The lifeline program is one of the cheapest ways to get a free cell phone service with no strings attached. Some of the providers participating in this program have been offering this benefit with a one-time discount on a connected device. And a perfect example of the “connected device” is the Torch Wireless free tablet, which I’ll be taking you through in this article, specifically how to get one.
No-No, Torch Wireless is not a brand/ manufacturer of tablets. It’s a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that has registered as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) with the FCC. Thus, qualified to give out a free lifeline phone service to eligible customers, then get the monies back from the Universal Service Fund.
In addition to the Lifeline phones, Torch Wireless is one of the few providers of ACP free tablets from the government. The tablet is under the “one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a connected device”.
Is the Torch Wireless Free Tablet Worth it?
Well, the right answer here will depend on who you ask. But first, the widescreen of a tablet is usually better than a smartphone for tasks like streaming movies, watching news, reading, and gaming. So, even before we come to the specific brands, a tablet is worth having in the house.
If you have a taste of high-end brands, tablets, just like smartphones, aren’t cheap to own. Latest brands like Samsung Galaxy and Apple iPad can cost you over a grand when brand-new. The models a few years older in the market are still a bit expensive as you may need to put down up to $300. But you can get some refurbished models under $100, similar to various brand-new entry-level brands.
Speaking of entry-level, many of the free tablets from the government are low-end brands. Cintex Wireless and its sister brand AirTalk Wireless are the only ones I’ve seen hand out decent brands, such as Samsung, iPad, Lenovo, et cetera.
You may also interest; How to Get Excess Telecom Free Tablet
In our case here, the kind of tablet Torch Wireless gives you is an 8-inch model on the Android operating system. The specific brand of tablet varies between six options, including:
- BLU M8L with 32/ 1GB Memory
- FOXXD T8 with 16/ 2GB memory
- Maxwest Astro 8q with 32/ 2GB
- XMOBILE X8 with 32/ 3GB memory
- Maxwest Nitro 8 with 32/ 3GB memory
- Hyundai HYTAB PLUS 8LB1 with 32/ 3GB
All these tablet names are hardly in the U.S. markets we know, and after in-depth research, I’ve learned the devices have a value of a little over $100 but less than $150.
As for the tech part, these Torch Wireless free tablets don’t have the best specs… or the worst. The BLU M8L 32/ 1GB or FOXXD T8 16/ 2GB is what the MVNO often sends you. But when either is unavailable, you would now get Maxwest Astro 8Q 32/ 2GB, MOBILE X8 32/ 3GB, Maxwest Nitro 8 32/ 3GB, or Hyundai HYTAB PLUS 8LB1 with 32/ 3GB.
Introducing Free Cell Phone Services with Torch Wireless
When you visit the Torch Wireless website, the prompt to enter your area Zip code and apply usually pops up almost immediately. And if you qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), your service will come with either of the tablets I’ve just mentioned.
Unlike most mobile broadband providers with ACP, Torch Wireless has been vague on most crucial details. For instance, the site of the carrier is not clear about which plans you can get free service.
However, I was able to get hold of a customer representative, who explained to me the two plans you can apply.
In the first service plan, Torch Wireless offers a free phone with unlimited talk and text, plus 5GB of high-speed data. You will also have access to features like Caller ID, Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, 3-Way Calling, and Voicemail, plus free calls to Emergency Services and Torch customer care.
The second service plan you can get with Torch Wireless is the one that comes with a one-time tablet. And from what Juan, the Customer rep at Torch, explained to me, this is a data-only plan. I mean, you get free 5GB of high-speed data (with no talk or text) per month.
Unfortunately, Torch has made it impossible to get both of these free service packages at the same time. You’ll have to pick one: the data-only plan with tablet or the talk, text, and data plan with a smartphone.
As a registered ETC (or lifeline provider), I’m finding this Torch Wireless policy of “choose the tablet or phone plan” so strange. Most of the close competitors with the free tablet have the option to apply for both plans at the same time.
A perfect example is Airtalk Wireless, Easy Wireless, or Standup Wireless, where you first get a free lifeline phone with monthly talk, text, and data. Then when you also use them to enroll for ACP, you’ll get a bonus 8-inch tablet.
What Network does the Torch Wireless Free Tablet use?
Unlike Qlink, the tablet Torch Wireless gives you has a built-in SIM slot. You just need to insert the SIM card and complete the activation, then the device is ready to browse and stream.
Same as the phone, though, the cellular tablet will need an underlying network to connect and work. But Torch Wireless is a mobile virtual network operator, which means it doesn’t have its own cellular infrastructure. Instead, the carrier has made a deal with a Main Carrier to run off its cell towers.
The network Torch Wireless used to use for its service was T-Mobile. Well, the deal with T-Mobile is still there even as I write this article.
Nevertheless, a couple of months ago, Torch made another deal with AT&T, ready to ditch T-Mobile. The carrier has already begun transitioning to the new network, as the device they now send is only compatible with AT&T.
If an existing Torch Wireless customer, though, you can still get service on your old T-Mobile-compatible device. But you may soon have to switch to another device compatible with the AT&T network to continue using your service.
How to Apply for the Torch Wireless Free Tablet
In a nutshell, it’s pretty straightforward to apply for the Torch Wireless free government tablet. As I’ve mentioned earlier, you get the prompt to apply immediately you’re on the site. You just need to enter the Zip code of your home location in the input box present. And once you hit the “START” button, it will redirect you to an application form.
