Republic Wireless Review

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Notes from Kathleen: 1. We have an affiliate relationship with Republic. 2. J. Money just wrote a review, because that’s the way the internet works, so if you’re interested in another opinion, go read his review, and if you like his better, click his link. We can still be friends.

Those are my only notes. Take it away, Brent!

Back in January of 2008, on my 28th birthday no less, I purchased an iPhone. This was the original, paradigm-shifting smartphone exclusive on AT&T. Even before new apps were available, this thing changed the game for anyone who had one. Check your email. Play your music. Surf the web. Oh, and make phone calls, too. Aside from Blackberries–which were really for corporate-on-the-go types– there was nothing within a zillion miles of the first iPhone in terms of groundbreaking functionality on the go.

I plunked down the $299-plus-fees, and started shelling out $89.99 a month for 900 anytime minutes, plus unlimited text and data. I rolled with iPhone and AT&T for five years, dutifully trading in my old iPhone for the latest version every two years: iPhone–>Iphone 3G–>iPhone 5 (with Siri!). And I shelled out over $100 a month for the privilege.

In the meantime, Google’s Android was busy taking over the world. The Android first release wasn’t anywhere near Apple’s amazing operating system, but bit by bit, Google matched, and then surpassed the iPhone in terms of capability. Didn’t take long for Android to start dominating the market, with every phone company and carrier providing multiple versions of phones.

For a long time, I was an apologetic Apple fanboy, touting the superiority of all things Apple (the iPhone, especially). But as time marched on, I started installing more and more Google apps onto my good old iPhone. Before you know it, I was checking email with Gmail, surfing with Chrome, sharing with Drive, navigating with Google Maps. I had, essentially, re-skinned my iPhone into an Android phone.

Here’s the dirty little secret about Android vs. iPhone: they both do the exact same things. Email? Check. Pandora? Yup. Text messaging? Duh. Phone calls? I hope so. There isn’t a thing worth a spit that you can do on Android that you can’t also do on an iPhone and vice versa.

Now, I have my preferences. If I’m being honest with you, I have to admit that, all things being equal, I’d choose iPhone over Android. But two things about that:

1. That’s just my personal taste
2. All things are not equal. Not by a long shot.

There are a ton of mobile options out there, but in all my time as an iPhone owner, I had never given much thought to leaving AT&T. I just paid and paid and paid for the same mediocre coverage. Six years ago, with a fledgling smartphone market, this made some sense. In 2014, it’s insane. There are so many alternative carriers that provide good nationwide coverage, that you are a complete chump if you’re paying more than, say, $50 a month for your phone service.

Enter Republic Wireless

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They are the game-changing mobile company trying to upend traditional carriers through a clever strategy. You see, while Republic Wireless uses the same cellular network as Sprint, their phones prioritize WiFi for calls, texts, and surfing . And, in today’s hyperconnected world, WiFi is almost always available.

So, when you’re at home, calls you place, texts you receive, scores you look up, are routed over your home WiFi network. Also, at your office. And your favorite coffee shop. And the waiting room of your dentist. Anywhere with WiFi.

If you’re on a call, and go out of WiFi range, the phone automatically hands the call off to the cellular network, no fuss, no muss. Republic Wireless benefits because its users use far less cellular traffic when they’re calling and texting. You benefit because it’s way cheaper, and the paradigm of “cellular coverage” starts to break down.

The Price

Republic has four phone plans. The first (and fanciest) is the unlimited 4G talk/text/data plan for $40/month. Then you have the unlimited 3G talk/text/data for $25/month. For those without mobile data needs, there’s the unlimited talk/text, data WiFi only plan for $10/month. Finally, there’s what I like to call the “mobile landline,” which is WiFi-0nly for calls/text/data for $5/month.

I’m on the $25/month plan because I really don’t have the need for 4G data speed, the 3G network suits me just fine.

For an extra sweet feature, Republic allows you to easily change your plan through their app up to twice a month. Let’s say you’re headed out of the country. Just switch to the WiFi-only plan and you can send texts and make calls all day and night from anywhere in the world with WiFi at the $5/month rate. It is the cheapest international mobile plan in the world.

What’s more, no contracts.

The Service

The service is fine. I drop a call periodically when I’m out and about, but I was also able to stream World Cup soccer games on over cellular while I was in Two-Hours-From-Nothing, Nebraska, so make of that what you will. Frankly, service strength is irrelevant when you’re at home or work since you’ll likely be on WiFi all day long. For the curious: Republic uses Sprint as their primary cellular network, and Verizon to roam.

