Earlier this week, I published a brief article in this newsletter (at http://goo.gl/8oF3Nn) about a new cell phone service from Google. I mentioned that I thought it was overpriced at $20 to $30 a month or more. For more than two years, I have been using a similar service from a small-time cellular service provider that provides essentially the same service. I usually pay $10 a month for unlimited voice minutes and text messages but occasionally upgrade to $25/month for a week or two when traveling and expect to use the wireless data plan frequently. When I return home, I then “downgrade” to $10/month again. The service has proven to be very reliable and I am happy with it.
I also found this to be a great tool for placing free calls back home when traveling internationally, instead of paying the normal, outrageous international roaming charges often associated with using cell phones when traveling in foreign countries. I used this cell phone several times last week while in England to call back to my family in the U.S. at no charge.
I am used to paying $60 a month or more, sometimes much more, for cell phone service. Several lower-cost services have appeared in recent years and have become popular. However, one service appeals to me and I have now been using it for nearly two years. To use the service, you first have to purchase an Android cell phone from the company. Four models are available with purchase prices of $99 to $399. You then select from the level of cell phone service you want at monthly prices of $5, $10, $25, or $40 per month. I normally pay $10 per month but have occasionally upgraded to $25, then downgraded again once I no longer had a need for the higher-priced service. I once tried the $40 a month service for a few weeks but found it provided little benefit to me so I soon downgraded.
The cell phones use Sprint’s nationwide network and have worked everywhere I have tried it within the U.S. The same phones also can place calls over a wi-fi network from anywhere in the world. Most so-called “smartphones” can place calls over wi-fi although that capability normally is not included when you purchase the phone. You typically have to go to the Android Play Store or to the iPhone App Store to download and install a third-party app to add wi-fi calling to the phone. In contrast, my new cell phone already included wi-fi calling when I purchased it. Even better, it uses only one telephone number. My friends and relatives can reach me at any time by dialing the one number, whether I am connected by the cellular network or by wi-fi. Most other apps that add wi-fi calling to a phone require two different telephone numbers for the two different connections. (Google’s new Fi service is an exception.)
Best of all, with this cell phone company, you can change your level of service at any time (up to twice a month) and you also may cancel the service at any time. There are no multi-year contracts involved and no early cancelation penalties.
The $10 per month service has met my needs perfectly when at home or when traveling around my home town area. However, when traveling longer distances, I usually upgrade to the $25 a month service, then downgrade when I return home. That provides cellular data service when I am traveling and away from my home Internet connection. Since this company does not have contracts, I can upgrade, downgrade, or even cancel the service at any time with no penalty involved.
To be sure, these bargain prices do have some restrictions; but, I found those restrictions to be so minor that I can safely ignore them, and I suspect that many others can do the same. If I wish, I can upgrade my service at any time to include additional features, although at higher prices. Even the highest-priced service at $40 a month is still cheaper than that of most other cell phone services.
Even better, I no longer own a standard, old-fashioned wired telephone in the house. I can now use my new cell phone for all my calls, both at home and when outside the home, for a TOTAL of $10 a month (plus taxes) for all telephone conversations. Compare that to your monthly telephone bill. Do you have a wired phone in the house plus a cell phone? If so, what is the total amount you pay for both phones? Or for three phones if your spouse also has a cell phone?
At these prices, you probably can also give another phone to a teenager in the house. His or her cell phone could cost a maximum of $10 a month although with a few restrictions. Actually, considering the amount of money to be spent, it is fewer restrictions than a normal cell phone.
I am using an Android “smartphone” that not only places and receives telephone calls but also surfs the web with a built-in web browser, sends and receives text messages, reads and writes email messages, takes pictures, plays music, plays videos, reads and updates my calendar, maintains a large phone book, displays maps, provides directions, plays games, and much, much more. In short, it is a normal Android cell phone.
I have now cut my cell phone monthly expenses from nearly $100 a month that I paid more than a year ago to about $10 a month. I also found that the phone and the service work well. The people I call never know that I am a cheapskate… uh, “thrifty.” In fact, a few people I have talked with have remarked how clear the connection is. I have only received those comments when connected via a wi-fi connection, not when connected via the cell phone network.
I have been using Republic Wireless’ service for more than two years. Republic Wireless is one of a few companies that offer “hybrid calling” telephone calls. This service only works on Android smartphones sold by Republic Wireless.
The Android phone I am using looks and acts like a normal cell phone. Indeed, it works well as a normal cell phone on Sprint’s cell phone network. If a Sprint cell phone connection works well in your area, a Republic Wireless cell phone will also provide exactly the same quality of connections for you. All Republic Wireless cell phones use the Sprint network for cellular network connections. You can check the coverage for your area at https://republicwireless.com/tools/coverage-check. In the area where I live, 4G networking (the highest speed available on today’s cell networks) is available everywhere. Sprint’s coverage may be different where you live.
