One of the topics I keep coming back to on Bible Money Matters is the idea of finding ways to cut your regular recurring expenses. One of the big ways that we've saved was by cutting our mobile phone costs and home phone costs.
We cut our mobile phone bills substantially by moving to a no-contract cell phone provider several years ago. My wife and I both switched to Virgin Mobile pre-paid cell service. We've saved hundreds over the years by making the switch from our old traditional contract provider.
My wife has recently been complaining about how her old smartphone just isn't working very well anymore. The GPS never seems to work despite being on, it's always running out of storage and it's just too slow and old to run some of the newest apps.
Since she isn't on a contract I decided to see if we could find a better deal on a phone and plan than the one we're on with Virgin Mobile – a $35/month plan that gets her basically all she needs. One provider that keeps coming up when I research low cost no contract cell providers is Republic Wireless. Apparently they have plans as low as $5/month! Today I thought I'd do a quick post talking about Republic Wireless, who they are, what they have to offer and how you can use them to save.
Republic Wireless History
Republic Wireless is a wireless communications service provider and subsidiary of Bandwidth. Bandwidth is an internet and telephone service provider co-founded in 1999 by CEO David Morken in his spare bedroom. Morken is an avowed capitalist, but also is outspoken about his Christian faith, and he talks about how his Christian values help to inform the company's focus on integrity and service:
It’s amazing when you can have an economic alignment with a service orientation and a service heart. You don’t just tell the truth because it’s going to have an economic benefit, you have to tell the truth when it’s going to cause economic harm as well.
Bandwidth's expertise is in telephony and VOIP services, so a consumer focused VOIP cell service like Republic Wireless was a natural outgrowth of the company.
Republic Wireless was created in January of 2010 and first launched as a private beta service in November of 2011 with 2 available smartphones. A year later in 2012 they launched an open public beta. Finally in November of 2013 they came out of their beta testing period and began offering several calling plans ranging anywhere from $5/month to $40/month depending on the level of service you buy. As of October 2014 they will have 3 smartphone options available, from the high end Moto X ($299) to the mid level Moto G ($149) and to the entry-level Moto E ($99) which will be released in October 2014.
Republic Wireless is an MVNO for the Sprint network, so they'll have the same coverage as Sprint. What sets them apart, however, is their new “Hybrid Calling” techonology that allows you to make phone calls over WiFi, or if WiFi isn't available, via the cell networks as normal phones do. You're even able to do mid-call handoff from calls started in WiFi, and pass it over to the cell networks with no call interruption.
Republic's idea is to use WiFi data whenever possible to make cell service more affordable, since cellular data costs so much more to use. Here's how they describe their service.
Our mission at Republic Wireless is simple: to make enjoying the features of a smartphone more affordable and accessible for everyone. Through Hybrid Calling technology (that’s WiFi + cellular), we're able to offer our customers remarkable mobile service plans at unheard of rates. You see, WiFi is cheap and plentiful while cellular (especially data) is more scarce and much more expensive. By relying on our members to use the cheap and plentiful WiFi wherever it's available, we’re making great progress on our mission—delivering a mind blowing total cost of ownership that’s leaving a lot of folks scratching their heads (happily!).
When the service first started I heard a lot of complaints about call quality, and problems handing off calls from WiFi to cell networks. Most of the more recent reviews I've read, however, have been much more positive about the quality of service.
Republic Wireless – How It Works
Making calls over WiFi is much more affordable for the wireless communications provider, so what Republic Wireless has created is a more affordable way to have cell service.
Their Hybrid Calling technology allows them to offer more affordable plans than many other providers just by giving WiFi calling priority over the cell calling. So if WiFi is available where you are, your call will be routed over the WiFi networks, and if it's not, then calls will go over the Sprint cell network (or Verizon's network if Sprint is not available).
The more prevalent WiFi is where you typically go, the more likely you will be to choose one of their WiFi only plans, and save a ton of money!
