My New Frugal/Cheap Cell Phone Plan

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.


my current phone. nearly as old as my relationship with Kyle!

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.



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29 Responses to "My New Frugal/Cheap Cell Phone Plan"

  1. I think it sounds reasonable! Having a smartphone is somewhat of a luxury but can be very convenient. I also think it’s one of those products that once you get one you can never “go back.” My smart phone is paid for through work but if they ever took that benefit away from me I would probably pay for one myself. I can’t imagine not having one now!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Why I Prepay My Mortgage

    1. Emily says:

      Kyle had a smartphone for a copule years and then was without one for about two months while a contract ended before he could get another one. It was awful! It was while we were wedding-planning and we had to drive to a neighboring city (difficult w/o a smartphone when you get lost!) to meet a vendor who didn’t show up (difficult to contact said vendor without accessing email when they aren’t answering the landline!). We’re functioning pretty well with just one smartphone now but I know I’ll get addicted once I upgrade. Honestly I’m happy with my low-functioning phone but the hardware itself is about to kick the bucket and I think it’s time for me to join the 21st century.

  2. Jason @ WSL says:

    I really like the concept but it sounds like it would only be a good idea if the plan fits you well. If you travel a lot of use your cell phone for business while out-and-about then I can definitely see there being some problems. I’m strongly considering going with a low-end carrier in our neck of the woods that would reduce our plan by about 40%. My only fear is that the coverage wouldn’t be good…
    Jason @ WSL recently posted..Blog Income and Site Statistics – July 2012

    1. Kyle says:

      Yeah, this plan banks on you being in wifi coverage most of the time. Although that’s becoming easier to do. Coverage is always a concern, which is why I’ve stuck with “Big Red” for now. However, since this relies on the Sprint network, hopefully the coverage won’t be too much of a sacrifice.

  3. I have AT&T and, aside from the price, I’ve never had any problems with them. In fact, the reason I got them in the first place is because they had the best coverage on the farm at which I worked at the time.

    That said, when my plan expires next month, I’m switching to Virgin Mobile. My wife’s service is through them and she pays half as much for the same plan.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Learn Frugality from the Poor

    1. Emily says:

      It sucks how much coverage can change when you move, or even with time in the same place. I first got AT&T because it had the best service where my parents lived, but then when I moved to CA it wasn’t as good. When Kyle started at Duke, Verizon had no service in his office, but they must have put up a new tower because his service is better than mine now. My calls just get dropped when I walk under/by certain buildings, which is annoying but at least I’m just moving through the area.

      Sounds like you’ll be getting a good deal soon!

  4. Holy cow is that cheap!! Nice work finding that plan! I’ve never heard of Republic Wireless. Where do they service?
    My Money Design recently posted..Book Review: Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks! Kyle pays attention to these sorts of things. Their coverage is nationwide, I believe, since they use the Sprint network.

  5. What what what? That’s awesome! I’ll have to see if they’re available in my area. I’ll be interested to see how the coverage pans out IRL. It sounds like it should be really good, though.
    femmefrugality recently posted..Frugal Cooking 206

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  6. jefferson says:

    I heard about this option, and I think it is pretty rad. If you spend the majority of your time somewhere that has wi-fi, then this is a fantastic deal. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to me.
    jefferson recently posted..Back To School Already?

    1. Emily says:

      Now that they removed the original limits they had on data, I guess it doesn’t matter much from the user’s perspective whether or not your have wifi as long as the Sprint coverage is good – though it certainly defeats the purpose of the new business model.

  7. AverageJoe says:

    I love Kyle’s point. If you’re supporting something that you believe in, that’s a huge factor. Plus, I like that you already know the downside going into the plan. When bad things happen, you expect them instead of being surprised. Well-thought out decision.
    AverageJoe recently posted..Don’t Be the Emperor With No Emergency Fund

    1. Emily says:

      Well, we’re not sure exactly how we would deal with the problems, but yes, at least we shouldn’t be surprised. I hope we won’t experience as many problems as the earlier wave because they’ve upgraded the hardware, but we’ll see.

  8. Cool! Can’t wait to hear more. 🙂
    Kathleen @ Frugal Portland recently posted..I’m not spending money ever again!

  9. […] top comment this week was one Average Joe from The Free Financial Advisor left on My New Frugal/Cheap Cell Phone Plan – and not just because he was complimentary of our decision!  He pointed out of the […]

  10. […] My New Frugal/Cheap Cell Phone Plan was featured in the Carnival of MoneyPros. […]

  11. […] looks like I waited a bit too long to confirm my Republic Wireless invitation so it doesn’t seem I’ll be getting my new smartphone anytime soon – probably in a […]

  12. […] I paid my bill on my new smartphone as usual and finally cancelled the service on my last one, so my cost for this month was $22.18.  Kyle returned his ATT smartphone and then bought one from Verizon.  We’re still waiting for […]

  13. […] August I told you that I signed up to get a smartphone through Republic Wireless, a new company with a different business model for providing cell […]

  14. […] i.e. no internet at home).  Simultaneously, I had been waiting for my beta wave to come up with a new low-cost carrier.  Since Kyle’s phone was more than two years old (and no longer under contract) we decided it […]

  15. […] income – rent, savings, debt (consider deferring student loans if possible), insurance, giving, phone, and internet.  Add ‘em up!  These expenses comprise most of your base spending every month and […]

  16. […] working there!” but it could be challenging for some people.  Not everyone is cut out to have a Republic Wireless smartphone, either.  🙂  But we’ve made all these changes so gradually that we have been able to […]

  17. TJ Mitch says:

    Thanks for your site, I think its great. Check out Ting mobile if you want to save money on your cell phone. They only charge you for minutes you use. Its the cheapest plan around. You can save $25 if you use a referral link.

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks! I have some other commenters who love Ting so it really seems like a good service. I’m glad it’s working for you.

  18. […] So when I heard that RW 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, RW 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 RW. However, Emily agreed to be the guinea pig for the family and signed up for the new service. […]

  19. […] Wireless credits:  Kyle heard about RW nearly two years ago from his tech-y type blogs and I signed up for their beta wave right away.  I think we were the first personal finance blog to review Republic Wireless (at least, I don’t […]

  20. […] I’m paying $26.30/month for a brand-new smartphone with unlimited talk/text/data with Republic […]

  21. […] also read my past posts on Republic Wireless – when I first signed up for the beta wave, a review of the service several months into using it, and when Republic Wireless announced the […]

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