What differentiates Republic Wireless, aside from the low prices, is the “hybrid calling” feature. The mobile devices sold by Republic Wireless are pre-configured to utilize both the Sprint cell phone network as well as any wi-fi network(s), if available. Using a wi-fi connection results in much lower expense to the cell phone company. In the case of Republic Wireless, the company passes the savings on to its customers.
There are no app downloads or extra steps required.
When in range of a wi-fi network of sufficient speed, the Republic Wireless phone will connect to the wi-fi network and place all calls, text messages, and data over the Internet. The voice calls are made by using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology. However, if the phone is carried outside the range of the wi-fi network, all calls are automatically shifted to the Sprint cell phone network. In short, the user has telephone capabilities wherever he or she goes, as long as a wi-fi or cell network is available.
I will use an example to illustrate the capability of this feature. If I start a call while connected to wi-fi, such as when inside my home and using my own wi-fi network, and then I walk outside, get into my automobile, and drive out of range, the Republic Wireless cell phone even switches the call to the cell phone network automatically in mid-call. The other party and I probably won’t even notice the change.
To be sure, almost all of today’s smartphones have the capability to place telephone calls over wi-fi networks. With most smartphones, all the user needs to do is install VoIP software, such as one of the programs available from Ooma, Skype, CallCentric, Viber, MagicApp, Vonage Mobile, and dozens of other VoIP providers. However, Republic Wireless is one of three companies I know of that include VoIP capabilities within the phone when purchased. (Google is one of those companies. T-Mobile will also include VoIP calls but only if you purchase both a cell phone and a special wi-fi router from the company.) Even better, Republic Wireless is the only company I know of to provide this hybrid calling service for as little as $10 a month for (nearly) unlimited calls and text messages.
In my case, I spend many hours most days within range of wi-fi networks. I have a wi-fi router/access point in my home, connected to a local Internet provider’s broadband network. The same network allows me to read and write email messages, surf the web, download files, watch streaming video on a high-definition television in my living room, and talk on the telephone. Best of all, my in-home wi-fi network can do all those things simultaneously. Your wi-fi broadband service probably can do the same. As long as I am at home, my Republic Wireless cell phone places all telephone calls over the Internet and also receives calls in the same manner. The call quality of VoIP calls over the Internet is almost always better than the call quality of a cellular network connection on any cell phone.
When I am out of the house, I am also often within range of wi-fi networks, although not always. Such networks exist in many restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, airports, commuter trains, stores, and elsewhere. For instance, I had a dental appointment a few weeks ago and noted that my dentist offers free wi-fi for patients. I could have placed calls from the waiting room of his office. With the hybrid calling, I also could place calls via the cell phone network if the dentist had no wi-fi.
When a local wi-fi network is not available, the Republic Wireless cell phone automatically switches to Sprint’s cell phone network and then operates in exactly the same manner as any other cell phone that uses Sprint’s network. In short, it just works.
Republic Wireless claims that research shows that most people are around wi-fi networks 60% of the time, and that percentage is growing. If that’s you, all you have to do is set up your phone to automatically access the wi-fi networks you have at home, work, and anywhere else you spend time. The unique Hybrid Calling technology takes care of the rest. In my case, I think I am within wi-fi range perhaps 90% of the time except when traveling by automobile.
I also noticed that many airlines now offer wi-fi connections but prohibit voice calls through wi-fi. I think that’s a good thing as I don’t want the passengers around me to talk on their phones for the entire trip. I’ll give up my own phone calls also in order to have peace and quiet.
All the calls I have made so far have featured excellent audio quality on both wi-fi and cellular connections.
Unlike most other cell phone companies, Republic Wireless has no contracts. The Republic Wireless customer can cancel at any time without paying any penalties. Even better, the customer can also upgrade or downgrade to a different level of service at any time, up to a maximum of two service level changes in any one month. You could change twice this month, twice next month, and so on. There is no charge to upgrade or downgrade, you simply pay the new rate starting on the day you make the change.
The fees of $5 a month to $40 a month are for the telephone service only and does not include the purchase price of the phone. Republic Wireless presently sells four different Android phones: a specially-modified Motorola Moto E for $99, a specially-modified Motorola Moto G (first generation) for $149 and a specially-modified Motorola Moto X (first generation) for $299. Anyone who wants the latest and greatest technology might prefer the specially-modified Motorola Moto X (second generation) for $399. I have a Motorola Moto X (first generation) and it has worked well for me.
I see other companies selling unlocked Moto G and Moto X phones for $200 to $400, but those offers do not include the modifications needed to work on the Republic Wireless service. In short, if you are interested in using the Republic Wireless service, you need to purchase your phone directly from Republic Wireless.
