If you look at the discount brands owned by the "Big 3", you find a lot of similarity at each price point - each has a $15/$25/$35/$40/$50/$60 plan, and the plan details are very similar between those 3 carriers.
Freedom Mobile is different. Rather than offer plans that are identical to the other competitors, Shaw-owned Freedom Mobile has opted to create plans that are a little more unique. There are a few major differences between Freedom and the other discount brand that are worth mentioning before we continue:
I've crammed the overview of prepaid options into a single image below. When looking at the plans:
The Public Mobile plans are pretty straightforward and don't require much elaboration.
Of the 6 Freedom prepaid plans, only 3 of them include data. The only advertised add-on for data comes in at 1GB for $15/month.
The $99/year Freedom plan is notable for being "Freedom Network" which means you must live in one of the few major cities where Freedom has it's own towers for this plan to work for you. The other 5 plans are all "Nationwide" and should be suitable Canada-wide.
The $179/year Freedom plan is notable for having 5GB of data for the year. You're technically paying $14.92/month and getting an average of 417 MB of data per month which actually makes this cheaper/better than most of the prepaid $15/month plans out there (which only give data if you use Auto Top-Up and only 250 MB). The one downside is that if you accidentally burn up all 5 GB of data in your first month... well... it might be a long 11 months.
No overages - Neither have overages. Public Mobile has addons you can apply, and Freedom Mobile has a combination of Addons and Pay-Per-Use that relies on you topping up beforehand.
Discounts available on monthly plans - Public Mobile gives a 5% points reward along with other possible discounts, whereas Freedom has a $5/month AutoPay discount and sometimes has a 1-year $5/month discount as well.
Data Usage Notifications - Public Mobile sends you a text when you hit 75% and 95% of your included plan data. Freedom sends when you are "close to exeeding your maximum monthly data amount".
Long Distance availability to other countries - Public Mobile allows long-distance calling to 41 countries via non-expiring add-ons. Freedom has $/month addons to 3 countries, a $5/month unlimited LD to USA plan, and pay-per-use long distance to over 200 countries.
US Roaming - Both allow roaming in the US - via a 10-day addon for Public Mobile, and via either Pay-Per-Use rates or a 2/5/10/20/30/90-day addon for Freedom Mobile.
No connection fee - Freedom Mobile charges a $10 connection fee on their prepaid plans. Public Mobile has no connection fee or activation fee - once you have your SIM you can sign up at no additional charge.
DIY online activation - If you're the type of person who prefers doing things yourself instead of dealing with a customer service representative, Public Mobile's activation process is slick. Freedom Mobile's system seems to want to put you in touch with a representative.
Monthly plans are generally cheaper - While Freedom's $29/month plan does actually sit nicely between Public's $25 and $35 plan, the other 2 are undeniably more expensive considering the total data you receive.
For data users, Public Mobile has a better selection of monthly plans - The largest prepaid plan with data on Freedom is 2GB (currently bonus to 3GB) for $39/month. Public has plans ranging up to 15GB for $60/month.
Public Mobile data addons do not expire - Both companies offer data addons of 1GB for $15. However, the Freedom data expires after 30 days whereas the Public Mobile data lasts until you've used up every last MB.
Cheaper US roaming addons - The Freedom USA roaming packages start at $14 for 2 days (talk/text/150MB). The Public Mobile talk/text/250MB plan is $20 for 10 days, but if you don't need all of those items you can mix and match for cheaper (and still get 10 days), or grab larger data addons for that 10-day period as needed.
Up-front pricing - Within a couple minutes you can ascertain what's available on Public Mobile and at what price. Prices are advertised before discounts. Freedom Mobile on the other hand has a number of convoluted aspects: for starters you need to learn the difference between "Freedom Network" and "Freedom Nationwide" - arguably reasonable if you were seeing massive savings, but... well... you're not. Freedom Mobile addons are a bit of a weird hodge-podge and are sometimes downright deceptive: if International Roaming is advertised as $12/day it's very shady for the fine print to say available packages are 8 days at $96 and 16 days at $192.
Freedom Mobile annual plans are unbeatable if your priority is unlimited talk and text - If you live in a city with Freedom towers, $99/year works out to $8.25/month for unlimited talk/text. If you live elsewhere in Canada, the Nationwide unlimited talk/text at $129/year works out to $10.75/month. If you want some data on top of that, $179/year for unlimted talk/text and 5GB data works out to $14.92/month and the 5GB/year works out to 417MB/month. I'm unaware of any other offerings in Canada that comes even remotely close to those.
Freedom data is 4G (LTE) - You may not get a lot of data, but it's quick. Public Mobile is limited to 3G speeds.
VoLTE and VoWiFi available - Public Mobile does not have these, but Freedom does. VoLTE allows you to place voice calls over the 4G/LTE network, and VoWiFi allows you to make calls when connected to WiFi. VoLTE will become more valuable as time goes on and 2G/3G towers are decomissioned. VoWiFi on the other hand is useful when there's no cellular availabity and is particularly beneficial when travelling: as long as WiFi is available you can turn on airplane mode, enable wireless, and then make/receive calls as though you were still in Canada (no roaming fees!).
eSIM support - Freedom has it. Public does not.
