Hugsy snags $220k to bring its smart baby blanket to market


Hugsy, a Dutch startup that’s developing a ‘smart’ blanket designed to help the care of newborns and premature babies, has raised €200k (~$220k) in seed funding via the Leapfunder European angel investor network.

The blanket started out as a student project nearly two years ago, when CEO and co-founder Sylvie Claes was studying for her MSc in industrial design at the Eindhoven University of Technology.

“The idea came from a collaboration between the local hospital NICU Maxima Medical Center (MMC) in Veldhoven and the Eindhoven university of technology as MMC was looking for ways to improve patient comfort, and asked the team of industrial designers if they could design something to support those vulnerable babies,” explains COO Jody van den Tillaart.

This March the team incorporated as a business, after going through the hardware-focused HighTechXL accelerator program in Eindhoven.

Development on the product has mostly been self-funded thus far. Prior to the seed they’d taken in €15k via the accelerator.

The aim with the new funding is to get a first product into the local market by spring 2018 (and thereafter other markets in Europe, followed by North America) — in the first instance as a home care product for babies up to three months old and/or to help parents that are transitioning a premature baby from a hospital incubator to a crib at home.

They’re also working on a version of the blanket specifically for hospitals for the care of premature babies — though this is slated to come later, as they expand their clinical trials with additional hospitals.

The core concept behind the blanket is that premature babies especially benefit from a type of skin-to-skin care contact known as kangaroo care, where exposure to the heat, smell and feeling of a parent’s skin, including the rhythm of their heartbeat, has been shown to be beneficial for young babies — as a way to relieve stress, promote deeper sleep and boost their development in a variety of ways.

The problem is parents and hospital carers aren’t necessarily in a position to provide kangaroo care for long periods of time — so the idea is for Hugsy to at least simulate the calming experience of being held by a parent.

The smart blanket includes a heartbeat module, while the blanket is designed to be a supportive wrap which, once tucked around the baby, evokes a parent’s warmth and embrace.

We recreate these key elements by providing babies with their mothers smell, heartbeat, and feeling of being hugged,” says van den Tillaart. “The blanket supports kangaroo care moments between mother and baby and is used as a supportive wrap that absorbs a mother’s smell during kangaroo care.

“The heartbeat module records a mother’s unique heartbeat with our algorithm and translates it into a realistic heartbeat sound and vibration. In the crib, the blanket and heartbeat module are used in combination to provide these elements of a mother’s presence even when she can’t be nearby.”

While the product is an MVP at this stage, van den Tillaart says the team has additional ideas to expand a product portfolio looping in additional Internet of Things devices in future.

“We are planning to create next generation hugsies with IoT applications and more connectivity to other devices,” she adds.

Detroit: Become Human director wants players to confront the game’s violence

David Cage was halfway through the script for Detroit: Become Human when tragedy struck Paris, France, the home of developer Quantic Dream. In November 2015, terrorists attacked the city in a series of suicide bombings and mass shootings, culminating with a raid on the Bataclan theater.

In the weeks following the tragedy, Cage found himself as a creator — and specifically a creator of video games — at an unsettling crossroads. Blockbuster action games have long portrayed violence in a gratuitous and emotionless fashion; killing becomes a mechanic, and death, a signal of success. Cage says he has long strived to avoid gratuitous violence, but that the tragedy made him more aware — and in some ways, fearful — of what his own work might say.

In Detroit, players are free to choose violent paths, but Cage wanted those decisions to carry weight, instead of providing sheer entertainment.

Detroit: Become Human follows three androids: Kara, Connor, and the newly introduced Markus. Each character has what creator Cage describes as distinct stories that run parallel to each other over the course of four days in the not-so-distant future. “Of course there are potentially crossovers at some point, and what you do with one character may impact the others,” he says. Kara is a fugitive seeking freedom. Connor hunts “deviant” androids, those who have gone rogue. Markus has the makings of a revolution leader: a yearning to be free, a will to lead, and more importantly, the means to grant fellow androids freedom of will.

As androids, players must choose to revolt through peaceful or violent protest, and then they must grapple with the cost of their decisions — specifically how each choice might lead to the deaths of androids, humans, and even the main characters.