Republic In Conjunction With My Free WiFi Hotspot
What I may end up doing is going with either the $5/month or $10/month plan that are mostly WiFi based plans with Republic, and use that in conjunction with my FreedomPop Overdrive Pro WiFi hotspot. The hotspot gives me over 1GB of free wireless data every month, for free! So I'll get an awesome phone from Republic Wireless and be able to have one of their most affordable monthly plans!
What Phones Can I Get?
Currently there are 4 phones available for Republic Wireless, The Motorola Moto X 1st and 2nd generation, the Motorola Moto G and the Motorola Moto E.
So what do you get with each of the phones?
Moto X 1st gen $299/Moto X 2nd gen $399
The Moto X is the flagship phone for Republic Wireless, and you can get one in black or white for $299, or a 2nd generation in black and a slightly larger screen for $399. The phone has gotten numerous awards including a Red Dot design award, Engadget's smartphone of the year (2013), and Popular Science phone of the year (2013).
Some of the features people seem to like the most with this phone include the Touchless Control that allows you to do some common tasks without even picking the phone up (ask what the weather is, set a reminder, call someone). It seems like an interesting feature, and a lot of people seem to like it. Beyond that, it also seems like a full featured phone with good performance. Here are some of the technical stats of the 1st generation model that I have, for all the tech nerds:
- Android 4.4.2 (Kit Kat)
- 3G/4G LTE capable
- 2200 mAh battery. Mixed usage up to 24 hours
- 4.7 Super AMOLED screen at 1280×720 resolution
- 2 GB RAM
- 16GB internal memory
- Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro (1.7GHz Dual-Core Krait CPU
- Bluetooth® Technology: 4.0 LE + EDR
- Networks: CDMA/EVDO Rev. A (CDMA model only)—4G LTE
- Rear-Facing Camera: 10MP
- Front Facing Camera: 2MP 1080p HD video
Here is an unboxing video of our Moto X that we just received.
Moto G $149
The Moto G is also an extremely capable phone, and comes in at about half the price. Only thing it really lacks? 4G LTE – that will only come on the Moto X.
- Android 4.4.2 (Kit Kat)
- 3G capable
- 2070 mAh battery. Mixed usage up to 24 hours
- 4.5” diagonal (11.3 cm)/1280 x 720 HD, 329 ppi Corning® Gorilla® Glass
- 1 GB RAM
- 8GB standard internal memory, 16GB available ($179).
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.2 GHz quad-core CPU
- Bluetooth® Technology: Version 4.0
- Networks: CDMA/EVDO Rev A (850, 1900 MHz)
- Rear-Facing Camera: 5MP at 4:3 and 3.8 at 16:9
- Front Facing Camera: 1.3MP 720p HD video
Moto E $99
The Moto E is being added to the Republic lineup in October 2014, and will feature the tiny price tag of $99 – not too bad for a smartphone! It has a less powerful processor, no front facing camera and less standard memory, but it adds in a MicroSD card!
Here's what you'll get:
- Android 4.4.4 (Kit Kat)
- 3G capable
- 1980mAh battery. Mixed usage up to 24 hours
- 4.3″ diagonal (10.9 cm) / 540 x 960 qHD, 256 ppi Anti-smudge coating Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3
- 1 GB RAM
- 4GB standard internal memory
- MicroSD slot supports up to 32GB expandable memory (Other phones aren't currently expandable)
- Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 200 processor with 1.2GHz dual-core A7 CPU
- Bluetooth® Technology: 4.0 LE
- Networks: CDMA/EVDO Rev A (850, 1900 MHz)
- Rear-Facing Camera: 5MP rear-facing camera
When it comes down to it, all three phones are going to be decent phones. If you want 4G access you'll want to get the Moto X as the other two are 3G only phones.
Available Monthly Plans
UPDATE: Republic calling plans have been updated. Check out the updated Republic Refund Calling Plans here.
So what are the plans that are currently available on the Republic Wireless network? It starts with the $5 WiFi only plan, and goes up from there. All the plans have unlimited talk, text and data when you're on a WiFi connection, but when you step up in plan it will add cell service for talking and texting, 3G data and 4G data as add-ons.
