Over a year ago when I was looking for a new cell phone I heard about Republic Wireless, a company trying to offer something new in the cellular market. The main premise of Republic Wireless’s business model is that there are wireless networks all around us (especially at home and work) and we should be taking advantage of them. Most businesses these days use voice over IP (VoIP) for their telephone needs. When cell phones started to use data plans and WiFi, it seemed that a natural progression would be to enable cell phones with VOIP as well. However, cell phone companies and manufacturers seemed set on making VoIP unavailable/extremely hard to set up. Trust me, I’ve tried several times (and had marginal success) over the years to get my iPod or Android phone to make VoIP calls. Currently, it’s pretty easy to get a program that will make outgoing VoIP calls, but it’s still very difficult to get incoming calls over a data connection. On top of that, data only plans are hard to come by, and don’t offer much savings over the traditional cell phone plan.
So when I heard that Republic Wireless was trying to offer VoIP enabled cell phones I got really excited. To me this seemed a correct “next step”, and would be able to take advantage of the growing WiFi-enabled society we live in. As you might expect, Republic Wireless didn’t launch with the best cell phone on the market. In fact, when they released their second generation phone (the Motorola Defy XT) a year ago, had the same specs as my then 2-year-old phone. My greediness for new technology (and LTE download speeds) got the best of me at the time, so I went with a newly released phone instead of switching to Republic Wireless. However, Emily agreed to be the guinea pig for the family and signed up for the new service.
Emily has had a positive experience with her phone without many complaints (see her review). Now, her foray into the unknown is about to be rewarded with Republic Wireless’s announcement that they will be ending their beta this month. With the end of the beta come two big changes to the service: 1) A new phone and 2) a new service plan structure.
To me, the most exciting news is their new phone offering, the Moto X. The jump from a phone with 3-year-old technology to a company’s current flagship model is great for everyone and makes me sad I currently have a year left in my contract! It’s nice to see that the Moto X has been getting pretty favorable reviews (see here and here) and can stand up to other companies’ flagship devices in all relevant benchmarks (see the Anandtech review). Note that the camera has been improved since the original Moto X reviews were released (Anandtech). The new phone will cost $299 (discounted from the original $500).
With the end of its beta period, Republic Wireless is also changing its service plan options. Instead of their one-size-fits-all $19 a month (no contract) for unlimited talk/text/data, there are 4 new options:
- WiFi only ($5/month)
- WiFi/talk/text ($10/month)
- WiFi/talk/text/3G data ($25/month)
- WiFi/talk/text/4G ($40/month)
Probably the most notable thing here is the WiFi only plan. Remember that WiFi with Republic Wireless means that you can still make and receive calls and texts as long as you are on WiFi. Additionally, the “standard” plan has been increased by $6 dollars/month to $25/month (still a huge savings in my opinion) and the ability to get 4G has been added. Republic Wireless uses the Sprint network, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Sprint now offers 4G coverage in our area because they didn’t a year ago when I was looking at plans. So it might be worth re-checking if you can now get coverage in your area.
All of the plans offer significant savings over a traditional cell phone plan (e.g. a 1GB Verizon plan is $90/month), but I’m intrigued most by the WiFi only plan. If you combined the WiFi only plan with an inexpensive/free MiFi device (e.g. from FreedomPop or Karma), you could potentially have a dirt cheap fully featured cell phone plan. The MiFi devices seem to have a battery life of 6-8 hours which is definitely not approaching all day support. However, if you are around WiFi most of the day, you could turn on the MiFi for the parts when you are away from WiFi (definitely a hassle, but not impossible). If you were traveling somewhere without ubiquitous WiFi access you can easily change your Republic Wireless plan for the month, and then switch back to the WiFi plan when things return back to normal. Ultimately, we’ll have to wait until Emily gets her new phone to see if this will be a viable option, but I remain optimistic.
Overall, I’m very excited about these new updates to Republic Wireless. I think the company is going in the right direction to reduce cell phone payments, and these new changes will make it a stronger competitor. I’ve decided that Emily should upgrade to the Moto X (she hasn’t yet agreed, as you’ll read about on Wednesday), and me missing out on this upgrade makes me miss Swype more than usual!
Right now you can only sign up for the old phone and plan, but on the Republic Wireless website you can sign up to get notified when the Moto X becomes available. We will update you all again when the new phone is finally released! Update: The Moto X is now available!
For those of you who were waiting for this release, are you now planning to jump on the Republic Wireless train? Would you consider the Moto X this fall or does another phone have your eye? What do you think of Republic Wireless’s new tiered plan offerings and my proposal to use the WiFi only plan alongside a MiFi device?