Following the November 2015 attacks, the application of violence in the game — as a revolutionary tool — felt especially loaded. Cage felt unsure how to respectfully address the topics of Detroit’s story and its characters. “Can we tell this story in this world? Because the world we live in is so sad,” Cage says. “You need to be very careful with what you’re talking about.”

Ultimately, Cage felt an obligation to use the game to convey a message. “We’re working on a game that is connected with our world, and maybe that’s a strength,” he says. “We should use it as a strength and not be scared of it. And I think it’s important to work on a game and not be afraid of saying something about our world and just accepting it and embracing it.”

From the material shown so far, it’s easy to view Detroit simply as the story of a standard sci-fi robot revolution: androids fighting back against their human creators. But Cage says the story flips the script: “I was much more interested in this idea that what if [androids] were the good guys, and maybe we are the bad guys. Maybe we are the declining race. Maybe we become more and more selfish and dependent on technology and maybe we don’t pay attention to each other anymore. And this is why we’re declining, where androids are a brand-new race. They’re new, they’re virgins somehow to this world. They just want to be free.”

“People will see it as, ‘Oh this is about androids and the revolution,’ and honestly I don’t think this is the story I wrote,” Cage says. “I think it’s really a game about us. Humans. It’s about what it means to be human. It’s about identity. It’s about civil rights.”

Detroit’s E3 2017 demo, for example, featured missions in which Markus tries to liberate a store full of androids. The mission can end in a handful of ways: Markus can fail or even abandon his mission. He can choose to respond peacefully by simply tagging locations with the logo of the android revolution. Or he can choose violence.

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In the case of my E3 demo, our presenter selected a path of destruction. Markus and his band of newly freed androids smashed windows, destroyed landmarks, and set the area ablaze, leaving behind a digital banner bearing their symbol. But as the frenzy crested, Markus stopped to observe the damage he’d done.

Cage points to this moment, and Markus’ reaction to all of it, specifically. “He is fascinated by it, but at the same time, scared of what it’s triggered,” he says. Part of Markus’ journey will be about confronting the idea of what is necessary to be free. Like the branching story itself, there’s no right path and no easy answer.

“There is no big message to humanity in this game,” Cage says. “It’s just interesting questions that may resonate with your own personal values and just confront you with the consequences [of your] actions.”

Meltwater acquires Hong Kong-based Klarity to boost social media monitoring in Asia


Meltwater, the self-described ‘media intelligence’ company, continues on an acquisition spree. Following the purchase of Oxford Uni spinout Wrapidity in February, it has acquired Hong Kong-Based startup Klarity to enhance its social media monitoring and analytics capabilities in Asia.

Terms of the deal remain undisclosed, although I understand the acquisition is a mixture of cash and stock and that Klarity’s 10 employees, including founders Christopher Wong and Andy Ann, are joining Meltwater. The startup’s clients are in Hong Kong and China, consisting mainly of large agencies and “global consumer companies.”

“Meltwater has been in the Hong Kong market for over 11 years, and we have been looking for opportunities to enhance our offering in Asia over the last 24 months,” says Jorn Lyseggen, Meltwater’s founder and CEO, in a statement. “We believe Klarity is the strongest social media analytics company in Asia. We are impressed with their technical sophistication, localized content, and the entrepreneurial team that has proven they can build state of the art products.”

To that end, Klarity has two strings to its bow: social media monitoring, which lets companies monitor their brand and relevant keywords across more than 12 social channels, including key Asian channels such as Sina Weibo, WeChat, Line and Youku; and analytics to let companies compare how they’re performing on social media against competitors and their industry as a whole.

The latter includes tracking key metrics and KPIs, such as engagement rates, interaction ratios, fan growth — and the ability to identify the most viral and popular posts across a brand’s social channels.

More broadly, Klarity says it employs NLP technology that works across a range of languages, including English, Chinese and Japanese, to enable the automated generation of social media performance reports.

Dubai’s self-flying taxis are primed for takeoff later this year

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The “Future City” is about to add another space-age service you won’t find anywhere else in the world: autonomous passenger drones. 

