I’ve hinted on here a few times that I have a plan for getting a smartphone while reducing my cell phone costs but hadn’t implemented it yet – it finally looks like my new plan will be starting soon! Several months ago I got in line for a spot in Republic Wireless‘s beta wave, which just reopened a week ago. Signing up with a new company with a new cell model is rather risky as the plan may or may not function well, but we think the price makes it worth taking a shot.
The model for the cell company is to utilize wireless connections whenever possible and only rely on the Sprint cellular network for data and voice when wireless is unavailable, which drastically brings down the cost. Users are required to register at least one wireless network.
Kyle’s interjection: In my opinion this is where the technology should have gone a while ago, but cell phone companies are fixed on locking down phones so that you can’t use VOIP easily. I looked into getting a data-only plan without voice plan two years ago, and not only was it barely viable, the cost would have been pretty much the same as a plan with voice and data. For me, this is more than just a frugal choice, it’s an opportunity to support what I believe is a good idea.
The upside: The plan is $19/month for unlimited talk/text/data. I have to buy a $250 phone up front (Motorola Defy XT), so distributing that cost over two years still makes the total cost under $30/month. I’m currently paying $35/month for a 6-year-old dumphone on a family plan with my family-of-origin (remember this argument?), so this is a major upgrade.
The downside: We found plenty of complaints about Republic Wireless online regarding the texting feature, their customer service, the VOIP on the hardware itself, and the business model generally. I know that calls will drop when I transition from wireless to cell coverage.
Why this model will probably work for me: I spend the vast majority of my time on campus or at home, both of which have wireless coverage. The Sprint network in Durham is supposed to have better coverage than AT&T, which is what I have currently (though not as good coverage as Verizon provides). I sometimes make phone calls as I’m walking from my office to my car, which apparently will be dropped by Republic Wireless, but AT&T already drops them every time so that’s no change.
If texting over wireless doesn’t work, as I have read, I will sign up for a Google Voice number to give out as my primary number so that texting can go through the internet. Kyle already does this to avoid paying for texting on his phone and it has worked very well over the past two years.
So I’ll be paying a very low price for a cell plan and I’ll experience a major upgrade in capability since right now my cell only has talk and text (no camera, even!). However, I’m taking a risk with this new company and their business model and execution, and it definitely could go down in flames. If everything works out ideally or close, I think this is a “frugal” choice. If the company is terrible, this was a “cheap” and stupid choice. I’ll keep you posted!
What do you think of this cell phone business model? Have you ever taken a risk with a new low-cost service? Was it ultimately frugal or cheap?
Update: I received my new phone and reviewed the service.