- $5/month WiFi only plan:
- $10/month WiFi + Cell (talk & text only) plan:
- $25/month WiFi + Cell (talk, text and 3G data) plan:
- $40/month WiFi + Cell (talk, text, 3G and 4G data) plan:
For me, I'll probably be happy with the $10/month plan as my wireless hotspot gives me free wireless data that I can share with the phone, and if the connection is too slow i can default back to the cell networks.
Switch Your Plan Up To 2X Per Month At No Extra Charge
One nice feature that Republic Wireless offers is the ability to switch your monthly plan up to twice per month. This will come in handy, for example, if you're traveling one month and want to have 4G LTE access available on your phone.
So let's say you're on the $10/month plan with no cell data, and you want to switch your plan (right from your phone if you want!) to the $40/month 4G data plan while you travel. You can switch it while you're traveling, and then when you come back switch it back to the more affordable plan again.
How is it charged? You'll get charged the daily rate for each plan for the days that you use it. So for the $10 plan you'd pay about $.33 a day, while the $40/month plan would be about $1.30 a day. Just figure out how many days of the month on each plan you used and you'll figure out what your charges for that month will be. Piece of cake, and a great way to save!
Pros & Cons
What are the pros and cons of cell service with Republic Wireless? Here are a few:
- Low cost – affordable: Depending on your needs your service will be anywhere from $5-$40/month, never more. Much cheaper than the average $96/month phone bill (according to J.D. Power).
- Ability to switch plans up to 2x per month: If you want to switch your plan with Republic, for example, if you're traveling and want to have 4G data access, you can do that up to 2x per month. So you can be on the $5 plan, and switch to the $40/month plan for the month – and then switch back.
- Good phones available: The Moto X has received rave reviews and by all accounts it's a great phone. The other phones that are available are good mid and entry level smartphones as well.
- Roaming on other networks available: If you don't have a Sprint tower in your area, the service will roam on the Verizon network at no added cost.
- Make calls on WiFi – even in your basement!: If you typically can't make cell phone calls in your basement, or at your job – as long as you've got a WiFi signal you can now make calls!
- Unlimited talk, text, data: All of the plans will give you unlimited talk, text and data if you're on WiFi on all 4 plans. You can also get unlimited talk and text via cell networks on the $10-40/month plans, and unlimited cell data on the top two plans. No worries about going over your minutes or text limit!
- Make international calls, as long as you have good WiFi: I remember paying through the nose for calling cards when my family took a cruise a few years back. Now, as long as you have WiFi you can make calls to the U.S., even if you're overseas.
- Port your existing number: You can port your existing phone number to the service as long as it's compatible. Be sure to check beforehand, I did and my number is available to port.
- 30 day trial: You can try the phone for a no risk 30 day trial. Just be sure to read the caveats (like not opening accessories if you're not sure you want to keep the phone, and that you'll have to pay a $10 shipping charge).
- Only 4 phone choices: There are currently only three phone choices, the Moto X (two generations), Moto G and the Moto E. They are all great phones, but if you want something different like an iPhone, you're out of luck.
- Occasional phone service hiccups in WiFi/cell handoffs: Some people have noticed hiccups when moving from a WiFi connection to cell connection. This seems to have improved, however, and most people don't have issues with this.
- No short code support: As of this writing there is no support for short code messaging – in other words sending messages to 4-6 digit numbers services. (Example: text 32456 for a listing of movies) This is being changed however, and they anticipate support for short codes to be added soon. UPDATE: Republic Wireless announced on October 10th, 2014 that there is now support for short codes. One more thing to scratch off the cons list!
Overall Republic Wireless seems like a legitimate non contract cell service option. It ends up being cheaper than most of the other services that I've looked into, and if you have good WiFi coverage like I do, it can be considerably cheaper. I'd definitely recommend checking it out if you're looking to cut an out of control cell phone bill.
Are you using Republic Wireless? How has the service worked for you? How much are you saving?
Find out more about the service and sign up via the link below.