Dubai’s much-hyped autonomous aerial taxi (AAT) service, which made waves back in February when it was announced as part of its World Government Summit, is finally, officially on track. The city’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) just announced a new testing schedule for the program and signed a new a new deal with German aviation company Volocopter, which will provide the aircraft for the program.

The autonomous drone taxis will fly passengers on predetermined routes throughout the city, serving as more of a sky shuttle service than a true go-anywhere taxi. The test period will start sometime during the fourth quarter of this year, and the RTA expects to continue on a trial basis for about five years until the proper legislation is in place for a bigger expansion.

The first version of the air taxi project used the Ehang 184, a 500-pound, single-seat passenger drone. The Dubai RTA didn’t say why it was now switching to Volocopter aircraft but touted the company’s reputation for safety. The craft that will be used in the trials, the Volocopter 2X, is a two-seater, which could give it the edge over the smaller single-passenger Ehang.  

The crafts are fully electric, with 18 rotors and nine independent battery systems that can pick up the slack to keep the craft in the air if anything fails mid-flight. Volocopter claims the quick-charge battery can be fully juiced in as little as 40 minutes for a max flight time of about 30 minutes. That’s at the standard cruising speed of 50 km/h (around 30 mph) and a top speed of 100 km/h (about 62 mph).

A rendering of one of the autonomous air taxis in flight.

A rendering of one of the autonomous air taxis in flight.

Image: volocopter

The project was originally slated to begin next month, but the RTA pushed the trial period to the fourth quarter of the year to make sure the system is truly ready before the crafts take to the air. The RTA said it’s working closely with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to iron out legislative and operational guidelines, along with more exact standards for potential taxi service operators to have all the pieces in place before the “commercial and official operation” of the AATs.

This is just the start for flying taxis, with companies like Airbus rolling out their own projects — but Dubai is ahead of the curve. The city is lined up as one of the first two targets for Uber’s flying car initiative, with plans to have a working prototype and possibly even passenger flights as part of Dubai’s Expo 2020 event. 

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App Attack: two apps to keep you moving without requiring exercise

Looking for even more control over your iPhone camera? Need a Pokémon Go replacement this summer? This week, we’ve got two apps that can help you step up your camera game, as well as keep you on your toes with a popular cat.

Halide

Halide is an app that lets you take the iPhone camera a step further — it gives you the DSLR-like features, without having to carry around a bulky device.

The iOS camera only provides basic editing options like cropping, and adding color filters. Halide, on the other hand, gives you advanced settings to capture a more powerful photo by focusing on detail before you snap a photo. It includes features like smart auto-focus and manual focus, along with full manual controls that let you adjust the ISO, exposure, and white balance. Its gesture-based interface has controls that can be customized to your liking after you start to get used to it.

While I do own a DSLR camera, I’ll admit that I’m still a beginner (correction: extreme beginner). I don’t often switch from automatic to manual, because otherwise I’d end up spending more time trying to figure out how to adjust the settings perfectly than taking a photo.

I assumed because it’s an app it would make the process of using the manual mode much easier. I learned the opposite — it definitely still requires background knowledge of how the settings themselves function to take quality photos.

While the app is very much for professionals, the controls are easy to use — tap on the icons or slide your finger on the bar at the bottom to make adjustments. When going through your gallery, you can put those Tinder skills to use by swiping right to add a photo to your favorites or left to delete it. You can add options like grid overlay and a built-in level, which helps to keep your photos straight.

The histogram is also a nice addition to help you find the right exposure and contrast, and Focus Peaking highlights what’s in focus in red. It’s also really convenient to adjust the shutter speed by swiping the right side of the screen up or down to the desired number.

If you’re a complete beginner who isn’t at all familiar with white balance or ISO sensitivity, this app is still worth downloading because it might be an easier way for you learn the basics. You get to see your changes in real time — without worrying about switching back and forth between settings on a basic DSLR camera.

Halide is currently only available on iOS for $3, and features like histogram, focus peaking, and RAW require having the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, iPhone 7, 7 Plus, or iPhone SE. With summer finally here, this app might just be the motivating factor to getting outside to take some (Instagram-worthy) scenic photos.