Republic Wireless used to sell cheaper phones, including the one I purchased two years ago. That phone worked well but contained an old version of the Android operating system, had a low-resolution camera, and also had a small screen that wasn’t the best for surfing the web. It also did not have nearly as many features as the newer Moto cell phones. I am really enjoying my Moto X and prefer it over the old phone. I hear similar reports about the Moto G and Moto E.
My Moto X has excellent audio and almost as many features as my Apple iPhone at only a fraction of the iPhone’s price. It is the equal of any other Android phone selling at roughly the same price. You can find dozens of reviews of the Moto X by starting at http://goo.gl/U12C6v. Reviews of the Moto G may be found by starting at http://goo.gl/XXEn1c while reviews of the Moto E may be found by starting at http://goo.gl/MBlMye. You will note that almost all the reviews say good things about these phones.
Keep in mind that Republic Wireless has no contracts. You can cancel at any time without paying penalties. You can purchase cheaper cell phones from other companies by signing up for a one-year or two-year contractual commitment for service that costs $40 a month or more. I’d suggest you calculate the total cost of the other phone plus the required service over two or more years, then do the same for the Republic Wireless service and phone. I suspect you will find Republic Wireless to be significantly cheaper.
Republic Wireless offers four levels of service:
$5 a month: This cheapest service allows for unlimited telephone calls, text messaging, and data (using the web) on wi-fi networks only. It does not include the ability to connect via a cellular network except for emergency 911 calls, which will be placed over Sprint’s cellular network. I doubt if anyone will choose this service for long-term use. After all, you can purchase excellent VoIP telephone devices for less than Republic Wireless’s $99 or $149 or $299 purchase prices. However, I can see this as being a useful option for anyone who only wants a “part-time” cell phone, such as one that is to be used only when on vacation or when spending time at the cottage. The owner could upgrade to a higher level of service for the few weeks or months for the time it is needed, then downgrade to the $5 a month plan for the rest of the year in order to keep the account open and maintain the same telephone number year-round. It will then function as a telephone anytime you are connected by wi-fi, such as around the house. It could also serve as an “emergencies-only” cell phone as it can dial 911 over the cellular network. You might want to keep it in the automobile’s glove box, along with a power cord that plugs into the dashboard’s power outlet, to make emergency calls.
$10 a month: This is the plan I use most of the time. For ten dollars a month, the user gets unlimited telephone calls, text messages, and data (using the web) on wi-fi networks PLUS (nearly) unlimited telephone calls and text messages on the cellular network. It does not include data over cellular networks (surfing the web, email, downloading files, etc.) although the user can do all that via wi-fi. I feel this is an excellent choice for anyone who does not need to use the Internet when away from wi-fi networks. Where else can you obtain (nearly) unlimited telephone calls and text messages on a cell phone for only $10 a month? That is a bargain, in my opinion. If you later decide you want to add cellular data, even for a short time, you can always upgrade within minutes and then downgrade again later when you no longer need the data service, all without changing the voice service. Occasionally, I will upgrade for one day when going on a short trip and then downgrade the following day.
$25 a month: The user receives unlimited telephone calls, text messages, and data (using the web) on wi-fi networks PLUS (nearly) unlimited telephone calls and text messages and data (using the web) on the 3G cellular network. In short, the user can do everything at 3G speeds. This is the option I normally use when traveling.
$40 a month: This plan is nearly identical to the $25 a month plan except that it allows for connections at the higher 4G speeds. The user gets unlimited telephone calls, text messages, and data (using the web) on wi-fi networks PLUS (nearly) unlimited telephone calls and text messages and data (using the web) on a 4G cellular network. In short, the user can do everything at 4G speeds if within range of a 4G tower.
NOTE: Keep in mind that the Moto X phone can use 4G data but the cheaper Moto E and Moto G phones are limited to the slower 3G cellular data networking. If you purchase a Moto E or Moto G, you will have no need for the $40/month service. The $25/month 3G service will be sufficient for Moto E and Moto G users. All the phones operate at full speed over wi-fi network connections.
Even the highest-price offering strikes me as being cheaper than most other cell phone providers although a few others do offer 3G connections for $40 a month and a very few offer 4G speeds at $40 a month.
In some areas, 4G network connections are spotty. 3G is available almost everywhere, but 4G has not yet spread to the suburbs in many areas. See the coverage map at https://republicwireless.com/tools/coverage-check to see the coverage in your area.
I don’t see any advantage in paying $40 a month for 4G coverage in an area where the user can only obtain 3G connections. Of course, that is rapidly changing as 4G becomes more popular even in the suburbs and rural areas.
