I first reviewed Republic Wireless two years ago when my parents were looking to exit their AT&T family plan. I then wrote about the service again after they updated the firmware and released 2 new phones. To recap:
Republic Wireless is an innovative company that I first found while doing research on the cheapest cell phone providers. The founders had the crazy idea that they could utilize high speed internet to lower the usage of cellular data, and therefore lower the cost to end users. It worked and Republic has grown very quickly.
They took the Android operating system and developed a custom firmware that integrates WiFi high speed internet and Sprint cellular coverage. When you are in range of a Wifi broadband internet connection, Republic Wireless phones automatically make calls and send messages through the internet, which is very cheap to do. Once you are beyond Wifi range, the phone will automatically switch and use Sprint towers just like a traditional cell phone. If you are outside of Sprint towers, Republic will even switch and use Verizon towers, all included at no additional cost.
With new firmware configured, they launched a beta, then they brought the service to the masses. For unlimited talk, text, and 3G data, the price was $19/month. Absurdly cheap.
This new service was configured for only one phone – the Motorola Defy XT (now extinct), and it had a few bugs that slowed growth. The transition from WiFi to cellular towers was buggy and sometimes resulted in dropped calls. MMS (multimedia messaging) also had problems and required an Android app to work in full capacity.
Republic Wireless Review 2.0
After those initial problems, Republic Wireless changed some things and announced that the old service issues had been resolved and vastly improved. They fixed the dropped calls observed in the WiFi to cellular transition and fixed the messaging problems. The service began working seamlessly, and has continued to improve.
They didn’t stop there. They then proceeded to announce an all new lineup of plans and two new phones – The Motorola (Moto) X and the Motorola G.
They began offering the Moto X with no contract whatsoever for the (at the time) ridiculous price of $299. The same phone was selling for about $600 off-contract at any of the other major cellular providers, although that price obviously dropped over time.
The Moto G was released in 2 varieties that varied only in storage capacity – 8GB ($149) and 16GB ($179). The Moto G offered most of the same features as the Moto X, for half the price.
A few months after the Moto G was released, Republic rolled out two more phones, the Moto E and the 2nd generation Moto X.
At that time (no longer the case), customers could choose between 4 excellent phones. In order of price:
- The 2nd generation Moto X at $399
- The 1st generation Moto X at $299
- The 1st generation Moto G at $149
- The 1st generation Moto E at $99
Republic Wireless Review 3.0
Recently, Republic permanently cleared out the old stock of the first generation Moto X, Moto G, and Moto E. These three phones will continue to be supported by Republic, but will not be available for purchase by new customers.
As of right now, new customers can choose between the following phones:
- The 2nd gen. Moto X at $299
- The 2nd gen. Moto E at $129
Here are more details on each phone in visual format (click the image to make it larger).
How do the phones compare?
The 2nd generation Moto X is the best phone. It has great specs, but it’s also considerably more expensive.
The 2nd generation Moto E is a very good phone. Some specs:
- Quad core processors and 1GB RAM
- Removable storage via MicroSD card. This allows you to carry more apps, songs, videos, etc.
- Larger capacity battery (and lower resolution screen) means long battery life.
- Front and rear cameras
- 4G LTE data capable for the fastest Sprint data
- Newest Android version 5.1
On a cost basis, I think that the average user should opt for the Moto E. In everyday use, there is very little difference between these phones outside of the camera. The Moto E camera is a 6.5/10 for me, and does not compare with the great camera on the Moto X.
High end games and a few specific applications will run better on the Moto X, but 98% of people will experience very similar performance from both phones.
Please understand that you cannot bring your own version of these phones (or any other unlocked phone) to use on Republic Wireless. You are required to use one of their phones (with the customized firmware) to seamlessly switch between Sprint’s network and WiFi. That means you can buy a new phone directly from Republic, or buy a clean used Republic phone from another user.
