Painting by Sergey Gusev
It was a dark and stormy night.*
She told me to wait. Maybe I should have listened.
But I was impatient and headed to South America. The idea of remaining in touch, of having access to my email, the internet and, wonder of wonder, free international calls was not to be denied.
“No!” I cried. “I must have it now! Now, I tell you! Now!”
“It will only break your heart,” she said, “as it has so many others. This is not the one for you.”
But I was blinded by love. No longer thinking rationally. The thought of travel to distant foreign lands without it suddenly became unthinkable. Unbearable. I would not be denied.
I bargained. Cajoled. Begged. Pleaded. Threatened. Ranted. Insisted. And, finally, (this one being true) just asked.
And the nice Republic Wireless (RW) PR lady sent me the Motorola Defy XT phone. I’ve hated it ever since.
So that’s the bad news and, blessedly, the end of my little melodrama.
The good news is that I remain enamored with Republic Wireless, its service and the concept behind what they are doing here. Moreover they have a new phone coming shortly: The Moto X. While I can’t yet speak from experience, by all accounts this one will be a major step forward and will put to rest many of the Defy XT’s shortcomings.
So, if you are a cut-to-the-chase sort, here’s the bottom line:
- Republic is a fine company with which to deal and very much worth supporting.
- Wait for the Moto X phone before you sign up. It shouldn’t be long. It is due in November.
Understand first, I am not a fan of technology. I am a fan of useful and reliable tools. When a technology reaches the point of being a useful and reliable tool, I’m on board. Unfortunately, many technology companies are infamous for using their customers in their beta-testing.
Depending on your perspective and inclinations, you will have read that last either as:
“Of course! That’s what makes tech so cool. I get to be part of the process!”
I’m a “those rascals” kind of guy and when they, and you “of course” types, get it sorted out, please let me know.
The problem with the Defy XT is that it is very much a phone for the “of course” types and since it is also tech that’s a couple of generations old, they have long since moved on. Time to just bury the thing. Thankfully, that’s what Republic is on the verge of doing.
In the beginning, I started a log to keep track of its many shortcomings. But with its pending demise, wading thru all those points in this post seems, well, rather pointless.
What is interesting, at least to me, is why Republic chose to go with such a flawed phone to begin with. The answer to that, apparently, is that Republic has the potential to break the expensive strangle hold other cell phone service providers have on us. That, it seems, has made the many cell phone manufacturers reluctant to supply Republic with their products. The revenue at this point would be peanuts and the risk of offending their bigger customers not worth taking.
Understandable. Cowardly, but understandable. Maybe shortsighted, too. Republic looks to have a very bright future, especially if the Moto X meets expectations.
Republic Wireless, the service.
When the nice PR lady first approached me about doing a review, her timing could not have been better. Our then cell phone service had just tried to hose us. Again.
My daughter had returned from her year studying in France. While she was there, we suspended her cell phone service. Part of that service was $10 a month for unlimited texting.
When she returned, we called and re-instated her service. With the first bill came a $400+ charge for texting. Oh, you wanted the unlimited monthly texting for $10 again? After an irate call or two they cut the bill to $100. Better, but being hosed is being hosed.
That, in a microcosm, is my (and I dare say your) typical experience with cell phone, and for that matter cable, companies. They are forever looking to pad the bill and boost your monthly costs. Hoping you won’t notice and/or will let it slide. In dealing with them you’d best be always on your guard. And who needs or wants that? Especially with an alternative on the horizon.
So my first, last and only real question for the nice RW PR lady was this:
“Is there anything, anywhere I can do with this phone that will ever cost me more than $19 a month?”
“Nope,” she said.
“Just to be absolutely clear. Nothing at all? Intentionally? Unintentionally?”
Impressively, this has proven to be true. I’ve used it here, there and everywhere, including unlimited calls, texts and data to and from South America and it is $19 each month.
Here’s my understanding of how it works:
Whenever you are in range of a wi-fi connection you connect and, just like your laptop, the phone uses the internet to download data. And also text messages and your phone calls.
If you don’t have a wi-fi connection, it defaults to the Sprint network and uses regular cell service. The idea is that most of the time, you’ll be using the internet and that is essentially free. The cellular service usage is typically small enough that the prices can be as low as they are.
Of course, the cellular service is only as extensive and as good as Sprint. Beyond their range, the phone only works in wi-fi mode. So, in South America for instance, my phone worked only when I had a wi-fi connection, just like a laptop or tablet.
Cafe San Sebas, Cuenca, Ecuador
My RW phone knows this place.
