Republic Wireless might not be a name you have heard of, but it is a name you should pay close attention too. In the cell industry we all know the big name, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. Some have their own little pre-pad spin offs, like Sprint with Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile. There are a number of others out there that will lease spectrum and devices from the big boys and let you stay off contract but have a chance at similar service. Republic Wireless is sort of like that, but with a twist.
RW leases spectrum from Sprint. Meaning that everywhere Sprint is, you have service with Republic Wireless. However, not in the traditional sense. Instead of having your cell service and data service being two separate entities, RW piggy backs off Sprint’s 3G and 4G data connections to offer you calls, texts and web surfing over a data connection. Correction: I was under the wrong impression in regards to how it handled the calls. For whatever reason the “Cell” aspect in the plans never rang true in my brain. The service does piggy back on Sprint for data and for voice, with voice being handled like any other voice call. (Thanks Louis D. for the correction) Think, Voice over Internet Provider (VoIP), except on mobile it is called Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). RW expands beyond Sprint’s coverage though, it also run on Wi-Fi. Be it your home connection, your moms house or anywhere that you have access to Wi-Fi.
The three different connection types mentioned above, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi are critical bits of information as they pertain to what sort of plan you will choose. Republic Wireless offers 4 plans based on your needs.
The first is a $5 a month unlimited plan that will only connect and work over Wi-Fi. This would be a great way for people who spend much of their time at home, or might otherwise be immobile, who want a phone like the Moto X, but don’t need the high-cost plans associated to the larger carriers. It would also be a pretty slick community house phone.
The second plan option is just $10 a month. This one retains the unlimited aspects on Wi-Fi, but also adds in unlimited text and calling on Sprint’s network. You will not have access to browse the web when not connected to Wi-Fi. Again, an extremely affordable solution for home bodies or even that unruly teenager.
The third plan will set you back $25 a month. Like the previous plans you get your unlimited while on Wi-Fi, however, you also now have access to unlimited web via a 3G connection. You are limited to Sprint’s 3G speed, which usually ranges between 1.0 to 1.4 Mbps download with around 0.4 to 0.70Mbps upload. That is to be expected.
The fourth plan is the big guns plan. Priced at $40 a month you get all you unlimited Wi-Fi but now have access to Sprint’s 4G network for your data. Typical speeds around 11 Mbps download and 4Mbps upload. You are at the mercy of what Sprint offers you in your local area for connection and speed.
Excluding the first, $5 a month plan, every other plan will offer up a hand off between Wi-Fi and Cellular data when you are coming and going. The switch is pretty quick, but there were sometimes that it took a few seconds before the conversation was picked back up. Not unusual and it is also worth noting that over the last month or so of using it I never experienced an all out dropped call during handover.
In my area, and the areas I travel the most, Sprint has pretty good coverage. There were times where I had service with my T-Mobile Xperia Z and not the Moto X and times where it was reversed. Again, not all that surprising. Republic does have a coverage check set up to see what you should be getting in the areas you will be using your device. You can toggle between 3G and 4G to see if the extra per month would even matter. I drove out to the fringes of the map in my area and still had good signal. Results are different for everyone of course, along with varying weather conditions and terrain.
In the app you can change your plan, change your phone number and adjust various settings like the sensitivity for when it hands off the connection to or from a Wi-Fi connection.
Where does Republic Wireless Shine?
Republic Wireless has a number of great things going for them. The monthly plans are one of the biggest. You never sign a contract and RW lets you change your plan twice a month. This is a big deal as most carriers will charge you extra to change your plan in the middle of the month, or only let you change at the beginning of your next cycle. If you happen to be home 90% of the time, like I am, I can easily see myself sporting the $10 a month plan with just calls and text when I am out and about. Most locations I go to when I am not at home have Wi-Fi anyways, but if I took a vacation or trip I could quickly open the app and toss on the 3G or 4G plan and be fine while I am gone.
When RW first started doing their thing it was with a Motorola Defy XT. While I am sure they had people sign up, it definitely wasn’t the device to really draw a crowd. The company really started to catch attention when they launched the Moto X, which is only $299 outright. They are further gaining attention with the more recent announcement that they are bringing the Moto G in April for $149. That gives the high-end users a choice and the mid-range users a choice. Covering both primary spectrum’s.
Where Republic Wireless Might Struggle
The Moto X’s big selling point is the Moto Maker. Unfortunately Republic Wireless isn’t mixed into Moto Maker. You only have white or black to choose from. I don’t think is is a HUGE issue, but a potential issue for many that would rather get a custom Moto X and spend a little more with a carrier, or other pre-paid provider, to have it.
The MVNO piggy backing on Sprint means no SIM cards. Which also means you can’t use any device you want. Even if there were SIM cards and you brought over your device, you wouldn’t be able o use it anyways because the Republic Wireless app is integrated into the software for service. Meaning, If you don’t buy their phone, you can’t connect to their service.
The integrated app that essentially is what brings you service is also something that could cause some headaches when it comes to software updates. We all know too well that carrier ‘bloatware’ is usually one of the leading causes for delayed software updates on our devices. Often times we see international devices without carrier bloat getting updates weeks, even months, before the carrier branded versions. Where they have a leg up is the fact that the Moto X is the only device they have right now. I am banking on them to be putting all their man power into making Android 4.4 available for it sooner rather than later. If Republic keeps their focus with the customer, like they have already done, and keep it going with timely software updates, then this will be a mute point. I was assured there is an update to Android 4.4 in the works, but a release time frame was unavailable.
Republic Wireless has a real shot at capturing and sustaining a good market share as is even if your only options are the Moto X and Moto G (in April). At $25 a month per line with 3G, you can have unlimited everything and that savings alone is enough for people to make the switch with confidence. I never experienced any issues with the service, and with the only alteration to it being the Republic Wireless software that is needed to make the connections, it is a small sacrifice for all that you get. Toss in the 50GB of Google Drive storage and the extremely high rated customer service and you have a real winner on your hands.