Cell phone bills can be outrageously expensive. When you look for ways to lower your costs, one name keeps coming up; Republic Wireless. We decided to investigate. This is our Republic Wireless review.
What is Republic Wireless?
Republic Wireless was founded in 2011 and is a subsidiary of Bandwith which has been around since 1999. The company aims to make smartphone service less expensive. They have been successful in doing so because of the technology they use, hybrid calling and MVNO.
Hybrid calling uses both WiFi and cell service to support calls, texting, and internet access. Traditional cell phones use only cell service. Republic Wireless works mostly on WiFi which is free and faster than cell service for data. Republic Wireless only uses cell service when there is no WiFi available. You don’t have to do anything to switch from WiFi to cell or cell to WiFi. The phone does it automatically.
When you connect to a WiFi internet connection, Republic Wireless phones automatically make calls and send messages through the internet, which is very cheap to do. Once you are beyond WiFi range, Wireless Republic phones automatically switch and utilize cellular towers. We’re almost always near a source of free WiFi these days, so most of your activity will be over WiFi.
There are a lot of cell phone providers in the US but only four own and maintain their cell towers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Companies that don’t own cell towers are known as MVNO’s, Mobile Virtual Network Operators.
Companies like Republic Wireless, FreedomPop, and Boost Mobile buy cell access from the big four are re-sell it under their brand. Republic Wireless is a MVNO for Sprint and uses Sprint for voice and text roaming and are also a MVNO for T-Mobile with voice and text roaming through AT&T.
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Every Republic Wireless plan comes with unlimited talk and text over WiFi and cell and unlimited free data over WiFi. If you need cellular data, you must choose a plan that includes it.
If you need more data than you have in a given month, you can upgrade to a plan with more data for that month and then go back down to the lower plan before the start of your next billing cycle. Never get stuck paying for tons of unused data!
Sorry Apple fans. Republic Wireless only offers Android smartphones. All phones come with a Republic Wireless SIM card but are unlocked, and because there is no contract, you can use your phone with a different provider if you leave Republic Wireless.
You get nationwide coverage with Republic Wireless through T-Mobile and Sprint. T-Mobile requires a GSM-capable phone and Sprint requires a CDMA-capable phone. Most of the phones offered through Republic Wireless meet both requirements.
To determine which service is best for you, when you order your phone, you will enter your zip code into the Republic Wireless Coverage Checker. It uses data from other Republic Wireless phones in your area to determine which company’s system has the best service in your area. Your phone will activate that service.
What if both services are crummy in your zip code? If that is the case, Republic Wireless will notify you of that and recommend that you don’t purchase a phone through them. Pretty cool. This is one of the reasons a significant portion of the company’s business comes via word of mouth, because they treat their customers, or would-be customers in this case, well.
If things do check out and you order the phone but find out once you start using it that the coverage is poor, there is a 14-day money back guarantee. You can send your phone back and receive a full refund.
You can use your Republic Wireless phone as a WiFi hotspot. This is great if you need to use your laptop in a place that doesn’t have an open WiFi connection. All phones on Clear Choice plans can tether. Phones on the old Republic Refund Plans can tether if the phone is running Android Lollipop (5.0) or higher and has a 2.1 version or higher of the Republic Wireless app installed.
Not all carriers allow tethering and some that do charge for it. Republic Wireless doesn’t but remember that you are using your cell data.
It’s a simple 6 step process to tether:
Go to “Settings” from the app drawer then “More.”
Tap “Tethering & portable hotspot.”
Next, “Set up WiFi hotspot.”
Name your hotspot and set a password then tap “Save.”
Tap toggle next to “Portable WiFi hotspot” to enable.
The reason a lot of providers offer free phones is that they lock you into a contract. You can terminate it, but then you get hit with a lot of fees. There is no contract with Republic Wireless.
You don’t even have to purchase a phone from Republic Wireless. If you already have an Android phone that supports Republic Wireless service you can just purchase the SIM card for $5.
You can check the compatibility of your current phone here.
There are only a few downsides to using Republic Wireless. If you just must have an I-Phone, you’re out of luck. If you are in an area that doesn’t have good T-Mobile or Sprint coverage, even Republic Wireless doesn’t recommend themselves, but you will know that before you join through the Coverage Checker.
There is no customer service number to call for Republic Wireless; everything is done online which some people find frustrating.
Overall though, Republic Wireless is a great way to save money on what can be an expensive utility.