I quickly got in the habit of asking for wi-fi passwords where ever I went. The phone then remembers all of these and I have to say I found it pretty cool to return to my favorite cafes in Ecuador and have my phone automatically connect, just like coming home.
But for me the biggest plus is just dealing with a cell phone company that is not plotting to screw me. This is so refreshing it makes up for the shortcomings of even the Defy XT. Add to that the cost, which is a fraction of what we’d been paying, and you know why I plan to stay with RW. It kind of reminds me of dealing with Vanguard. And if you’ve read much of this blog, you know just how high that praise is.
This is not the service for you if….
….you value having the state-of-the-art newest and best phone from the company of your choice. For now, at least, RW = Motorola.
….are dependent on your phone for your business. In all candor, since I haven’t tested the new Moto X, I can’t yet recommend RW if your phone is also a critical tool.
However, this is the service for you if, like me, you value…
….low-cost. $19.95 per month for unlimited calling, texting and data – with no hidden traps – is tough to beat.
….supporting a company that is trying to improve service and choice in an industry that sorely needs it.
….supporting a company that, like Vanguard, truly seems to see value and success in putting the needs of their customers first.
….fast, friendly and competent tech help. Republic doesn’t offer a help-line number to call but they do offer several other options ranging from a community forum right on down to snail mail (!). Personally, email works best for me and they’ve responded much, much quicker than the 48 hour window they promise.
With the new Moto X phone they are now offering four different plans. Here they are, as described by RW and cribbed directly from their website:
$5 Wi-Fi only plan
This is the most powerful tool in your arsenal of options. Why? You can drop your smartphone bill —at will— to $5. If you’re interested in getting serious about cutting costs, you can use this tool to best leverage the Wi-Fi in your life to reduce your phone bill. It’s also the ultimate plan for home base stickers and kids who don’t need a cellular plan. It’s fully unlimited data, talk and text —on Wi-Fi only.
$10 Wi-Fi + Cell Talk & Text
One of our members, 10thdoctor said : “I use WiFi for everything, except when I’m traveling and for voice at my school.” Yep, this is the perfect plan for that. Our members are around Wi-Fi about 90% of the time. During that 10% of the time where you’re away from Wi-Fi, this plan gives you cellular backup for communicating when you need to. This plan both cuts costs and accommodates what’s quickly becoming the norm: a day filled with Wi-Fi.
$25 Wi-Fi + Cell (3G) Talk, Text & Data
Lots of people are on 3G plans today and are paying upwards of $100 a month on their smartphone bills. That’s nuts. This plan is here for you during the times when you need the backup of cell data. For folks who want to surf Facebook and check email in the car (as a passenger!) or who travel regularly for work, this option lets them enjoy all the benefits of Wi-Fi with the luxury of 3G cellular data. You may find you only want this cellular back up part of the month —no problem! Switching during the month to the $5 or $10 plan is easy, and is a great way to keep more money in your wallet.
$40 Wi-Fi + Cell (4G) Talk, Text & Data
We heard you tell us that you wanted a super fast option, so we added this arrow to your quiver. This plan is here for you when you’ve got a road warrior kind of month, and you’ve got a serious need for speed. Have to get work done on a long train ride? And need to work fast? This is your guy. Just like the other plans, it’s just a few clicks away.
Will I be able to switch between plans?
Yes! When you purchase a new Moto X phone, you’ll be able to choose whatever plan you like—and you can also switch plans up to twice per month as your needs change. For example, if you know you’ll be taking a vacation and might require more cell data one week, you can switch to a cell data plan right from your phone and then switch back to a Wi-Fi “friendlier” plan once you return home.
That ability to switch as your needs dictate seems pretty sweet to me.
In short, despite the rough go with the Defy XT I’ll be sticking with Republic. Truth is, for all the issues, it was very cool to be able to call the USA from South America and still not push my monthly cost past that $19.95. Of course, that only worked when I had wi-fi available. But still, very cool.
Even more cool is the monthly savings and the sense that I’m now dealing with a company not looking to pick my pocket at every opportunity.
Assuming they stay true to this path, Republic’s future looks bright to me. I expect they will continue to expand and improve their service and the hardware.
I might even give the new Moto X a whirl.
*This phrase, in writer’s circles, is widely regarded as the most cliched, hackneyed and simply worst possible opening line in all of fiction. So of course I’ve always longed to use it. Now I have. I promise not to again.
November 14, 2013. The new Moto X phone has now been released. With it I can now give RW my unfettered recommendation. So if you want to give them a try, the time has come. I plan to.