Garfield Go

If you thought Pokémon Go was enough to keep you entertained last summer, there’s now Garfield Go (the original grumpy cat). This time instead of trying to find Pokémon, you’re helping Garfield get his comics back — they’re scattered around the world in treasure chests thanks to Odie. To find the treasure chests, you first have to find coins spread out near them. But Garfield being Garfield, to get his help you’ll have to feed him — me too, Garfield, me too.

Even though the style and layout of the game is almost exactly the same as Pokémon Go, the basic augmented reality is entertaining, and the graphics are bright and colorful. When I first started playing, I believed the coins you have to collect throughout the map would be in close proximity. After all, Garfield is known as the cat who considers breathing a form of exercise. I envisioned myself collecting all the coins within a few steps of my phone and easily advancing to the next level.

But I was wrong. Really wrong. This game makes Garfield look super active. I only collected a few coins where I was sitting before I received a pop-up telling me the treasure chests were out of range and I needed to get up and go outside — the struggle.

Once you do land on a coin, you’re greeted by a hungry Garfield who won’t budge until he eats. Feeding him is basically the same as throwing a Poké Ball or berry at a Pokemon except this time, you’re throwing the food into Garfield’s food bowl. There’s different junk food you can throw — ranging from pizza to the classic lasagna– and other food can be purchased with the coins you collect.

Throwing food into the bowl is more difficult than it sounds. Garfield doesn’t mess around though — if you don’t feed him in three tries, you’re brought back to the map to move on to another coin instead. Once you do feed him, a bar appears at the top of the screen labeled “hot and cold” forcing you to move your phone around as it hints whether or not you’re close to the treasure chest to collect a comic.

The main appeal of this game are the prizes you win if you’re lucky enough to land on a particular treasure chest. The prize list includes plush versions of Garfield, Odie, and Pooky, as well as gift cards for Starbucks, Amazon, and Dominoes.

Garfield Go is available on Android and iOS for free. If Garfield wasn’t already miserable enough, you can also use in-app purchases to buy him different hats to wear like a top hat, fedora, or a party hat.

Nearly 200 million voters exposed in GOP data leak, proving all political parties are susceptible to being hacked

Image: Shutterstock / Barbara Kalbfleisch

Registered U.S. voters dating back more than a decade have been exposed in what’s believed to be the largest leak of voter information in history.

A data analytics contractor hired by the Republican National Committee (RNC) left databases containing information about 198 million potential voters open to the public for download without a password, according to a ZDNet report.

The leak helps prove that any political party is susceptible to cybersecurity vulnerabilities, despite the GOP’s insistence that it ran a more secure 2016 presidential campaign than the rival Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The exposed databases belonged to the contractor Deep Root Analytics and contained about 25 terabytes on an Amazon S3 storage server that could be viewed without requiring a user to be logged in. In theory, this means that anyone knowing where to look could have viewed, downloaded, and have potentially used the information for malicious purposes.

The RNC worked closely with Deep Root Analytics during the 2016 election and paid the company $983,000 between January 2015 and November 2016, according to an AdAge report.

The RNC’s remarkably bad security was first discovered by researcher Chris Vickery of the security firm UpGuard. The security firm responsibly disclosed the vulnerability to the RNC, and the server was secured last week prior to making the news public today.

This vast exposure of voter information highlights the growing risk of data-driven campaigning used by both the DNC and RNC. The data in this case contained models about voters positions on different issues, including how likely it is that they voted for Obama in 2012 and whether they were likely to agree with Trump’s “America First” foreign policy talking point. 

The leak has essentially exposed more than half of the U.S. population, trouncing the second-largest leak of voter information, the 2016 exposure of 93.4 million Mexican voters.

Perhaps the worst part about all of this is there’s very little voters can do to ensure their information is stored privately and securely. Mashable has reached out to the RNC and Deep Root Analytics for comment, and will update when we hear back.

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Wonderschool gets $2M to help solve America’s childcare quandary


In the U.S., childcare presents a nerve-wracking quagmire for parents. It’s expensive—almost a fifth of American families spend more than a quarter of their income on childcare—but that doesn’t mean it’s a lucrative business. In fact, many caregivers make so little that they can’t afford childcare for their own kids and drop out of the workforce. Wonderschool, which just raised $2 million in seed funding led by First Round Capital, wants to solve that problem by serving as a platform for qualified providers to make a better income by opening their own in-home daycares or preschools.

