades of experience from companies including AOL, Conde Nast, and The New York Times. You can find her most recent written work on Wired, or look for her on Twitter.  Be prepared to see too many pictures of her dogs.