I’ve been a loyal Sprint customer for about 7 years or 8 years now. I’m grandfathered into a pretty sweet plan, so I haven’t had any incentive to look elsewhere for my cell phone service. But I recently found out about Republic Wireless, which intrigued me. Republic Wireless offers incredibly low monthly rates for unlimited talk, text, and data for as low as $5 per month. Or $10, or $25, or $40.
Those are attractive monthly rates regardless of how nice of a deal most people have. And to top it off, there are no contracts! (learn how to cancel your cell phone contract without early termination fees).
How can Republic Wireless offer such inexpensive cell phone plans?
There are two things that allow Republic Wireless to offer these low monthly rates. The first, is they offer a limited number of un-subsidized phones. (Sorry, you can’t bring your own phone, because RW has special native apps that are required to run on their platform – though this may be possible in the future). Until recently, most other cell phone companies offered discounted phones, but they would only do so to in order lock you into a long-term contract to make up for the phone subsidy. Republic Wireless doesn’t offer phone subsidies, and they don’t have contracts. You can start and stop your service at will.
The second factor that allows Republic Wireless to charge such low prices is how they run their platform. Their technology defaults to using wi-fi for sending and receiving phone calls, text messages, and data. That $5 a month plan mentioned above? Yeah, that is wi-fi only. It’s a great plan if you want to have a phone at home without paying an arm and a leg. And you could take that phone with you to coffee shops or anywhere there is a public wi-fi service (some cities even offer this, so you could potentially do very well if you live in a city with free open wi-fi.
But most people need a little more flexibility and cellular reliability. The $10 a month plan is unlimited talk/text over Wi-Fi + Cell, and unlimited data over wi-fi only. The $25 a month plan offers unlimited talk / text over wi-fi + cell, and unlimited data over wi-fi and on-network 3G (they buy data bandwidth from Sprint, so you get the same availability and speeds from Republic Wireless as you would from Sprint). The $40 a month plan is the same as the previous plans, but with 4 speeds.
Republic Wireless Unlimited Plan
Here is a handy graphic lifted from the Republic Wireless site that shows their unlimited plans:
New Pricing Structure Offers Customers Refunds for Unused Data
Republic Wireless released a new cell phone plan this summer which replaces the old unlimited contracts. The flat-rate unlimited plans are still in place for the original customers. But don’t fret – the new plans can actually save you more money, as Republic Wireless will actually give you a refund for unused data.
Here is how it works: You sign up for the plan you want, including how much data you think you will use. (You can review your previous cell phone statements from your current provider if you are unsure how much data you normally use). Keep in mind you will only be charged for data used over the networks. Data used over wi-fi is free. If you use less data over the cellular network than you bought on your plan, you will receive a refund on the difference.
How much can you receive in a refund? It all depends on your plan and how much data you use. Republic Wireless has an interactive tool on their site that shows how the refund works. It’s a good idea to play around with it to see how this would work for your needs. Visit Republic Wireless to see their pricing.
How Much Can You Save with Republic Wireless?
As I mentioned, I’ve been using Sprint for almost a decade. I have been very happy with them so far, and I am grandfathered into a very affordable plan – the Sprint SERO plan, which to my knowledge, is no longer offered. I have unlimited data, text, and mobile to mobile calls (regardless of carrier). My plan comes with either 450 or 500 minutes (can’t remember off the top of my head, but I never use them all), and night and weekends start at 7pm. All for the low price of $55 a month on my smartphone (including all taxes and fees). Buying an unlimited data plan now is either impossible with some carriers, or ridiculously expensive. So I’ve been quite happy with my plan.
But the idea of saving an extra $10-$20 per month on my cell phone bill is intriguing. Enough that I jumped at the opportunity to try out one of the Republic Wireless phones to see if this is a switch I want to make on a permanent basis.
Running the Numbers
Every case will be unique, so you will need to run the numbers to determine if Republic Wireless is a good option for you. For myself, I can do a quick analysis:
- Phone – free – $200 (depending on phone)
- Monthly plan – $55 (all inclusive)
- Phone – $99 – $399
- Monthly Plan – $30 – $45 (estimated)
Since I have a very nice plan with Sprint, my monthly savings are would be in the $10-$25 range. If I buy the most expensive phone, it will still take me several months to recoup the initial cost of the unsubsidized phone. But I will start seeing savings more quickly if I buy a less-expensive phone. I should also note that most cellular providers are ditching the subsidized phones and will be charging full price for phones in the very near future (or already are charging full price for phones). So most people will see savings much more quickly now.
If your current cell phone plan is in the $80-$120 range (I know a lot of people who pay that much each month), then you can buy the most expensive phone and still start seeing savings relatively quickly. You will see savings within 2 or three months if you buy the least expensive phone.
And here is the most important factor – these savings continue each month! $10-$20 a month adds up to a couple hundred dollars per year. But I imagine a lot of people can easily save closer to $300-$500 a year by switching to Republic Wireless. And the savings can be greater if your family has more than one line that you move to Republic Wireless.
How Reliable is the Republic Wireless Service?
It’s great. Republic Wireless sent me a phone several months ago and we set it up for my wife. She didn’t previously have a smart phone. She was interested in trying one, but didn’t want to pay a lot of money each month for the data plans. Republic Wireless has been the perfect solution for us.