Other participants in Wonderschool’s seed round include Cross Culture Ventures, SoftTech VC, Lerer Ventures, FundersClub, and Edelweiss. The funding will be used to expand Wonderschool into 15 new cities over the next year and a half (its platform currently has about 50 in-home daycares and preschools in California).

Wonderschool’s two co-founders, CEO Chris Bennett and CTO Arrel Gray, previously launched Soldsie, an e-commerce company that enables businesses to sell products through their social media profiles. The two made the leap from e-commerce to childcare after Gray had trouble finding a good daycare for his toddler near his home.

“We saw too many parents who were anxious and scared about finding childcare, as well as educators who couldn’t afford care for their own children while they were at work,” says Bennett. “We knew that there had to be a better way to address this issue for families and teachers alike.”

Wonderschool’s team, including founders Chris Bennett (far left) and Arrel Gray (second from right)

Caregivers are picked based on their credentials, experience, education, and location. All need to have a state license, maintain liability insurance (that Wonderschool pays for), meet health and safety standards, and follow a daily routine. Bennett says that 76 percent of Wonderschool’s partners have a bachelor’s degree, while 32 percent have also completed graduate school.

But working in childcare often means that higher education does not translate into higher earnings. Many caregivers and teachers stop working simply because of the cost of childcare for their own kids was almost as much as their income. In fact, about a third of Wonderschool’s directors were stay-at-home parents before they joined the platform.

When early childhood educators leave the workforce, however, that means other parents have even fewer options. In many cities, parents join waitlists before their children are even born in order to ensure they get a spot in a good program. The average income of Wonderschool providers (many of whom live in expensive areas like the Bay Area and Los Angeles) before joining the program was less than $38,000 before taxes. The company claims that most make around double that average after joining the platform.

Wonderschool’s platform can help with demand because it allows providers to start programs any time of the year and also gives parents transparency into availability and pricing so they don’t have to wait in suspense to find out if their child has a spot.

Many of the providers Wonderschool works with are experienced early childhood educators (a glance at their site reveals a lot of teachers who are inspired by educators like Maria Montesorri, Reggio Emilia, or Rudolf Steiner). In California, Wonderschool’s providers are licensed by the state to run programs in their homes.

Bennet says that the benefits of in-home daycares or preschools versus traditional centers often include smaller group sizes, lower child-to-teacher ratios, and mixed-age groups that allow younger kids to observe and learn from older children. For many parents, it’s also reassuring to have the same person take care of their child for years, instead of transitioning to new caregivers, which usually happens in larger daycare centers based on age groups.

One of the main drawbacks of in-home daycares or preschools is that if the provider needs to take time off, parents are often left scrambling to find other childcare arrangements. Wonderschool’s network means it is able to help parents find backup care among its other providers.

Wonderschool finds most of its program directors (which is what it calls its providers) through word-of-mouth and local events. If they pass Wonderschool’s screening process, the company guides them through the steps of setting up a business—defining their educational philosophy, setting a daily schedule for kids, figuring out what rate to charge parents—and then create a profile for them on Wonderschool’s marketplace.

Parents can book a tour, sign up for waiting lists, and enroll through the site. If issues arise once they do find a daycare, Wonderschool serves as an intermediary between them and their providers. The startup helps providers set a tuition rate, manage discounts, and accept government subsidies from parents who qualify. Its platform also takes care of the administrative tasks that can bog down in-home daycare providers, like marketing and payments, and helps them meet state healthy and safety standards.

The company’s goal is to give more children the same opportunities Bennett had when he was young.

“My appreciation for education goes back to my parents, working class, Honduran immigrants who did whatever they could to ensure that my sister and I had access to excellent education, from attending quality preschool to graduating from Penn,” Bennett says. “I want to ensure other children have the same opportunities to reach their full potential.”

Surface Laptop lets you restore back to Windows 10 S if you suddenly decide you hate apps

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Good news — no great news — the one thing that crippled Microsoft’s first laptop, the Surface Laptop, is no more.