Customer support by phone, retail outlets in some cities - Freedom has a customer care line, live message via the website, facebook and twitter messaging, and physical stores in BC/AB/ON. The only support for Public Mobile is via the website.
Postpaid Plans if your needs change - A substantial number of plans are available outside of the prepaid umbrella - most of those plans under $50 tend to only make sense if you life in one of the Freedom cities, with $50+ being where you start to get Canada-wide coverage and unlimited data (with speed throttled once you've reached your allocation).
Roaming and Long Distance Calling available to more locations - Roaming is available via Freedom in over 100 countries, whereas Public Mobile allows roaming in the USA only. Long distance calling via Freedom is available to over 200 countries, whereas Public Mobile is restricted to 41.
$5/month for an unlimited US calling addon - If you call the US and talk for more than 333 minutes/month, Freedom Mobile has this, and it becomes your cheapest US talk option.
Reasonable pay-per-use long distance rates if you add the $5/month World Saver addon - Long Distance pay-per-use rates drop to $0.05-$0.06/minute to US/UK/AU, $0.02/minute to China, $0.09-$0.12 to Germany/France, and generally under $1/minute to most locations worldwide making things a little more reasonable if you use your Freedom plan to call a number of different countries.
Reasonable roaming rates if you add the $8/month World Traveller addon - Normally roaming costs $0.50-$1/minute in most areas of the world with text being $0.20-0.50 and data being $0.20-0.50/MB. If you're always flying to various countries, the $8/month World Traveller package offered by Freedom drops most of these fees by about 50%.
Phone app available - While almost all recent reviews give the Freedom Mobile My Account app 1-star and there are numerous claims that it's like a slow/bad version of the website, Public Mobile does not have an app.
If you have really old phone (iPhone 5-ish), with Freedom Mobile you might be limited in terms of the towers you can connect to - ideally you'd want an iPhone X era phone or newer for Freedom Mobile to support all the frequencies. Public Mobile (which uses TELLUS/Bell towers) is a little more forgiving here. You can use the frequency checker on kimovil to check what frequencies/providers your current phone supports.
If your only travel is to the US and you use your phone to talk/text and use data to a degree, the Public Mobile addons tend to be cheaper.
If you need 4GB or more per month Public Mobile is your only option, as Freedom's prepaid plans top out at less than that.
If you need the cheapest monthly plan possible Public Mobile's $15/month plan is certainly less than Freedom's $24/month plan.
If you're determined to set things up yourself and interact with customer service as little as possible, Public Mobile's online-centric system will suit you better.
If you don't need data, the $99/year (Freedom zone) or $129/year (Nationwide) annual plans Freedom Mobile offers work out to be extremely cost effective.
If you need unlimited calling and can get by with 5GB of data per year (approx 417MB/month), $179/year for the Freedom Nationwide 5GB annual plan is an easy win against Public Mobile.
Need to travel outside of Canada and the US? As long as your country is one of over 100 countries that Freedom lets you roam in, you can probably use your cell service there. Pubic Mobile is Canada/US only.
If you're shopping in the $25-35 range, Freedom Mobile's $29/month plan offers a reasonable balance for the price.
If you need the ability to phone up customer support, Freedom does have this option.
If you need your data at LTE/4G speeds, Public Mobile's 3G limitations would probably disaapoint.
If VoLTE and/or VoWifi are features you want Freedom Mobile is the way to go.
If you want to avoid the "Big 3" and support a competitor to the status quo, Freedom Mobile is owned by Shaw whereas Public is owned by TELUS (one of the "Big 3").
If you need unlimited talk/text and don't need data, the Freedom Mobile annual plans blow Public Mobile out of the water. The $129/year plan makes the most sense unless you're certain that the coverage provided by the $99/year plan will be suitable.
If shopping the $15/month price point, if you don't need unlimited talk but do need some data, whether to choose Public Mobile ($15/month) or Freedom Mobile ($179/year) is a toss-up. The base price works out to be the same. Freedom does give unlimited talk here regardless, gives more data, and lets you use that data throughout the year. However, if you are able to make use of the Public Mobile rewards program, that savings might be enough to simply pay for a data add-on on Public if and when you need it.
If you've been shopping the $40+/month price points due to your data needs, go with Public Mobile as you've exceeded the Freedom Mobile prepaid offerings.
Honestly, the annual plans are where Freedom shines. If they meet your needs, they'll be your best option. The Freedom monthly plans on the other hand leave something to be desired - there's nothing exceptional about the amount of data you get, so unless one of the international elements (addon or pay per use) really make sense for you, it's hard to see where the monthly plans really give much benefit.
My suspicion is that the vast majority of people will choose Public Mobile for a monthly plan, and Freedom Mobile for an annual plan. The few exceptions will resolve around specific needs.
Have you decided to go with Public Mobile? Click here to head back to the main page for a referral code to receive a $10 credit!