Regular Scratch readers know of my affinity for all things free, whether it’s an app bundle or a Microsoft Office alternative or two months of audiobook service Audible. Sure, sure, smiles and hugs and the smell of freshly baked bread are pretty good, too, but they’re not quite so thrilling as free stuff.
With that in mind, I’ve rounded up five new freebies so ridiculously good, you’ll think there are strings attached. (Note: There aren’t.) Games, books, phone calls, and more — prepare to be amazed at how much something you can get for nothing.
1. Free calls
Using your smartphone to make phone calls requires a voice plan, right? Not if you install the new FreedomPop app (available for Android and iOS), which assigns you a new phone number and provides an allotment of free voice minutes — and text messages! — every month.
In other words, if you have an older phone that’s no longer part of your service plan, you can continue using it to make and take calls — you just need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network. Or, if you’re looking to lower your monthly bill, drop down to the least-expensive voice plan and rely on FreedomPop for extra minutes.
You could even use the app on a tablet or iPod Touch, devices that normally can’t make calls. Just note that FreedomPop is currently in beta, so there may be a few glitches along the way.
2. Free image editing
Pixlr is well known as a browser-based image-editing tool, and a good one at that. But what happens if you want to tweak your photos offline? No problem: Just grab the new desktop version of Pixlr, which is free for Windows and Mac.
Though hardly a replacement for Photoshop, Pixlr allows you to perform basic functions like crop, resize, and rotate. But it’s really designed to give your photos a style boost, with Instagram-like tools such as blur and glow and a variety of easy-to-apply effects. You even get access to blending, gradients, and overlays.
Not bad for a freebie!
3. Free audiobook
Tim Ferriss is the best-selling author of “The 4-Hour Workweek” and “The 4-Hour Body.” His latest is “The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life,” which sells in hardback for $21.
If you spend a lot of time in the car, consider listening to it instead. Because, for a limited time, StackSocial has the audiobook edition of “The 4-Hour Chef” absolutely free. Is it crazy to choose the audio version of a book about cooking? Not when it’s free, and not when the book is way more than a mere cookbook.
To get it, you’ll need to sign up for StackSocial’s newsletter and tell your peeps about the giveaway via Facebook, Google Plus, or Twitter. (Hey, while you’re at it, why not tell them about this post, too?) From there you can download the DRM-free audio files, which you can play on pretty much any device.
4. Free tower-defense iPad game
An oldie but goodie, Unstoppable Gorg made its iPad debut way back in February, 2012. Price: $4.99.
Although the game has occasionally gone on sale, this week, Unstoppable Gorg went totally free. It’s for iPad only, alas, but it scored top marks from players and reviewers alike. If you’ve never played a tower-defense game before, or you just can’t pass up saving five bucks, download this immediately. You won’t be disappointed.
5. Free e-mail tool for kids
Most kids these days communicate via text, Twitter, and, to a lesser extent, Facebook and Instagram. But teens will undoubtedly have a need for e-mail, whether it’s for sending and receiving school assignments or just retrieving forgotten Facebook and Instagram passwords.
Either way, check out Tocomail for Gmail, a kid-friendly mail client for iPhones and iPads. Created expressly with teens in mind, the app offers not only a colorful, simplified interface for their Gmail accounts, but also fun features like a drawing board (with stamps, brushes, etc.), custom avatars, and instant messaging.
The app is free (as is a Gmail account, natch), but if you want access to parent-oriented features like a trusted-contacts list and e-mail approval/rejection, there’s a $9.99 upgrade option within the app.