As we said in our review, Windows 10 S and the fact that it only lets you install apps from the Windows Store (there’s no Chrome!) is too restrictive, and anybody who buys a Surface Laptop should immediately upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

The downside to upgrading from 10 S to 10 Pro was that you couldn’t revert or “downgrade” back if you changed your mind later. Microsoft’s now reversed that somewhat hostile stance.

Less than week after releasing the Surface Laptop, Microsoft’s provided a “recovery image” for owners to effectively revert back to Windows 10 S if they made the upgrade to 10 Pro.

It’s a nice token for Surface Laptop owners, but it’s also not as simple as clicking a button. To get your machine running Windows 10 S again, you’ll need to perform a factory reset, which means it’ll erase everything. So you’ll want to backup your data onto an external hard drive or to the cloud before doing so.

You can find both the recovery image and instructions on how to restore your Surface Laptop to Windows 10 S on Microsoft’s website.

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop is one of the best Windows 10 laptops you can buy and a solid alternative to Apple’s MacBook Pro.

It’s got a high-res touchscreen, a keyboard wrapped in Alcantara fabric that doesn’t feel like you’re typing on a table, all-day battery life, and a full-sized USB 3.0 port so you can live a dongle-free life.

Surface Laptop owners can upgrade their machines from 10 S to 10 Pro for free until the end of the year. After that, it’s $50 for the upgrade, and will presumably cost you each time you want to upgrade again after factory resetting back to Windows 10 S. Although, it’s possible you could save your Windows 10 Pro license and reuse it later. We’ve reached out to Microsoft to clarify the upgrade fee after performing a factory reset.

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France believes it can transport people on driverless trains by 2023

Why it matters to you

If all goes well, train rides in France could not only be more efficient but also a lot more frequent.

Who says cars are the only form of transportation that could benefit from being driverless?

Certainly not engineers in France, who have high hopes for the future of their trains. According to a new report from FranceInfo, SCNF, the French government-owned railway company responsible for managing the country’s rail services, has its sights set on what it calls​ a “train drone” project. The goal is for a prototype of this technology to be on the tracks by 2019 (though it’ll transport goods, not humans, at first).

You won’t necessarily be able to tell that this train doesn’t have a conductor — at least, not from afar. Rather, the French publication notes, it’ll simply be outfitted with external sensors meant to keep tabs on obstacles in its way. Should the sensors detect potential danger in its way, it’ll trigger automatic braking. Ultimately, the company hopes this driverless train could make for more efficient journeys by eliminating the “tedious maneuvers of setting up in stations before departure” — although it likely won’t make the list of the world’s fastest trains.

The first humans should be able to ride this drone train by 2023, making their way between Paris and the southeast of France. But don’t worry — there will be humans onboard who aren’t passengers. A driver will still be on hand, though his or her role will largely be relegated to closing doors and intervening should an emergency arise.

While the idea of automated mass transportation may seem a bit daunting to some, Matthieu Chabanel, the adjoint director of SNCF, pointed out that a driverless train wouldn’t be very different from the autopilot feature on airplanes. “In aircraft, you always have a driver, fortunately, but you have an automatic steering system,” he noted. The same would apply to French trains. Similar efforts are under way to create self-driving trucks as well.

If all goes well, SCNF believes that it could level up both the regularity and speed of trains, especially in Paris, the hub of French transportation. So look out, world. France is setting the bar high when it comes to autonomous technology.

Looking for a cheap phone plan? Here are the best MVNOs out there

The phone plan as we know it is changing. Gone are the days when you were stuck with one of four carriers that charged a little over-the-top for their service. Nowadays, you have a ton of companies at your disposal when choosing a carrier in the United States.

Perhaps the most interesting new options are MVNOs, or Mobile Virtual Network Operators. These companies use the networks and towers owned by the major four carriers — AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile — but buy access to that service in bulk at wholesale value, then sell it back to customers. The result? A slew of interesting and inexpensive options for those unwilling to go with the big four.

Pros and cons of MVNOs

There are some great things about going with an MVNO, but there are also some downsides to consider. The main selling point of going for an MVNO is that they can get quite a lot cheaper — but considering the fact that the infrastructure is owned by competitors, there are some limitations.

For example, MVNOs often have monthly data caps, and their network speeds may not be quite as fast as one of the big four carriers.