The Phones

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As of today, you only have two options: the $149, 3G-only Moto G and the $299 4G Moto X. I can only speak to the X because the G wasn’t available when I joined up with Republic. I like the phone. As a recovering Apple fanboy, Android had a bit of a learning curve to it. The biggest weakness: Android is not the most stable operating system in the world. For the first few months, the phone would crash at least twice a week (sometimes in the middle of a call), and I’d have to perform a hard reboot. Once I updated my OS to KitKat, the crashes stopped. But even crashing wasn’t enough to put me off of the phone because I was paying less than a third of what Iw as paying while on AT&T.

The downside to Republic: you can’t bring your own phone to the network. You have to buy one of their two phones. But so what? The Moto X is a good phone. Fast, good camera, and it does everything I want it to do.

A Few of Caveats

While I strongly recommend Republic, there are a few things everyone should know before taking the plunge:

Customer Service

Their web-based customer service is not a strength of theirs. There are no phone numbers to call if something isn’t working properly. You have to go to their website and submit a ticket. Now, that includes an online community of fellow Republic users who are quite happy to answer any question you may have. Post your problem on the board, and you’ll probably receive an answer quickly.

MMS & Group Messaging

I’ve been having problems sending and receiving group text messages using Google Hangouts. One-on-one messages don’t seem to be a problem, and I’m currently searching for a messaging app that can handle group/MMS on this phone.

Slow Updates

Republic didn’t get the KitKat release for over six months after Google made it available. This is probably not the biggest problem for most people, but those who look for the latest and greatest will probably be frustrated.

But look, if you want the latest and greatest, then don’t bother with Republic. Go wait in line every fall with the other chumps for a new iPhone. I, on the other hand, am sick of wasting money on a piece of technology that has no functional difference from every other phone in the market.

Get Republic Wireless. It’s cheap. It works. You can have just about any app you want. You can make calls and send texts to the US while you’re traveling internationally for free. And you can do all of it for under $30 a month.

24 comments

  • Reading this makes me want to cry.
    I was quoted $135 (from two carriers) for unlimited national talk and text and 6 gigs of data last night (in Canada).

  • Or if you want to keep your iPhones, switch to Ting. That’s what we did! 2 iPhones now cost us <$50 per month and that's total, not each. =)

    • Ting uses a tiered pricing model based on usage month to month. If you’re light user of minutes, data, and SMS, then Ting can be the cheapest plan out there.

      For me, though, Ting doesn’t make a lot of sense. I use well over 2GB of data each month, and I talk on the phone a lot, so my bill on Ting would probably come in at over $60 a month. The flexibility of the billing is nice, though it’s tiered in such a way that if you go into the next tier by a single minute or single message or single megabyte, they charge you for the entire next tier.

      Having said that, Ting is still cheaper than the major carriers, and you have a lot more flexibility if you’re still married to a specific phone.

  • HAH! How nice of you to link to my review I just did too – you are too sweet, Kathleen :) Well, you too perhaps Mr. Brent, but will have to get to know you more first, haha…

    #LongLiveTheRepublic

    • Kathleen O'Malley

      I kind of wish we had SLIGHTLY different editorial calendars, friend! But whatever. :) Our audiences can’t possibly have 100% overlap.

  • My Verizon family plan looks less attractive all the time. I used to really need reliable coverage while on the road (that’s why I dropped Sprint and picked up Verizon…..I didn’t care about cost. I couldn’t afford to drop client calls.). Now that I work from home all day, it really doesn’t make sense anymore.

    • Kathleen O'Malley

      I’m still on my dad’s family plan (something something something gift horse mouth), and was surprised when Brent had better service. It makes sense, though, since he has both Sprint AND Verizon.

  • My husband switched to Republic Wireless a few months ago – we are still in disbelief that his bill is under $30 every month. Feels strange to pay so little after paying too much for so long. I, on the other hand, went with Boost Mobile, I have the $50/month plan. We decided to try different carriers to see if these low-cost carriers delivered what they promised – turns out they totally do! I may eventually switch to Republic once I decide to save up for one of their phones, but so far I am happy with Boost.

    • Kathleen O'Malley

      Do you have to buy their phones new?

