Republic Wireless has been on and off our radar since last year, when it first made waves with its plans to offer unlimited cellular service in the US for the unheard-of rate of just $19 a month. It pulls that off by routing all the phone’s communications, even voice calls, over WiFi and the internet whenever possible, falling-back to Sprint’s network when there’s no WiFi signal available. Since then, it’s started a beta test of its service, periodically inviting users to join. Such an opportunity has just come up, and this one marks the availability of a new phone for Republic, but will it be one you really want to use?
The problem with Republic right now is the lack of choice when it comes to compatible phones. Initially, all users were stuck with the aging LG Optimus One. Republic is now bringing a slightly more modern option to its subscribers, but it’s still a far cry from a current, top-tier handset.
New Republic users will be able to get started with a Motorola Defy XT ruggedized Android, costing just about $250. The hardware’s a bit better than the original Defy’s, but not by much; there’s now a 1GHz single-core processor, but the phone still has a 3.7-inch display and is running Gingerbread.
Republic maintains that one day it would like to offer service to users bringing their own phones, but for now you’re stuck with the Defy XT if you want to try its service. That’s going to turn away many power users, but the allure of a $19 a month cellular bill might just win the hearts and minds of smartphone fans who are getting a bit frustrated with their currently monthly expenditures. If you can live with a lower-end handset, Republic just might be a smarter solution than some of the larger pre-paid carriers.