April 2018 update: Republic is offering a discount on the Moto G5S Plus smartphone until 4/21/18.
I first reviewed Republic Wireless three years ago when my parents were looking for a new cellular plan. I reviewed the service again after they updated the firmware and released two new phones. To recap:
Republic Wireless is an innovative company that I stumbled upon while researching low-cost cellular providers. The founders developed a plan to prioritize WiFi broadband internet over cellular data, thereby lowering the cost to end users.
The Republic team took the stock Android operating system and developed a custom firmware that integrates WiFi calling technology with traditional cellular coverage. 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, Republic phones automatically switch and utilize cellular towers like most smartphones.
With the custom firmware configured, Republic launched a beta program to test feasibility. The new service was configured for only one phone – the Motorola Defy XT (now extinct), and there were several problems with the beta service. The transition from WiFi to cellular towers was buggy and sometimes resulted in dropped calls. MMS (multimedia messaging) also had problems.
To fix the initial problems observed in the beta release, Republic Wireless made a number of firmware changes and vastly improved their network transition. They fixed the problem with dropped calls and fixed the messaging problems. The Wifi-cellular hybrid service began working seamlessly and has continued to improve with each new update.
Republic also announced a new lineup of phones. They began offering the Moto X and Moto G. A few months after release, Republic rolled out two more phones, the Moto E and the 2nd generation Moto X. These phones will continue to be supported by Republic, but will not be available for purchase by new customers.
Big Changes in 2016
On July 28th, 2016, Republic once again improved their service and announced several major changes:
- Cellular Network – New Republic Wireless users will utilize the T-Mobile network (existing plans will remain on the Sprint network).
- New Phone Policy – Republic now sells a variety of new, unlocked smartphones that are compatible with the T-Mobile network. These phones are fully unlocked, which means that each phone will work on other cellular plans if you ever happen to leave Republic.
- Bring Your Own Phone – New customers can use their existing smartphone (must be in the compatibility list below) and purchase a Republic SIM card (available online for $5).
Table of Contents
Republic Wireless Phones
There are two different options available when switching to Republic Wireless.
- Purchase a new, unlocked smartphone directly from Republic
- Bring your own device and purchase a Republic wireless SIM card
If you want to purchase a device from Republic, you can choose between the following smartphones:
- Samsung Galaxy S9 – $719
- Moto X⁴ – $399
- Moto G⁵S Plus – $279
- Moto G⁵ Plus – $229
- Moto E⁴ Plus – $199
- Moto E⁴ – $129
- Samsung Galaxy J7 – $199
- Samsung Galaxy J3 – $149
- Alcatel A30 – $99
These phones require no contracts whatsoever. If you decide to leave Republic, you can take the phone and use it on another carrier.
Which Republic Wireless Phone Should You Choose?
All of the unlocked phones offered by Republic are reputable Android smartphones. You really can’t go wrong, but I’ll share a few of my thoughts on selecting a phone.
Best Budget Phone: Moto E⁴ or Alcatel A30
Both of these phones are a great value, and both offer similar modern features that users love:
- Latest Android updates
- Similar battery life and capacity
- Almost identical size, weight, and screen
- Similar processors, RAM, and performance
- Both have 16GB storage + MicroSD memory card slot
The Moto E⁴ has two major advantages:
- The E⁴ supports up to 128GB microSD memory cards, while the Alcatel A30 only officially supports up to 32GB memory cards.
- Internal cellular antennas for all major U.S. carriers. If you ever needed to leave Republic, your Moto E⁴ would work with any U.S. carrier.
The Alcatel A30 gets the edge on pricing, being $30 cheaper.
For the vast majority of smartphone users, both phones are more than capable and will provide a solid user experience.
Best Overall Value: Moto G⁵S Plus
The new Moto G⁵ Plus is a good value. It has received praise for the following features:
- 13MP dual rear cameras with 4K video recording
- Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 625 (8-core) processors
- 100% compatibility with all U.S. carriers
- 5.5” Full HD (1080 x 1920) IPS screen
- Android™ 7.1 Nougat
If you are looking for a better camera and more powerful processor than the Moto E⁴ mentioned above, the Moto G⁵ will be a great fit.
If you are looking for a premium device, The Samsung Galaxy series has excellent user reviews. The only concern is the steep price tag.
Bring Your Own Phone
If you already own a compatible smartphone, you can purchase a Republic Wireless SIM card and activate service on your existing device.
