Republic Wireless is either the best thing since sliced bread or an overhyped technofix to the problem of getting affordable unlimited calling and data for a smart phone. What Republic has done is modded their phones to use WiFi to make your calls whenever that service is available. This reduces how much cellular bandwidth you actually use.
For traditional smartphones, this is something that normally occurs only for data services. So when you have WiFi, you phone uses that to serve the web or process data for your apps. However, when you don’t have WiFi, you phone uses the 3G or 4G cellular data network instead. So the more you use WiFi, the less cellular data you use. Republic decided to create a service that does the same thing for your phone calls as well. So when you have WiFi, the phone uses WiFi to make your calls, and when you don’t, you use the cellular network.
Republic has been offering many of their phones at a good discount to clear out their inventory with phones originally starting at $29. Many of them sold out quickly. However they have added a few models to the sale though they say stock is quite limited. These phones are available:
Republic now offers some of the latest Android smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Nexus 6P.
Tethering is now allowed so you can use your phone as a wireless hotspot to connect your laptops and tablets. Of course this will increase your mobile data usage - which could lead to higher costs or at least less of a refund for unused data. Speaking of which, this feature is only available on their new Refund plans.
For the cellular portion of their service, the company now relies on both the Sprint and T-Mobile networks when WiFi isn't available. It would have been nicer if they could have gotten Verizon instead, but for various reasons Sprint (and now T-Mobile) tend to be more accepting of these kinds of experiments.
As long as you are to any WiFi network that has access to the wider internet, your calls then sent as a VOIP call presumably routed through Republic Wireless data centers.
So the interesting question is what happens if the WiFi
signal drops out in the middle of a call. Well, with the first generation of
Republic phones – the LG Optimus S and Motorola Defy XT, the call would be
dropped, and you would have to redial over the cellular network. However, with
the launch of the Moto X and G phone, these calls are now automatically handed over to
the cellular network without dropping the call – pretty cool. And now with the latest line-up of phones, I believe they now can switch back and forth between the cell and WiFi networks during a call.
Republic Wireless now carries a pretty good selection of phones. As of October 9, 2018, some of the more popular and affordable modes are the Moto e5 Play ($129), the Samsung Galaxy J3 $169) and J7 ($249). The latter two are the 2018 versions of those models, which means faster processors and more memory.
Other phones available include:
Their top phone used to be the second-generation Moto X (launched on December 10, 2014). This is an Android 4.4.4 phone with a 5.2 inch HD screen with IR sensors that respond to some hand gestures or movements. It has a 13 MP camera with flash and a 2 MP front-facing camera. Its features compare well to models such as the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S5.
Originally $399, it was reduced to $249 when they were clearing out stock in preparation for the future availability of the third generation (apparently known as the Pure edition) of this device with this plan.
The first generation Moto X launched on November 14, 2013. The Moto X is part of the lines of phones from Google-owned Motorola and a lot of resources were invested into this line so it tends to feature good technology. It was the first phone in their line-up to feature automatic Wi-Fi to cellular handover. This was important enough to the company to now wave goodbye as they phase it out.
The third generation of the Moto G is now available. Republic offered the first generation of this phone, but skipped the second generation, preferring to roll out the Moto e instead. The new version of the G compares pretty well to the higher end Moto X still on its second generation version, and it costs less.
It has a higher-resolution 13 MP camera (with autofocus) compared to the Moto e.
Note: this phone is a 3G phone so you can use it on Republic's unlimited 3G plan which costs $25 per month.
The second generation Moto E is priced at $129. It has some pretty good features including a 4.5 inch qHD screen and a front-facing camera. It is also now a 4G LTE phone so you can use it with Republics plans that offer 4G data.
The Defy XT (beta phone) and other Republic devices apparently cannot be re-activated for another user once activated. I don't know if that mean that the number cannot be changed or just that the billing cannot be re-assigned.
This capability will apparently be available in the future.
One difference between the beta phone and the Moto X is the plans.
The new Simple Choice plans are set up with a base cost of $15 for unlimited talk and text plus $5 per GB of Data per month. So, for comparison, here's how much these would cost. Note that these plans are competitive with plans like Straight Talk at the high end, but also flexible enough to cost less for those who don't need as much cellular data.
If you pay annually up front, you save 16.7 percent by paying for the equivalent of ten months, but getting service for the full year. So you can pay $150 for one year instead of $15 per month which works out to $12.50 per month. The $45 plan works out to $37.50 per month, but you have to shell out $450 at once.
If you get a new handset or bring a device onto your Republic plan you will have to sign up for a Simple Choice plans. If you have an older device that is on one of their previous plans, you can apparently keep that plan. Some of these previous plans are described below.
While Republic was working on adding new phones to their line-up, they introduced a plan feature where you could get a refund for the unused portion of your data which is much better than rollover. After all, you're only rolling over data because it's more than you need.
However, this feature appears to be gone.
Generally, these plans costs are best for lighter data usages which makes sense if you have access to WiFi. For the more expensive plans, you are looking at costs comparable to the Straight Talk plans.
Even though this plan has now been around a few years, you still cannot make international calls except to a few select countries and territories. Your main option is to use services like Skype, Viber, Google, etc. There are a few less well-known VOIP services you can use to call international numbers with your Republic phone.
Note: You can take your phone abroad and make calls to USA numbers as long as you're connected to WiFi.
The Motorola Defy XT (and LG Optimus S) had been available with a $19 a month unlimited talk, text and 3G data plan. This plan was tied to the phones and is not available with their current phones. This is now part of their history of Republic Wireless.
Once you get the phone, you just have to turn it on as they're pre-activated. However, I guess they have to install their software on the phones once you order them, so it does take about 5-7 days for delivery.
Their concept was fairly unique (major carriers are also exploring this concept) yet simple, which is why this review is relatively short. As long as Sprint or T-Mobile cellular coverage is decent in your area, it’s worth checking out their service.
Tell us about your experience with this service!
You can check out some other Sprint-based carriers via the main menu. Because Republic Wireless is somewhat unique, it's hard to think of plans directly related to it, but we'll try to go at it from another angle. One thing I mentioned is that some of these plans are good for kids as well as adults.
The Kajeet plan offers a few kid-friendly Android phones along with plans that include parental controls and content filters.
Even Tracfone has finally come out with a couple of Android smart phones with new airtime data cards which also promise low-cost service as long as you tend to use data over WiFi.