Helium Mobile: Earning Crypto on Your Phone – My Unfiltered Test Drive



Imagine getting paid just for using your phone like you always do. That’s the enticing concept behind Helium Mobile, a new kind of wireless carrier that leverages cryptocurrency and a community-powered network. As someone with zero crypto expertise and a love for trying new tech, I dove in to see if it could offset my monthly phone bill.


After 20 days of ditching my regular carrier and using Helium Mobile’s $20 Nationwide Unlimited Plan on my iPhone 13 (yes, the pink one!), I’ve only had to pay $2.62 out of pocket. My everyday phone usage earned me enough of their MOBILE cryptocurrency to cover most of my bill – pretty awesome considering those 27.4 GB of data I gobbled up!


Now, let’s break down how Helium Mobile works, address past controversies, and see if this whole “earn while you talk” idea actually holds water.


What is Helium Mobile?


  • The Core Concept: Helium Mobile shakes up the cellular network status quo. Instead of giant corporate cell towers, the network relies on individuals running Helium-compatible hotspots. These folks become mini cell tower operators, earning MOBILE cryptocurrency in exchange. Think of it like a giant neighborhood potluck for cell coverage – everyone brings a little something (hotspots) to the table.
  • Helium’s Origins: Founded by Amir Haleem and Shawn Fanning (of Napster fame), Nova Labs launched the original Helium Network in 2013. Its initial focus was providing wireless coverage for low-power devices like sensors, aiming to connect the world of everyday objects (Internet of Things). Helium Mobile then expanded the concept to cellphones.


How Does it Differ from Traditional Mobile Networks?


  • People-Powered vs. Corporate: Traditional carriers invest heavily in towers and infrastructure, passing that cost to you. Helium Mobile’s community-owned model could potentially drive prices down.
  • Earn as You Connect: Unlike a standard monthly bill, Helium Mobile users with hotspots can earn MOBILE tokens by helping expand the network, creating a unique rewards system.
  • Hybrid Coverage: Since Helium’s network is still growing, the service seamlessly relies on major 5G providers to fill in coverage gaps and keep calls and data flowing.


The 2023 Controversy


In 2023, Helium faced criticism for several reasons:


  • Shifting Focus: Early supporters invested in the original Helium IoT network, and its pivot towards cellular connectivity caused concern with some in the community.
  • Token Value: As with any cryptocurrency, MOBILE’s price fluctuates, which raised concerns about introducing that financial risk into building a stable wireless network.
  • Proof of Coverage Concerns: Reports arose alleging users were trying to game the system to boost their MOBILE rewards.


To address these concerns about stability, it’s worth noting that Helium is now a subDAO of the Solana Foundation, a well-established player in the blockchain space.


Acknowledging the Issues


Helium is undergoing  rapid changes, and it’s important to consider its past missteps as the network continues to evolve.  There’s undeniable potential here, but weighing that against concerns and potential glitches is essential.


Spotlight on Accessibility


Helium devs, are you listening? Creating a more accessible experience is crucial. Here’s what I found challenging:


  • App Navigation: It was difficult to navigate the app and complete tasks with my screen reader.
  • No Web Experience: I’d love the ability to manage my entire plan and wallet through a website as an alternative to the inaccessibility of the mobile app until the latter is fully accessible.
  • Accessibility = Opportunity: Making Helium Mobile more user-friendly for people with disabilities opens the service to a wider audience, myself included!


My Experience So Far


  • Setup: As a blind user relying on voiceover navigation, I found the process a bit  Tedious and somewhat inaccessible.
  • While I did  eventually manage to pay, activate my plan, and install the eSIM, the app design left a lot to be desired for accessibility.
  • Coverage & Calls: Honestly, I didn’t run into significant coverage holes. Helium uses T-Mobile as a fallback, which set my mind at ease. As for the basics, my calls were clear, and texts went through like they should.
  • Speed Test Surprise: I ran a speed test for kicks and was blown away. I got a download speed of 727 Mbps, an upload of 71 Mbps, and something called “ping” at 19 milliseconds with minimal fluctuations (jitter). Here’s what those numbers actually mean in day-to-day terms:


* **Downloads are INSANE:**


Think downloading  whole movies in  minutes, not hours. Songs load basically before you hit play.

* **Sending Stuff Is Snappy Too:** Forget waiting forever to upload photos or  backups –  these speeds make those transfers super quick.


Earning Crypto (Whaaat?) …on your phone!


The idea that this MOBILE crypto appears in my digital wallet as I use my phone is still kind of baffling but incredibly cool. I’ve racked up enough to be worth around $17 right now (important note: crypto prices change all the time!).  You can check your balance in the app, but there’s a slight delay when cashing out to a separate crypto wallet.


20-Day Breakdown


Data Tally


Turns out, my social media addiction burns through 27.4 GB in 3 weeks!

* Crypto Payoff: Earning MOBILE adds up! My goal is to try and fully cover  my $20 phone bill next month with what I accumulate this month.


The $20, 30GB Question


I did some digging, and unfortunately, I couldn’t find any US providers offering 30GB of data for just $20 with no strings attached. There are pre-paid and smaller carriers with decent deals, but nothing quite hit that specific mark.


The Not-So-Perfect Parts


Let’s be honest, Helium Mobile isn’t without its quirks. Here’s what bugged me:


  • No Love for the Web Crowd: As a visually impaired person, (100% blind), I desperately wish I could manage my entire plan, wallet, and everything else from within the app or at least on a proper website. Unfortunately, the Helium Mobile app is your only real option right now. It’s mostly usable with my screen reader, but an accessible web experience would be much better.
  • Data Dropouts…Ugh: Every so often, my internet access would just completely die. No websites, no apps, nothing. A quick phone restart usually fixed it, but this happened a handful of times during my test, and it definitely wasn’t fun.
  • Changing with the Wind: It’s pretty clear that Helium is still very much a work in progress. You can find their updates online, but the network, the plans, and how it all works might shift as they figure things out.


Who Might Actually Like This?


Helium Mobile isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but here’s who I think could find it intriguing:


  • Crypto Curious: The whole earning MOBILE tokens thing will sound enticing to people interested in cryptocurrency, even if they aren’t experts.
  • Tinkerers & Experimenters: This definitely isn’t the same experience as sticking with Verizon or AT&T. You have to be okay with the fact that things might not be super polished.
  • Budget Warriors: It only costs $20 bucks a month and you can potentially earn that back just by using it like normal? Could be a win-win if you don’t need super mission-critical reliability.


It’s Worth Trying in Sacramento… For Specific Reasons


I’ve had decent coverage,  it piggybacks on T-Mobile when needing backup, and I get those blazing speeds I mentioned earlier. So, if you live in the Sacramento area, want to save some cash, and aren’t afraid to test out something cutting-edge, the $20 Helium Mobile plan could be a great experiment.


Questions for the Future of Helium Mobile


As Helium Mobile grows, it raises interesting possibilities:


  • Will the network get significantly denser over time, improving reliability across the board?
  • Could partnerships with major carriers provide greater benefits to customers?
  • My focus has been on smartphones, but I’m curious to see how Helium’s original Internet of Things vision weaves into the future of their mobile service.


My Final Thoughts (For Now)


Honestly, I’m still undecided. Those speeds and the price are incredibly tempting, but the occasional quirks give me pause.


Part 2 – Coming Soon!


I’ll share  my full verdict on Helium Mobile after the test period wraps up. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this experiment. Do you have experience with Helium Mobile, or thoughts on their potential?  Hit the comments and let’s discuss!

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