As of now, the following devices are compatible with the Republic SIM card (model number is shown in parenthesis):
- Alcatel A30 (5046G or A576RW)
- Google Pixel (G-2PW4100)
- Google Pixel XL (G-2PW2100)
- Google Pixel 2 (G011A)
- Google Pixel 2 XL (G011C)
- Huawei Ascend 5W (H1623)
- Moto E4 (XT1768)
- Moto E4 Plus (XT1775)
- Moto G4 (XT1625)
- Moto G4 PLAY (XT1607)
- Moto G4 PLUS (XT1644)
- Moto G5 Plus (XT1687)
- Moto G5S Plus (XT1806)
- Moto X Pure Edition (XT1575)
- Moto Z (XT1650-03)
- Moto Z Play (XT1635-02)
- Moto Z2 Play (XT1710-01)
- Nexus 5X by LG (LGH790)
- Nexus 6 by Motorola (XT1103)
- Nexus 6P by Huawei (H1511)
- Samsung Galaxy J3 (SM-J320A or SM-J327U)
- Samsung Galaxy J7 (SM-J727U)
- Samsung Galaxy S6 (SM-G920T)
- Samsung Galaxy S7 (SM-G930U)
- Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (SM-G935U)
- Samsung Galaxy S8 (SM-G950U1)
- Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SM-G955U1)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (SM-N950U1)
If you own an eligible device, you must download the Republic Wireless app to verify compatibility.
After verifying compatibility, you can then order a universal Republic SIM card for $5. When the SIM card arrives, insert into your device and load the Republic app to activate your device.
Republic Wireless Plans and Coverage
In 2016, Republic completely overhauled their network and plans. Previously, Republic phones ran on the Sprint network and had to be purchased directly from Republic. Today, all available phones are unlocked and utilize the T-Mobile network.
In many parts of the country, T-Mobile has better coverage than Sprint, resulting in fewer headaches and dropped calls. I would recommend that you check the Republic Wireless Coverage Map before deciding on a monthly plan.
As of right now, Republic offers their My Choice Plan:
- $15/month: Unlimited talk and text on T-Mobile. Data on WiFi only
- $5/month: Each GB of cellular data on T-Mobile.
The $15/month covers all talk and text on T-Mobile’s network. If you need cellular data (WiFi is always free), each Gigabyte of T-Mobile cellular data is a flat $5/month. Republic will allow you to add additional data at any time during the month.
When Republic tested these plans with a large sample of customers, they found that the average user used slightly less than 1GB of cellular data each month (because WiFi is so widely available to use for free).
Republic Wireless International Coverage
Republic Wireless doesn’t offer international cellular coverage. However, when you are connected to WiFi, you will generally be able to make calls and send text messages to U.S. and Canadian numbers and otherwise use your phone as if you were home.
When using your Republic phone for WiFi calling/messaging abroad, I suggest placing your phone in airplane mode and manually enabling WiFi. Using airplane mode will help preserve battery life that would be otherwise wasted when your phone attempts to locate a cellular signal it cannot utilize.
If you need to make calls to local numbers where you’re traveling, you can switch between Republic and local cellular service by swapping out your Republic SIM and putting in a SIM that works in the country you’re visiting. Many of the unlocked phones supported by Republic are capable of connecting to foreign cellular service, but you need to verify that your specific phone’s cellular bands are compatible with the service that is available at your travel destination. If your phone is compatible, simply purchase a SIM card at your vacation destination and swap out your Republic SIM whenever needed.
The Republic Wireless Guarantee
Republic Wireless offers a money back guarantee on all products purchased through Republic Wireless.
There are two different types of guarantees:
Phone Guarantee – Republic offers a 14-day guarantee for all smartphones purchased directly from the website. Following the date of delivery, you have 2 weeks to use your device on the Republic network. If you are unhappy for any reason, you can return the device for a full refund (device must be undamaged, with original packaging).
Service Guarantee – After activating your new phone, Republic also provides a 14-day guarantee on cellular service. If you don’t like the service, you can request a full refund of the initial service charge.
If for any reason, you decide Republic isn’t for you, you can contact Republic for a full refund on your device and service within the 14-day window.
Our Experience on Republic Wireless
Three different members of our family are long-time Republic Wireless users. Each has a different phone and different plan. The original firmware had some problems, and we did experience the occasional dropped call when moving from WiFi to the cellular network. Other than that, the quality of calls over WiFi has been very good, with no noticeable decline in call quality when compared to cellular calls.
The recent updates have greatly improved the service. Dropped calls are increasingly rare, and the overall experience is comparable to the other major cellular providers. The only difference is that Republic is much more affordable and innovative. Other cellular companies are still trying to charge 2-3x the price of Republic’s unlimited talk and text plan.
Republic Wireless Review Summary
There are very few carriers that can compete with Republic Wireless right now. All of the Republic plans are reasonably priced, and the $20/month plan is a superb solution for most users.
Republic Wireless is disrupting the landscape of cellular providers and doing consumers a huge favor in providing this service. The new phones and plans are another step forward, improving upon an already top-notch service.
You can check the phones, plans, and details on the Republic Wireless website.