Frugal Review: Republic Wireless

It’s getting harder and harder to differentiate between schizophrenics and people talking on a cell phone. It still brings me up short to walk by somebody who appears to be talking to themselves.
~Bob Newhart

A friend of mine told me about Republic Wireless. My old phone was starting to die, new flip phones were costing as much as cheap smart phones, and I was ready to start texting.

So with twenty minutes left on my pay-as-you-go plan, I bought Republic Wireless’ Moto G (at the time their cheapest phone) and opted for the $10 unlimited talk and text plan.

Yes, that is correct. Ten bucks a month for unlimited talk and text. Really, it’s twelve after the applicable taxes, but eh. It’s not fifty or sixty or a hundred and seventy. For a plan with data, you’re looking at $25 or $45 a month.

The way Republic Wireless works is that your calls and texts and data are sent and received via wifi first, and the cell towers if necessary. Calls and texts over wifi are stupidly cheap…whomever is paying for the wifi is paying for the call via bandwidth, and Republic Wireless pays only when calls, texts, or data goes out over the cell towers. This is why you have to buy their phone, which is really just a minor downside considering how much a “normal” cell plan would cost. The phones hand over to the cell towers via an algorithm that has improved drastically over the few months I’ve had their service.

And how is the service? Well, it’s fucking great, actually. Call quality is consistently high, and handover to or from cell towers, while not undetectable, is no more than the briefest burp. Cell tower coverage is decent, and the ability to call and text via wifi means that I could theoretically call people from anywhere wifi is available…basements, subterranean lairs of supervillans, during cell coverage outages, maybe from other countries. Whereas my co-workers go outside to ensure reception, I walk in the complete opposite direction to ensure a solid wifi call.

My second biggest concern with Republic Wireless was how they would keep the “tragedy of the commons” from affecting service cost. It would be all too easy for a moocher to grab a cheap plan and never bother to give his or her phone wifi access at home or work. I can’t say they’ve completely relieved me of this concern, but some of the changes they’ve made, specifically to expensive roaming data, makes me think that they are very much aware of how the service can be exploited and are trying to find the best ways to circumvent it.

All in all, I strongly recommend Republic Wireless. Maybe if you don’t have wifi available at your points of peak phone usage, it’s not for you. But if you’re looking for a solid, cheap alternative to a traditional cell phone plan, it’s certainly something to consider.

DISCLAIMER: I am a customer of Republic Wireless, but I have received no compensation or incentive to write or publish this review.

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