Another important thing to consider is the handset you want to go for. MVNOs sometimes require that you buy a phone directly through them — and not all MVNOs have a good list of phones at their disposal. Alternatively, sometimes you can bring an unlocked phone to the company, though you’ll have to make sure that your phone is compatible with the MVNO you’ve chosen.

Still, while there are some downsides, the financial benefits are hard to ignore. After all, MVNOs are often far cheaper than what’s offered through the major carriers.

Best for unlimited data — Boost Mobile

boost mobile 50 off deal

  • Uses Sprint’s network
  • Prices range from $35 to $50 for single-line plans
  • Unlimited data plan available
  • You can bring your own compatible phone

Boost Mobile is owned by Sprint, and it offers some pretty great single-line plans. In fact, it offers the cheapest unlimited data plan we’ve seen yet. The MVNO uses Sprint’s network, and while you can bring your own phone to the company, only a few select Sprint phones are compatible, so keep that in mind. Having said that, if you’re willing to buy a new phone, Cricket does have a nice selection of phones to choose from.

The company doesn’t necessarily offer all that many plans, however. For a single-line plan, you’ll have the option of either a $35 plan, which gets you unlimited talk, text, and data with 3GB of that data being on LTE speeds, or a $50 plan, which gets you unlimited talk, text, and LTE data. That’s $5 cheaper than the Cricket Wireless option. There are also family plans, however, they’re the same price as the single-line plans for the first line, after which you’ll pay $30 per line.

Best for lots of coverage — Straight Talk

best mvno straight talk

  • Uses Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint networks
  • Prices range from $30 to $60 a month
  • No unlimited data plan
  • You can bring your own compatible phone

Straight Talk is a relatively well-known MVNO, largely because it’s the result of a partnership with TracFone and Walmart. Such being the case, you’ll see Straight Talk stalls in Walmart stores all around the country. It’s a great option for those who want wide coverage, as it makes use of the four major carriers in the United States.

The monthly plans at Straight Talk range from $30 a month, which will get you unlimited texts, 1,500 minutes of talk, and 100MB of data, to $55 per month, which will get you unlimited talk and text, and 12GB of 4G data, after which your data speed will be throttled to 2G. There’s also a $60 plan, which offers unlimited international calling and 8GB of 4G speeds, after which the speed will go down to 2G.

It’s really not a bad offering, and while it can get a little pricey, there are some clear advantages, like the huge coverage area.

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  • Uses Sprint and T-Mobile networks
  • Prices range up from $20
  • No set unlimited data plan, but you can use as much as you want if you pay for it
  • You can bring your own phone, but choices are limited to Google Pixel and Nexus 6P

Google Project Fi is another MVNO that uses Wi-Fi to handle calls and texts when it’s available, but Google also has another trick up its sleeve: It refunds customers for any data they don’t use. You’ll start by paying a $20 base fee, which will get you unlimited talk and text, after which you’ll pay $10 for each 1GB of data. Then, however, you’ll be refunded for any data you don’t use, which can be used toward your next bill.

For example, let’s say you pay $40 for 2GB of data, but during the month, you only use 1.5GB of data. You’ll then be refunded $5, which can be used toward your next bill. It’s really a neat idea, and means that you’ll only spend money on what you use. You can also add more data during the month, if you happen to go over your pre-paid amount.

There is a major downside to Project Fi, however, and that’s that you can only use a few phones with it. Those phones include the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, and the Nexus 6P. If you’re fine with that, however, we would argue that Project Fi is the best choice on this list.

best mvno rsz 1cricket store side view

  • Uses AT&T network
  • Prices range from $30 to $60 a month
  • Unlimited data plan available
  • You can bring your own compatible phone

Cricket Wireless is owned by AT&T, and as such, it uses the AT&T network. While you can bring your phone to Cricket Wireless, the company also has a number of phones on offer — and some of them are offered for free to those that port their old phone number over to the network.

Like some of the other MVNOs on our list, Cricket Wireless also offers unlimited data, but what you’ll be paying for is a certain amount of high-speed data. Plans start at $30 for unlimited talk and text with 1GB of data, and go up to $55 for unlimited talk, text, and data. That’s not a bad price at all.

best mvno virgin mobile thumb

  • Uses Sprint’s network
  • Prices range from $35 to $60
  • Unlimited data plan available
  • You can bring your own compatible phone

Virgin Mobile has been around for some time now, and operates in countries all around the world. In the United States, it’s a pretty solid option, though not necessarily better than some of the others on our list.

