With all he buzz surrounding smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, these inevitably lead to one question: cost. While most gadget lovers would be glad to pony up the hundred bucks or so per month for a voice, SMS and data plan for a top-of-line smartphone, not everyone wants to be burdened by lengthy contracts and overcharges.

One of the in things among lifehackers today is reducing spending and living frugally, as what proponents of minimalism do. If you’re a fan of Zen Habits and The Minimalists, you’ll know what I mean. Which is why the authors of Couple Money have thought of reducing their smartphone spending without necessarily losing the convenience of using smartphones in the first place.

Elle says that they usually pay $150 monthly between her and her husband’s smartphone plans, which mostly includes unlimited mobile calling, 1,500 shared minutes, unlimited night and weekend calling and a shared data plan. But as Elle admits, this may be overkill for the couple’s needs. And when offered the chance to upgrade smartphone models in exchange for another two-year contract the couple is considering alternatives to the $1,800 that they spend on mobile charges annually.

One such alternative is Republic Wireless, which offers smartphone plans at $19 per month using their hybrid caling service. Republic is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) running on Sprint’s network, and it switches between WiFi calling and cellular networks. At that cost, it adds up to just $228 annually, or a savings of $1,572.

Some pros:

  • The service has no contracts nor termination fees
  • The service offers unlimited minutes, texts and data
  • 30-day money back guarantee if you don’t like the service.

Some cons:

  • Cellular coverage is may be spotty, so better check the coverage map before signing up. The service offers the non-cellular areas as a “potential Wi-Fi calling coverage area.”
  • Device is limited to the Motorola Defy XT they bundle with “membership.”
  • You need to make an outright purchase of $278 for membership, which includes the phone, startup fee and first month of service.
  • No customer service! Support is community-based (which is what a lot of Android enthusiasts do, anyway).

Remember that Republic is a Sprint MVNO, so if you have experience with Sprint coverage, then you’re likely to get the same coverage with Republic, only that you get the advantage WiFi calling when there’s a WiFi network available, such as your home, office or any other network.

Republic Wireless is currently in Beta, and users will have to sign up for the service, which is made available to interested participants in waves. Do you think such a hybrid mobile service is a good choice, particularly when you’re in a budget? How does Republic Wireless compare with other no-contract services, in terms of reliability and cost? If you’re currently on Republic Wireless, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

J. Angelo Racoma
J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo develops business case studies for Microsoft enterprise platforms, and is also co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing team that offers digital content and marketing services.
  • olbp


    As I have said several times before, get a decent and large enough group of phone choices and you will get LOTS of customers.

    To get ME, you need to offer the Galaxy Note 2. Simple.

  • This would be GREAT for us except that there’s no way we could come close to affording the $278 upfront.

  • Marvin Nakajima

    I was signed up for a beta ‘wave’ but when the invite came and I tried to put in my order I could not complete it since I wasn’t in one of the 48 contiguous States. :(

  • Marty

    I’ve been with Republic since the startup last year. Overall I’ve been pleased with the service. The original phone, the LG Optimus S, was mediocre but the new Motorola Defy XT is much better. The wifi calling works very well- crystal clear. Calls drop from time to time, but less often than I’ve experienced with cell phones. They’re working on the handoff between wifi and cellular and vice versa, but they’re not there yet. Yes, it’s a big hit up front, but at $19 a month (with taxes it comes to $21 for me), it won’t take long to recoup that cost when you compare what a two-year contract with a major carrier costs. If you want a state-of-the-art phone and can afford it, Republic isn’t for you. But if you want a solid phone with a low monthly cost, sign on. I don’t know how much longer it will be in beta, but when it comes out for the general public it’s going to be big!