Cheap mobile phone service from Republic Wireless

I love a good deal and I don't throw money down the toilet, especially when there are cheaper and better options. For what many people pay annually for unlimited cell phone service, I get the same service and attend one PyCon, including travel, lodging, and meals. There's no contract, and I can change my plan twice per billing period.

$10 per month for unlimited talk and text

My carrier is Republic Wireless.

Get a $20 credit on your new Republic Wireless service

Republic Wireless can provide excellent service for a low price by focusing on the essentials. They sell only two phones, the Motorola Moto X and Moto G, with customization options for the Moto X. They offer only four plans costing between five and forty dollars per month. The plans require a little bit of explanation.

Cell phone contracts, service plans, and networking

With Republic Wireless, you own the phone outright with no contract. Most other carriers sell expensive phones with a high monthly access plan and contract in order to recuperate the cost of the phone. That $99 iPhone ends up costing you about $700 with a two-year contract.

A cell phone network typically consists of cell phone towers and transmitters as well as all the network hardware. Mobile phones can connect to a cell network, but it is very expensive to use this type of connection. Carriers typically charge around $40 per month just for access to the network regardless of whether you actually use it.

Text messages and voice calls require very little data to be transmitted between you and the recipient, so the monthly "access" for unlimited talk and text may seem reasonable. However, sharing photos, browsing the web, streaming music and videos, and playing games require a great deal more data.

Carriers make a lot of money from "data plans" in addition to "access plans". Since it is expensive to transmit data over cell phone networks, carriers impose a charge for data plans, ranging between $30-70 per month.

Finally add in taxes and fees, and a typical mobile phone plan ends up costing $100 per month, or $1200 per year.

Smart phones don't sound so smart, do they?

The secret that carriers keep from their customers

Most carriers don't tell you that most smart phones are capable of connecting to several types of networks, not just a cell network. My Moto X can connect to a wireless network, or wifi. It also supports Bluetooth and connecting over a USB cable. Wifi is free, unless you really want to pay for it.

Republic Wireless, on the other hand, emphasizes the fact that cell networks are expensive. They encourage you to save money by using wifi networks for all connections, and using a cell network only when necessary. They run software on their phones that transparently performs a hand-off from wifi to cell, or the reverse, as needed. By doing so, and by educating its customers about the difference between cell and wifi costs, Republic Wireless can keep its costs down and pass the savings on to its customers.

A typical use case

I never use my phone while driving (people who do so have slower reactions than a drunk driver and are more likely to cause a collision). I only use the cell network when I am a passenger or there is no wifi available. I connect my phone to wifi networks either on public transportation, in local restaurants and businesses, or at my destination. Nothing is so urgent that I need to use a cell network for anything more than a quick call or text message. For my use case, the $10 per month plan from Republic Wireless for unlimited talk and text over wifi and cell with unlimited data over wifi is perfect.

When I travel and am not familiar with the area, it helps to have access to the cell network for data for maps and finding restaurants and businesses in the area. For those times, I bump up my plan to the $25 per month rate, and get unlimited data over the cell network. When I return home, I drop my plan back down to the $10 per month rate. I pay only for the pro-rated monthly amount per the days of each plan.

Over a year, I pay about $150 for using my cell phone.

The phones

Republic Wireless sells only two phones, the Motorola Moto X for $299 and Moto G for $149. Both phones have beautiful displays, long battery life, plenty of storage, and excellent reception. My Moto X has two cameras, one for taking photos and video, and another for video conference calls. Read the full Moto X specs.

The Moto X uses the Android 4.4.2 (Kit Kat) operating system. There are plenty of apps and media on the Google Play Store. I like Yelp, Firefox, AndChat (for IRC), Moon+ Reader (for books and PDFs), and the usual Google app ecosystem.

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Updates, suggestions and comments regarding this article may be sent to Steve Piercy, [email protected] or comment using Disqus.

Written by Steve Piercy in money on Fri, Jul 18, 2014.
Last modified: Fri, Jul 18, 2014
Tags: mobile phone service, Motorola X, Republic Wireless


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