Is the smartphone industry on the cusp of some sweeping price reforms? The Nexus 4′s bargain-basement off-contract price tag has us re-thinking the whole carrier-subsidized pricing model, and we might soon get a chance to see some big changes to how cellular service is priced, as well. Surely the rumors of Google becoming a wireless provider itself are very intriguing, but it’s not the only game in town with the potential to start making some changes. Republic Wireless has been working on its own super-cheap smartphone service for some time now, and the company is finally ready to move things to prime time and start accepting pre-orders from the public.
In case you haven’t been keeping up with the Republic story, the company is counting on the fact that a lot of our smartphone usage happens when we’re at home or otherwise able to find an open WiFi network to connect to. When such a signal is available, Republic-configured smartphones route all their data over the internet. When there’s no WiFi around, the phones fall back to connecting over Sprint’s cellular network. By only using Sprint’s network when it’s absolutely necessary, Republic is able to offer unlimited service for just $19 a month.
The same old caveats that applied to Republic Wireless during its private beta are still in play now; that means no BYOD, and you’re stuck with the positively ancient Motorola Defy XT. Still, if you can live with an out-of-date phone, that $19 a month is seriously hard to beat. If Republic is somehow able to simultaneously offer that rate and a more modern phone to go along with it, it might really be on to something here.