As a newcomer on the mobile phone landscape, Republic Wireless recently declared their "Beta" period over with the introduction of the Moto X phone. Despite that, a number of "beta" issues remain and several planned enhancements are not yet available. 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. Although Republic's generous 30-day trial period carries a refund guarantee if not satisifed, some have been dismayed to find out the things noted below that Republic does not advertise when you sign up.
If you do decide to try Republic, it is important to remember this most important caveat - cancelling your membership after the trial period means you have purchased a phone that cannot be activated or used on any cellular service, including Republic Wireless (re-activation of used phones has been promised, but not yet delivered). A Republic phone without an active Republic membership is a small and expensive Android tablet.
So when you receive your phone, be sure to test it extensively during the 30 day trial period. Visit places where you expect to have cell service. Use Wi-Fi everywhere you can, especially for voice calls. Make use of all the features you expect or have become accustomed to using on your present phone.
Here are the rest of the major caveats to look out for:
- Refund - If you return the phone within the 30-day trial period, your refund will have $10 deducted from it to cover the cost of the initial shipping. If the phone has any damage (even slight scratches) or missing components, your refund may be reduced per this list of damage charges.
- Moto X - Motorola's flagship phone has a non-swappable battery and lacks a MicroSD card slot for expanding storage. Total storage available to users is about 11 GB.
- 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 when used-phone activations are finally permitted, 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, so this phone will never get active call handoff from Wi-Fi to cell, nor fully support MMS (texting pictures). A workaround for receiving MMS messages has been promised but not yet delivered.
- Expected new phones - Republic's statements to the press (inc.com) in the first half of 2013 claimed a total of 3 new phones would ship during the year. Republic missed that prediction, shipping only the Moto X in 2013. The two remaining phones, though unannounced, are known to be less capable and less expensive than the Moto X. Rumors are strong for the Moto G being the next Republic phone with a debut in 1Q2014.
- Monthly Service Plans - New monthly plans and pricing for the Moto X and upcoming phones give buyers more choice, but plans with mobile data amount to a price-hike over the unlimited-everything $19 plan for the Defy XT.
- Phone upgrades - A number of older Motorola phones with Android 2.3, including the Defy XT, are eligible for a $100 trade-in rebate when purchasing a Moto X. Members who wish to keep their Defy XT for use with Republic might be able to find qualifying phones for sale elsewhere at less than the trade-in value.
- Wi-Fi Calling - .The signature feature of Republic's service is still being improved and debugged. When it doesn't work properly, finding the solution may require technical skill and patience. The Republic Community forum can often help, but for some, upgrading or replacing home Wi-Fi equipment may be the easiest solution. At a school or business, you may need help from whoever manages the network for that establishment.
- Cell Service - The cell network used by Republic is the same as that used by Sprint's customers, which is generally ranked at or near the bottom among major players in JD Power's 2013 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. The Defy XT requires non-roaming Sprint service for activation. Some roaming users have reported problems receiving calls and 2G data speeds.
- Messaging - Texting to 5 or 6 digit "short code" numbers is not yet possible, and Republic's phones may not receive texts from online services unless an unsupported workaround is used. Texting is limited to the Unicode character set , which excludes languages such as Chinese. Finally, there is no e-mail to text gateway, so texting to a computer via E-mail isn't possible (receiving is possible via the aforementioned workaround).
- Voicemail - In its current state, the voicemail service lacks features found in most other carriers' voicemail systems. Rather than put up with the issues, some have chosen to use a third party voicemail service (Google Voice). Voicemail improvements are supposed to be coming soon including email notifications and transcriptions .
- Technical Support - There are no company stores or local service centers, no call center, and Republic discourages members from using employees' direct business numbers to request assistance. Help requests may be initiated via the company's website , as well as via E-mail, Twitter, or snail mail. Help Request responses are sent via E-mail and can also be seen by checking the request status at the website (in some cases Republic does contact members on the phone after a request is opened). Republic's support center operates daily from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. eastern time. 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.
- Customer Service - The same contact methods as Technical Support apply. After a rocky start with many billing and refund problems, Republic's payment and refund system has improved considerably, but some still report that duplicate pending authorizations to debit cards are causing problems for their accounts.
- Website - The primary online venues for help and support, i.e. the online community forums and the My Account Portal, do not work well with some phone browsers.
- 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 or limits. Republic also does some things better than expected - for that list, please see The Complete List of Kudos.