Republic Wireless, a newcomer on the mobile phone landscape, declared their "Beta" period over late last year with the introduction of the Moto X phone. Despite that, a number of "beta" issues remain, including service glitches and incomplete or missing features that are commonly provided by other carriers. This article is intended to help you determine, before you commit funds and time or leave your current provider, whether you will be happy with the service.
As a new Republic customer, you should test the phone and service extensively prior to transferring a phone number from another carrier and cancelling that carrier's service. Visit places where you will need cell service. Use Wi-Fi whenever possible, especially for voice calls. Make use of all the features you rely on having with your present phone.
Here are the other major caveats to consider:
- Trial Period and Refunds - New phone buyers have a 30-day trial period, allowing the phone to be returned for a refund within that time. Republic pays return shipping but deducts the original shipping amount ($10) from the refund. Republic's refund may be further reduced per this list of damage charges
- Unique Phones - Only phones originally manufactured for Republic Wireless may be used on the service, and Republic's phones cannot be unlocked or activated on other carriers.
- Moto X (first gen) - Motorola's flagship phone for 2013 has a non-swappable battery and lacks a MicroSD card slot for expanding storage. Total storage available to users on the 16GB model is 12.2GB.
- Moto G (first gen) - Like the Moto X, this mid-level phone also has a fixed battery and lacks a MicroSD card slot for internal storage expansion. Total storage available to users in the 16 GB model is 13.2 GB, and the 8 GB model, 5.2 GB.
- Moto E - The least expensive phone in Republic's lineup has 4GB of internal memory, a fixed battery, and no front camera. The rear camera lacks an LED flash and adjustable focus, making extreme close-ups impossible. With only about 2 GB of internal memory available, those with an app addiction may need to move apps to external (MicroSD) storage whenever possible.
- Motorola Defy XT - The most-sold phone during Republic's beta has sold out, but in case you might buy a used one to activate, you should know the following. It is an entry level Android 2.3 smartphone that will not be upgraded to Android 4.x. Battery life is acceptable on Wi-Fi, but when cell signal strength is weak or 3G data is used, the battery fades quickly. Internal storage for apps is minimal, requiring power users to perform several workarounds to have enough space for more than a few downloaded apps. Rooting the phone can help with app space and battery life issues, but is not recommended, since there is no means of recovery from root-enabled mistakes that stop the phone from booting. Republic has confirmed there will be no more major "OTA" updates, meaning this phone will never get active call handoff from Wi-Fi to cell, nor support texting pictures (MMS). A workaround for receiving picture texts was promised in 2013, but has not been mentioned as an active project during 2014 up to the present date. This phone can only use the $19/month unlimited plan, and activation must be done in an area with non-roaming Sprint coverage.
- Upcoming phones - Nothing concrete is known about the availability of the second gen Moto X and Moto G, but hints from Republic here and here suggest that work on those phones is well under way.
- Monthly Service Plans - Monthly plans and pricing for the Moto X / G / E give buyers choice, but plans with mobile data amount to a price-hike over the unlimited-everything $19 plan that is the only option for the Defy XT. Tethering (using the phone's mobile data to provide Internet access to other devices) is not permitted on any plan nor available as an option.
- Voice calling - Republic's technology that automatically uses either Wi-Fi or cell service for calls is still being improved and debugged. When it doesn't work properly, finding the solution can require technical skill and patience. Sometimes upgrading or replacing home Wi-Fi equipment is the easiest solution. At a school or business, Wi-Fi calls may not work without help from those who manage the network. Technology challenges are currently blamed for the inability to add pauses or waits into a phone number, and for Wi-Fi calls' lack of privacy (no encryption for VoIP traffic). Republic phones are not considered mobile phones by other carriers who might allow free minutes for mobile-to-mobile calls.
- Cell Service (non-roaming areas) - Republic's cell service is provided by Sprint, whose quality is generally ranked at or near the bottom among major players in JD Power's 2014 Wireless Network Quality Performance Study. While adequate for most, your location may or may not have good signal strength. Zoom in on this map to check Sprint's estimated coverage in your area.
- Cell Service (roaming areas) - Roaming users may experience missed incoming calls, lost texts, and lack of data service in some areas. New limits on roaming data, including reduced speed and a 25 MB usage cap, were imposed in September 2014. Republic's General Manager has stated plans to allow the separate purchase of roaming data and no longer include roaming data in monthly plans. The roaming data restrictions do not affect voice calls or texting (SMS/MMS), which continue to be unlimited regardless of roaming status. Some roaming users have reported complete loss of service that went unsolved for several months.
- Messaging - Republic does not operate an E-mail to text gateway, making it impossible to send texts to an E-mail address. For the same reason, receiving texts from E-mail and many online services requires use of an an unsupported workaround. Picture messaging and group texts (MMS) lack support for some carriers and require use of the Messaging or Hangouts apps. Texting is limited to the Unicode character set, which excludes languages such as Chinese. The use of emoji characters is not supported.
- International Calling and Cell Service - Republic's phones may make voice calls using Wi-Fi anywhere in the world, but outbound calls are limited to the 50 states and Canada regardless of location. Cell service is not available outside of the 50 states, not even as an option. These restrictions mean that U.S. territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands cannot be called and offer no cell service.
- Voicemail - The voicemail service lacks features and the administrative support provided by most other carriers. For example, customers who haven't established a voicemail password cannot listen to voicemail when their phone is lost or damaged. Due to these issues, some are using a third party voicemail service (Google Voice). Voicemail improvements promised in 2013, including notifications and transcriptions, have apparently been de-priortized, receiving no mention in the latest update blog.
- Customer Support - There are no company stores or local service centers and no phone numbers to call for live assistance. Support requests may be initiated via the company's website, as well as via E-mail, Twitter, or snail mail. Support via online chat is currently available during business hours. Responses to support tickets are sent via E-mail and can also be seen by checking request status at the website. For issues that don't need Republic's direct involvement, members may post in the online Community forums and receive answers from other Republic members (all volunteers). The forums are overseen and lightly moderated by a few Republic personnel.
- Website - The Republic community has a mobile version designed for phone browsers, but that interface lacks functionality compared to the desktop experience. Phone browsers other than Chrome don't work very well with the community in desktop mode. The My Account and Support portals do not have a mobile version.
- But wait - there's more! - Please see Current Open or Unsolved Issues and Feature Requests.
Despite all this, it's important to note that most members continue using Republic's service due to the low cost and freedom from extra charges. Republic also does some things better than expected - for that list, please see The Complete List of Kudos.
Last updated: 23:42, November 17, 2014 (UTC)