I was impressed by the ease of setting up my cell phone service. I received the box from the mailman, opened it, briefly scanned the instructions, and made my first telephone call about five minutes later. I didn’t have to call customer service or anyone else for assistance. The phone’s battery was already fully charged when I opened the box. When turned on, the phone automatically led me through on-screen instructions to configure my account and the phone itself. I did not need to plug it into a computer to configure the cell phone. I was never asked for any technical information, other than my in-home wi-fi network’s name (called the SSID) and password. I did have to supply my name, address and billing information.
In most cases, you can transfer an existing telephone number to your new cell phone. You also do not need to transfer right away. You can try out Republic Wireless for a while, then transfer your number whenever you’re ready.
Nothing is ever perfect, of course. Here are a few of the disadvantages of Republic Wireless that pop to mind:
1. This telephone will only call other telephones in Canada and the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. Republic Wireless promises to add international calling some day but has not yet announced an expected date of availability.
2. Republic Wireless’ cellular service is only available via Sprint’s network to customers in the U.S. When traveling, telephone, text messaging, and data connections to the network may be made from any wi-fi network in the world. Cellular network connections cannot be made outside of the U.S.
However, this is also an advantage. For instance, on recent trips to Canada, England, and to Scotland, I was able to call home every night at no charge by using the Republic Wireless phone on a wi-fi network provided by the hotel. However, when I went out on the street and was out of wi-fi range, the phone was useless. Still, I will always carry this phone with me on foreign trips as it provides free phone calls to the U.S. as long as I have a wi-fi connection. That is much, much cheaper than paying roaming rates when using other cell phones! I have heard of some people receiving cell phone bills for $300 or more upon returning from a short foreign trip. That won’t happen with this phone!
3. The words “(nearly) unlimited” need to be explained. In fact, all Republic Wireless plans offer truly unlimited calls made via wi-fi, but calls placed on the cellular network do have some restrictions. In short, the user is limited to about 500 minutes per month for cellular network calls, although unlimited calls may be made over wi-fi networks. The user also may not exceed more than 25 megabytes of roaming cellular data usage in any one month billing cycle
My opinion: If you need more than 500 minutes per month of voice calls or more than 25 megabytes of roaming cellular data on a cell phone, you shouldn’t be looking at low-cost cell phone services. You need a professional data service that is designed to meet your needs. Those are very generous limits. In addition, all calls and all data connections on wi-fi networks are always unlimited.
The complete Terms and Conditions may be found at https://republicwireless.com/legal/terms-and-conditions.
4. The monthly rates listed do not include taxes. State and local taxes do apply and vary by location. On average, Republic Wireless members pay approximately 17% of their monthly rate in taxes (on top of the stated monthly rate). My monthly bill, with taxes, is usually $13 unless I upgrade during the month for a while.
5. The hybrid calling requires a broadband Internet connection to work properly on wi-fi. You need about 80 kilobits per second both ways to hold a call. In fact, almost all cable, DSL, and fiber optic broadband Internet connections are already much faster than that. However, Internet connections via satellites are not recommended because of long delays encountered. The more bandwidth available, the better the call quality. Don’t forget that streaming video or downloading large files all use bandwidth, so your mileage may vary if you receive calls and watch Netflix at the same time. In my case, I have a high-speed Internet connection in my home supplied by the local cable company. I have watched Netflix streaming videos while simultaneously making phone calls and surfing the web on a computer. I have not yet encountered any speed problems, but anyone using a slow Internet connection may experience difficulties.
6. The Republic Wireless hybrid calling phone will only connect to known wi-fi networks. The person using the phone must manually connect to a wi-fi network once by specifying the encryption key, if any. Once connected, the wi-fi parameters, including the encryption key, are saved within the phone. Future connections will be made automatically without user intervention. Of course, the phone’s user can manually edit the list of “approved” wi-fi networks, if desired.
Some wi-fi networks, such as those found in coffee shops, airports, and elsewhere, may require additional steps every time you connect, such as approval of a set of Terms and Conditions. The cell phone legally cannot read and accept such Terms and Conditions; a human will have to approve those manually for each connection.
In my experience, most wi-fi networks work well but a few may be too slow to support voice calls. I gave up trying to use wi-fi connections in airports. The airport wi-fi connections often are too slow so I simply use the normal cell phone network connection instead. However, wi-fi has worked well from coffee shops, restaurants, hotel rooms, and many other locations, both in the U.S. and overseas.
All in all, I am pleased with the Republic Wireless Moto X phone and the associated service. It has worked well for me. I especially like the low prices! I am not paid to write this article, nor do I receive any commissions from Republic Wireless. I am simply a satisfied customer.
If you would like to investigate further, look at https://republicwireless.com. Please note that Republic Wireless also offers a 30-day, money-back satisfaction guarantee. See https://republicwireless.com/faqs for details. I won’t be asking for my money back.