      • I had to buy a phone because I came from Verizon. But their Motor G was only $100. And if you port your phone they had a deal for a $100 rebate (not sure if the rebate is valid as this was May when I switched)

        Otherwise I am unsure if you can byod.

        • I mean port your phone number.

          • Yes you can port your current number. When you receive your phone they give you a number but you can change it to your current number and it’s simple. I love republic wireless.

          • You need to check if you can port your number with RW. I can’t. It’s one of the biggest reasons I won’t switch. That and I don’t like the phones they offer.

  • Republic Wireless is the best cell provider I’ve ever had in terms of value and experience. You can get good phones like the Motorola X for $300 or the Motorola G for $180 and the monthly plans are cheaper than even prepaid competitors.

  • I’ve been very happy with my Moto X and service with republic. The only thing I wish is that they offered more phones. Right now they offer 2: The Moto X and Moto G. It used to be only the Motorola Defy XT (boy, did that phone stink). My wife won’t switch because she insists on a physical keyboard… so we’re stuck with a Verizon pre-paid dumb phone.

  • I absolutely love Republic. I have been with them since January and I highly recommend it. The caveats should not deter you from saving. True, no customer service, but if you open a ticket, they will email you promptly to help you out. I will not say problems will not arise, but everything works so well. I haven’t had major issues. MMs and group messaging must go through the native messaging app. I can live with that for what I save. I am pretty sure that will be fixed down the road, and even if doesn’t happen, I will not lose my sleep over it, and I will not like Republic less. As far as updates go, I believe they are slow considering the fast pace at which, for some reason, we were convinced we should live. Fast food, fast browsers, fast connectivity, fast computers, fast wealth, fast, fast, fast… I am running kitkat on my Moto X and I don’t believe anyone is running Android L just yet. Yes, it came a bit later for Republic but again, why do we think we are entitled to get everything right away? And why do we want it in the first place? I guess it’s just the buzz. Once we get it, we’re immediately focused on the next update as though that will be the crucial element to change our lives for the better. I think saving will make my life better instead.

    By the way, I just found frugal Portland and I love it too. I heard Portuguese are cheap. I don’t know if that’s true. I am Portuguese and I am cheap. That I know. SinceI live in Portland, I will keep an eye on being frugal by following frugal Portland.

  • I switched from Verizon to Republic Wireless a month ago and I couldn’t be happier. The Moto X is a great smartphone. Invest in a good case to protect it, as you will want to keep it for a long time. I am using the $10/month plan which fits my needs, as I am usually around wi-fi. With taxes and fees, my monthly bill is now $13 and change. I’ve travelled with the phone a bit in the U.S. and I haven’t had any problems (so far) getting a good cellular signal when I am away from wi-fi. All in all, I highly recommend RW if you want to save money on cell phone service.

  • Jonathan Helton

    Your last sentence is a bit misleading. You can’t call/text internationally from home on RW–exception: calls/texts to Canada are free. You can, as you state in your review, call home when abroad when you have a good wifi connection–I’ve made clear-as-a-bell-no-delay calls from Australia, China, and the Bahamas. I’ve never had a dropped call. And I much prefer RW online customer service to navigating phone menus and waiting on hold for a service person who may not even be able to help you. I’ve always received very quick answers. I’ve had my Moto X on Republic Wireless since November when they first came out. Love it.

  • I heart Republic! Customer service when you have problems is not a strength, but I’ve found the answers to all my questions on their forums using a google search in about 2 seconds. So it hasn’t been a big deal for me at all. The price and service all pass with flying colors!

  • I’m currently on the $10 plan and its perfect, coming from boost mobile I’m saving $45 a month.
    Also I got a friends referral link so my first two months were free (minus a couple dollars tax)

    The service is great (free roaming is a major plus i tell you), I got the 16gb moto g and its awesome, would love to get the moto x one day but a $300 phone just isn’t in my cards right now.
    Great review Brent, I would also recommend Republic, the community is active and supportive, and there is a 30 day moneyback guarantee. Go for it. No regrets.

  • I’m a gift horse, parents’ family plan girl too, but I can’t imagine why people are still paying traditional rates when this service is available and has such good coverage reviews. I’m going to mention it to my parents next time I’m home.

  • I’ve also switched to Republic Wireless and will be writing a review sometime in August. I found your experience similar to mine but I have no idea what the KitKat release is :)

  • For those of you who bought the Moto G – did you get the 8GB or 16GB? Also, where do,you find referral links?

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