Your Choice of Plans (And the New Republic Refund)
Republic also recently updated their plans. They used to offer a flat-fee plan structure, where you chose between no data or unlimited data via cellular towers. This setup made it difficult for many customers who just needed occasional data.
To fix this, they did a few months of beta-testing, and just officially released for a new plan structure where pricing is based on the amount of data you use each month. This means that your data usage can fluctuate from month to month, but Republic will only charge you based on what you actually use. They will refund any excess data that you purchased as a credit on your account at the end of each month.
Republic has 5 plans currently available for customers:
- $5/month – This is unlimited usage on WiFi alone. No Sprint cellular usage
- $10/month – Unlimited talk and text on Sprint’s cellular network and WiFi. Data on WiFi only
- $17.50/month – Unlimited talk and text on Sprint and WiFi. 0.5GB data on Sprint’s 4G network (3G if 4G is not available)
- $25/month – Unlimited talk and text on Sprint and WiFi. 1GB data on Sprint’s 4G/3G network
- $40/month – Unlimited talk and text on Sprint and WiFi. 2GB data on Sprint’s 4G/3G network
The $10/month plan is the base plan. You are essentially paying $15/month for each GB of cellular data added to the base plan. If you need more than 2GBs, it’s an additional $15 per GB.
When Republic tested these plans with a large sample of customers, they found that the average user paid slightly less than $15/month, which was significantly lower than the old plan structure. This is because most users don’t need much more than 0.5GB of data each month with WiFi so widely available to use for free.
Republic will allow you to add additional data at any time, and will prorate your bill according to what is used. For example, if you are know that you’ll need high-speed data, you could easily buy 1-2GBs of data, and use what you need. Remember, you will be reimbursed for any data that you don’t use. If you buy 1GB for $15, and only use 0.5GB, you will be reimbursed $7.50 at the end of the month.
Or consider international travel. Republic makes it easy to downgrade to the $5/month WiFi only plan when needed. This can successfully be used while traveling abroad where you can call or text via WiFi. This is an outstanding feature for frequent travelers.
Our Experience on Republic Wireless
Three different members of our family are long-time Republic Wireless users. They are all on on the base $10/month plan, using a combination of the four phones that have been available. Overall, the experience has been very good. Our family has rarely witnessed a dropped call when moving from WiFi to the cellular network. The $10/month plan is probably the best plan possible on any cellular network for those people who don’t need data outside of a wireless high speed internet connection.
I have past experience with the Moto X and Moto G devices, and am currently using the 2nd generation Moto E. I have been really impressed by the quality of the Moto E. It has been a great everyday phone thus far. The quality of calls over WiFi has been very good, with no noticeable decline in call quality when compared to cellular calls. I haven’t noticed many bugs or glitches in the latest firmware either.
I’ve also used the 3G and 4G Sprint networks. Where 4G coverage is available, Sprint does well. But things are not perfect. Coverage can be spotty in various parts of the country (primarily rural areas), which is disappointing. However, if you don’t have access to Sprint towers in your area, Republic will roam on Verizon towers for talk and text at no additional charge. This is yet another free feature from Republic that is a really nice touch for customers.
All things considered, it’s a good experience. Other cellular companies are still trying to charge 2-3x the price of Republic’s unlimited talk and text plan, so we’ll have to overlook the Sprint network flaws and appreciate the improvements that Republic continues to make.
Republic Wireless Review Summary
There is nothing else on the market that can compete with Republic Wireless on a price basis right now. The new phones and unlimited plans starting at $10/month make up for the few technical difficulties that we have experienced.
The data plans with the Republic Refund feature are a nice addition, but the $10/month plan is the best deal available for users who can stick with WiFi for data needs. There is nothing else on the market comparable to the unlimited talk and text plan for $10/month.
I think Republic is disrupting the landscape of cellular providers and doing consumers a huge favor in providing this service. With the recent changes and new phones, they offer an outstanding service.
You can check the plans and details out further at the Republic Site.