The Torch Wireless free tablet is part of the ongoing affordable connectivity program (ACP) that the government launched in 2021. So, before you even proceed with the application, make sure you’re eligible for the program.
As you may know, ACP aims to bring affordable broadband connectivity to low-income consumers in the country. “Low-income” as the keyword, it means you will only qualify with proof of low income or an eligible federal assistance program.
If you wish to apply with proof of low income, your total household amount must be at or below 200% of thefederal poverty guidelines. Then for the federal assistance programs, you will need to be either using:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans Pensions & Survivors Benefit
- Federal Pell Grant in the current award year
- Federal Public Housing Assistance Program (FPHA)
- Food Stamp or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Head Start, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, and other Tribal programs
- School Lunch or School Breakfast Program (even from the USDA Community Eligibility Provision)
Important Notes to Note:
If you are already on a lifeline phone (even with another lifeline provider), you automatically qualify for the Torch Wireless free tablet.
In fact, you won’t even need to fill out the entire Torch Wireless application form online to apply. Just scroll down until the “Are you already enrolled in National Verifier?” section. Then enter your National Verification Number and your “Eligibility Program” in the appropriate boxes.
Basically, the “National Verification Number” is the unique ID National Verifier hands out after applying for either ACP or the lifeline program. It holds all your credentials, including your Name, Social Security Number, and home location (building, street, city, and state). Hence, the reason you can’t fool the system with multiple applications.
Note, “multiple applications” don’t just mean you trying to apply for the ACP free government tablet from multiple providers. It also means the home address you’ve just registered can’t qualify for another enrollment. ACP, same as with the lifeline phones, limits a single enrollment per household.
USAC defines a “Household” as an individual or group of people who live together on a shared income/ expense. For instance, a parent living with his son and his son’s friend qualifies as a single household, eligible for just one tablet.
However, the son can qualify for his own tablet separately if living alone. Three roommates in the same house or four seniors at home care will also qualify for the ACP benefit separately if they don’t share monies.
FYI: USAC is an acronym for the Universal Service Administrative Company. It’s the department the Federal Communications Commission has authorized to distribute the ACP benefits funds (and lifeline funds).
The Torch Wireless Free Tablet isn’t Exactly “Free”
As weird as it may sound, YES, the Torch Wireless free tablet isn’t exactly “free” to get. I’ve based this post around the phrase as it’s the most searched keyword on the web.
In all fairness, Torch Wireless has also not advertised its tablets as free. The Legal Notes from the carrier website reads it requires the purchase of a Mobile Broadband device discounted to $11.00. And from my previous chat with the Torch customer rep, the “Mobile Broadband device” is either a tablet or a phone.
Regardless, this charge so you can receive the ACP government tablet isn’t something for only Torch Wireless. The FCC, which is the oversight of the ACP benefits, provides that the $100 discount for a connected device requires a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50.
So, any of the companies with the ACP government tablet have to charge a minimal fee, as long it’s within this range. Most of the companies with the offer, though, usually charge $10.01, including Cintex and AirTalk which give you even Samsung and Apple tablets. But others like Easy Wireless charge $10.99, which is about $11 Torch Wireless is charging.
Commonly Asked Questions:
Is the Torch Wireless free tablet worth it?
As mentioned earlier, the question to this question varies with an individual. But in my opinion, the Torch Wireless free tablet is worth it, even though you must pay the copayment fee of $11.
The main features of the tablet brands Torch give you include:
A wide, 8-inch HD+ display
A built-in slot for a SIM card
Compatibility with 4G LTE
A decent memory of up to 32/ 3GB
Support of WiFi 4 (802.11n) protocol
An option to expand storage with a MicroSD card
What network does Torch Wireless use?
In general, MVNOs usually don’t have their own cellular towers. They make a deal with a Main carrier to use their network. And in our case here, the network Torch Wireless use at the moment is AT&T. But some existing customers are still on the T-Mobile network, which the MVNO has just switched from recently.
What are the pros and cons of Torch Wireless?
If you’re planning to join for the tablet or lifeline phone, the pros and cons of Torch Wireless you should know are:
It offers free monthly service
You can bring your phone
Has decent coverage, including in some rural areas
Include access to Caller ID, Call Waiting, and Voicemail
It offers free calls to Emergency Services and Torch customer care.
It offers deprioritized mobile data
The monthly mobile data has a hard stop
It doesn’t allow you to make international calls
21 Days to Return Your Torch Wireless Government Tablet
If you’re on a low income or participating in a federal assistance program, that’s everything you need to know about the Torch Wireless free tablet. True, you must co-pay the eleven bucks the FCC has asked the providers offering ACP benefits to charge their consumers. Nonetheless, it’s still worth it, in my opinion, considering you get to save over a hundred bucks.
Also, the specs on these tablets Torch Wireless gives are a little better than what competitors like Qlink have. The only problem is that the operator usually sends out the devices randomly, depending on what’s available in the warehouse stock. You can’t dictate/ choose what to get.
As for the after-sale support, Torch Wireless provides their mobile broadband devices with 21-day warranty support. But for them to honor the policy, you must return your defective device with its original packaging and contents. Then the package must have the appropriate return label.
So, before returning your device, contact Torch Wireless to get the return authorization approval, plus the instructions to follow. You can reach the carrier customer service team on either the online chat or call 877-998-6724.