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Cheapest Smartphone Carrier

Is the $19-Per-Month Smartphone Plan a Good Deal?

Having an unlimited smartphone plan for $19 per month sounds too good to be true, but one North Carolina carrier, Republic Wireless, is providing just that.

The reason why the company is able to provide such low pricing is the technology called hybrid calling, which allows users to use WiFi to text, make calls, and surf the web. You'll still have access to a cellular network (Sprint) for free, in case you don't have access to wireless Internet in certain places, but the default network would be wireless.

Currently, the only phone the firm is offering with its plans is an Android smartphone, the Motorola Defy XT. There are also only two plans being offered right now: one in which you pay $249 for the phone, then $19 per month, and another which you pay $99 for the phone, then $29 per month. You apparently get unlimited data, voice, and texts, all with a 30-day money-back guarantee if you're not happy with it.

AllThingsD recently took the phone out for a test drive and here's what they found.

Pros:

  • The low, low price: You simple can't beat the low price of the unlimited data Republic Wireless plans. Many carriers charge you around $70 to over a $100 for unlimited data usage plans.
  • There's a backup: If there's no WiFi network around, you can rely on the Sprint cellular network without extra charges.
  • Does its job: Texts worked normally, according to the tester, and the call quality, web browsing, and app service were adequate.

Read on for the limitations of this phone.

Cons:

  • The phone: The only phone you're able to use with this network is bulky and has lower resolution than many of the most popular smartphones in the market. It has less storage and a smaller display than most smartphones. The network that it uses when it's not on WiFi is also an older and slower 3G network.
  • Switchover: If you leave the WiFi network area that your phone is relying on, then you'll notice a delay, in which the phone redials the call using the Sprint cellular network.
  • Call quality: AllThingsD says most of the calls "were adequate," meaning both people on the call could understand each other. But many of the calls "had some slight echo effect or occasional clipped words, despite a recent software update intended to fix the problem." However, when the phone switches over to the Sprint network, the quality of the call improved remarkably.
  • Customer service: There's no official customer service reps to help with your problems, but there is an online community where users help others troubleshoot their problems.

All in all, it seems like if budget is your main concern, then this phone will suit your needs. And if you wait a while, the company plans to roll out other phones with faster networks, as well as fix the switchover delay problem in the Summer. Would you ditch your current phone for this budget-friendly hybrid phone?

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