We set up my wife’s phone and entered out home wi-fi password. The phone stores the wi-fi password for every location you enter and will seamlessly switch over from wi-fi to the cellular network when it loses or gains a signal. Calls, texts, and data come over our home wi-fi anytime we are at home. All those calls, texts, and data transfers are unlimited over wi-fi. When we are out and about, the phone automatically searches for a wi-fi signal and will log in if it is a public network or if it has the credentials. Otherwise, calls, texts, and data are over the network. My wife is a light data user, so we haven’t come close to exceeding our limits. We have also had excellent results with calls, texts, and data (no dropped calls or data disconnections).
And we are saving money each month. Her previous plan was $35 a month, and she is on the $25 Republic Wireless plan. So she got a nicer phone with greater capabilities, and we are saving $10 per month. Again, your savings will depend on your current cell phone plan and the plan you move to at Republic Wireless.
Sounds Too Good to Be True. What’s the Catch!
Ahhh, yes, there is always a catch, right? OK, well, you know the phone defaults to using wi-fi service for calls, text, and data. So this phone is only a good option if you have regular access to wi-fi service – either your own, or a reliable public signal. There are also some caps on the “unlimited” data. The data is unlimited if you use wi-fi, but there are some limits if you rely too much upon the on-network data signal.
Terms of service disclaimer:
*Our Terms of Service permit us to reduce your on-network (non-roaming) speed for a billing period if you exceed 5GB of data while using cell on-network (non-roaming) during the billing period. Don’t fret though! We’ll forgive the first time you exceed this data limit. Plus, if you go 6 consecutive billing cycles without exceeding the stated data limit, you’ll earn another free pass for this data limit. Any off-network (roaming) cell data will be at a reduced throughput speed and will not exceed more than 25MB in any one month billing cycle. Once you reach the 25MB limit, you will not have off-network (roaming) cell data for the remainder of the billing cycle. See here for more details.
In my opinion, this is a reasonable limitation. The phones also have a built-in app that allows you to monitor your wi-fi vs. cell phone usage, so you can avoid going over your plan limits. And you can also switch your plan twice a month, which is nice if you need to boost your speed, or even decrease it (maybe if you are going on vacation and don’t want to spend $40 per month while you are out of town?).
And of course, there are the refunds for unused data, which is unique among cell phone providers. So there is even room to spend less than your plan calls for.
Phone Options Are Good, but Limited in Number
Republic Wireless currently only offers Motorola phones running on the Android platform. And as mentioned earlier, you can’t BYOP (bring your own phone) because there is proprietary software necessary for these phones to run on the RW system. That said, the phones Republic Wireless offers are quite nice, with the top of the line phone running the latest version of Android and featuring specs that make most other smartphones pale in comparison.
You may be in for a change if you have only used an iPhone, but as an Android user, I can assure you there are plenty of excellent apps out there, and there are also some features on Android that are nicer that those on the iPhone. And most former iPhone users I’ve talked to who have made the switch to Android realized it was the smart-phone they were in love with and not specifically the iPhone. Your mileage may vary, but give it a shot if saving money is important to you.
Downsides to Republic Wireless
I’ve been looking all over, and I can’t seem to find many downsides. The most obvious downside that comes to mind is if you don’t have great access to wi-fi. Phone calls, data, and streaming video don’t matter if you have wi-fi at home, work, or wherever you spend most of your time. But if you don’t have good access to wi-fi, then you may run into some of the limitations listed above in the Terms of Service Disclaimer. Only you can answer that question. So think about your normal day and you’re your normal cell phone usage, and you should be able to figure out if this is a good fit for you.
Phone selection is also an issue for some people. I’ve never owned an iPhone, but I understand the appeal. I use a MacBook and generally love Apple products. But I bought an Android phone before Sprint offered the iPhone and never saw the need to move to the iPhone. There are some amazing Android phones out there and the phones offered by RW, while limited in number, are actually quite high in quality and features.
What about the Sprint Network? I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Sprint, but I’ve been a customer for the last 7 or 8 years. Their network has never been an issue for me. But I’m also not a power user. I use my phone to make phone calls, send text messages, check email, surf the net, and run a few apps. But I don’t often use my phone to stream video. I have had experiences with dropped calls, but not in the area where I live – generally only when I was making long cross-country drives. I imagine most people had issues in the areas where I dropped calls, regardless of their carrier. I have also read that Republic Wireless is in negotiations to buy bandwidth from another carrier, which may open up their network even further. So this may not be an issue for most people in the near future.
30-day Money-Back Guarantee. There aren’t many downsides, but if you decide you their service isn’t for you, you can cancel your service and get your money back within 30 days. That’s an offer you won’t find from any of the major wireless carriers.
Verdict – Republic Wireless Can Save You a Ton of Money
Republic Wireless won’t work for everyone. If you are locked into the iPhone, or you have a long-term family contract then you may not want to move to Republic Wireless. At least right now. But it may be possible to get out of a long-term contract. Here are some articles we’re written on the topic:
- How to Cancel Your Cell Phone Contract without Early Termination Fees
- How to Transfer Your Cell Phone Contract with No Termination Fees
- When Paying an Early Termination Fee is Worth it.
Otherwise, I don’t see a good reason why one shouldn’t at least consider Republic Wireless as an affordable option for an expense most people consider to be necessary.