There are three main single-line plans on Virgin Mobile, and they all include unlimited talk, text, and data. The first costs $35, and will get you 5GB of LTE data. The second comes at $45, and will get you 10GB of LTE data. The third and final offers unlimited LTE data.

best mvno republic wireless

  • Uses Sprint and T-Mobile networks
  • Prices range from $15 to $90 a month
  • No unlimited data
  • You can bring your own compatible phone

Republic Wireless has gained a lot of notoriety over the past few years, and for good reason. It was among the first companies to offer calling over Wi-Fi, which essentially means that customers can do away with having to buy minutes in favor of only using data.

Still, there will be times when you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, and Republic Wireless has a number of plans to help with that. The cheapest plan is $15, and allows for unlimited talk and text, but no data. Don’t be fooled by Republic Wireless’ claim to offer “unlimited Wi-Fi data” — the company has no control over how much you’re allowed to use over Wi-Fi. The first plan with cellular data comes at $20, and you’ll get 1GB of data. Plans go up to $90 a month, and for that, you’ll get 10GB of data.

best mvno freedompop ceo stephen stokols 640x0

  • Uses Sprint and AT&T networks
  • Prices range from free to $35
  • No unlimited data plan
  • You can bring your own compatible phone

FreedomPop is an MVNO known for offering a basic free plan to those who want it. That plan, however, isn’t really enough for most people — you’ll get 500 texts, 200 minutes, and 500MB of data a month using it. Still, most customers will want to upgrade to FreedomPop’s paid plans, which start at $11 a month for unlimited talk and text, plus 500MB of data. These range up to $35 a month for unlimited talk and text, plus 4GB of data. That’s not too shabby.

FreedomPop also offers family plans, which could be a great option for more than one person. Through the family plan, you can get 1GB of shared data for free, or anywhere up to 25GB of shared data for $160 a month.

best mvno pageplus cellular thumb

  • Uses Verizon network
  • Prices range from $10 to $80
  • Unlimited data plans offered
  • You can bring your own compatible phone

PagePlus is one of the few MVNOs that uses the Verizon network, which means you’ll get pretty good coverage around the country. Not only that, but it’s also one of the few to offer unlimited data. The company offers two different types of plans. For starters, you can get a no contract monthly plan, which starts at $12 a month and gets you 250 minutes, 250 texts, and 10MB of data, and ranges up to $70 for unlimited talk, text, and data. However, only 10GB of that data will be on 4G LTE speeds — after that, you’ll be throttled to 2G.

PagePlus also offers a pay-as-you-go calling plan, and prices for that start at $10 for 100 minutes, and range up to $80 for 2,000 minutes. PagePlus has a decent selection of phones, too, including recent devices such as the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8. You can also bring your own, if you prefer to do that instead.

best mvno tello mobile

  • Uses Sprint network
  • Prices range from $2 to $63 a month
  • No unlimited data
  • You can bring your own CDMA-compatible phone

Tello, which uses the Sprint network, is arguably the cheapest MVNO out there, and it prides itself on being totally customizable. You can buy minutes, text, and data in chunks, meaning that you can technically get a 200-text plan for as cheap as $2. There are also plans that allow for unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 5GB of data, but those will set you back $63 a month.

Tello also has a number of pre-built plans you can go for — like its “Economy” plan, which costs $13 and nets you 100 minutes, 200 texts, and 500MB. There’s also a “Delta Savvy” plan, which costs $52, and gets you 200 minutes, 200 texts, and 5GB of storage.

best mvno airvoice thumb

  • Uses AT&T’s network
  • Prices range from $5 to $50
  • No unlimited data plan
  • You can bring your own compatible phone

AirVoice is relatively standard as an MVNO, and makes use of AT&T’s network. The plans range from $5, which will get you unlimited talk, text, and 25MB of data for five days, to $50 a month, which will get you unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of data. The company also offers unlimited international texts in all of its plans, which might be a big advantage for some people.