The typical way for consumers to get a smartphone is to shell out around $200 to a wireless carrier, tying them down to at least two years on that network, often with a monthly fee around $70. The alternatives to this aren't much more attractive: spend around $600 or even more to buy that smartphone new, or end up paying around $50 per month for a prepaid plan, which are typically subject to certain limitations.
However, there are companies attempting to break this wireless mold, offering mobile users with a cheaper alternative. For example, in December Republic Wireless began offering unlimited data, voice and SMS all for only $19.95 per month with no contracts. With this plan, the cost to buy the only phone offered by the carrier outright is $249. However, in order to reduce initial costs for potential subscribers, Republic recently made it possible to get that same phone for only $99 — but the unlimited plan would then cost $29 per month.
The smartphone in question, the Motorola Defy XT, is a low-end Android device that lacks many of the bells and whistles the average smartphone shopper craves today, but is certainly quite serviceable. Currently, this is the only phone that support Republic's unique blend of Wi-Fi and cellular calling and texting, which is why it's the only device offered.
Put simply, Republic's network relies on Wi-Fi networks to reduce network costs, even routing voice calls and texts over Wi-Fi. Customers aren't limited to Wi-Fi, though, and can rely on Sprint's network when out and about at no extra charge.
The technology is a little young still, so there are some issues with call quality, but the idea is intriguing — maybe even revolutionary — and Republic is hard at work improving not only customer experience, but also its phone lineup. In fact, the company recently implemented APIs from Bandwidth enabling real-time phone number ordering and management.
Edited by Brooke Neuman