Republic Wireless Moto X review: Top consumer smartphone and low cost service are a killer combo

The Moto X is my current favorite smartphone. At $299 with service plans starting at just $5 per month, Republic Wireless has a compelling offer for consumers.

Republic Wireless Moto X review: $299 smartphone and low cost service are a killer combo

Back in January I took a look at Republic Wireless and the Motorola Defy XT as a viable low-cost wireless provider.

Republic Wireless listened to customer feedback and now offers one of the best smartphones available today, the Moto X, with service options ranging from $5 per month to $40 per month.

I've been using the Moto X on Republic Wireless for the last couple of weeks and am impressed with the device, performance over WiFi, and service plan options.

Wireless service

Republic Wireless is a Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) that works on the Sprint wireless network. However, Republic Wireless focuses on providing service via WiFi through their Hybrid Calling technology that lets you use WiFi for calls, texting, and data. When WiFi is not available, then they jump on the Sprint network, including Sprint's new LTE network.

Through more extensive testing and development since they launched the Defy XT in January, their WiFi call quality has improved and I was able to experience that on the Moto X. The service does a good job of handing off calls from WiFi to cellular and I didn't even notice it happening until I received a "reward badge" after hanging up the call and seeing it had transferred during my call.

With many people having poor cellular coverage at home and the office where they usually have strong WiFi networks and more public hotspots showing up all the time, it makes sense to have a service that focuses on WiFi for calls, texts, and data. They are working to make the public WiFi hotspot better for customers and stated it is a priority for their service.

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Given customer feedback and data showing that WiFi is being used more, Republic Wireless offers a $5 per month plan for WiFi only service. Combining this $5 per month plan with a Moto X that is available for just $299 is an amazing offer. With the WiFi only plan you will not be able to use any cellular coverage at all, so there are definitely some limitations for service coverage. The great thing is that you can easily and simply switch your plan up to twice per billing cycle.

Remember that Republic Wireless is a prepaid, no-contract service so a billing cycle is 30 days. If you make a change, then you will either be credited or charged for the prorated difference. They really make it convenient for the customer to have complete control over their wireless service plan.

You can choose from one of four plans from Republic Wireless. The WiFi-only plan costs just $5 per month. WiFi and unlimited cellular talk and text (data only on WiFi) is available for $10 per month. Unlimited talk, text, and data on WiFi and Sprint's 3G cellular is $25 per month and bumping up to Sprint's new LTE service is $40 per month.

LTE is rolling out across the US and I was able to experience pretty solid coverage in the Seattle area. When you drop to 3G on Sprint speeds drop significantly and it is probably best to avoid using 3G, if possible.

Hardware

I have written several recent articles about the Moto X hardware since I bought a custom Moto Maker one to use on T-Mobile. Most current Moto X devices already have Android 4.4 KitKat as well. The Moto X on Republic Wireless launches with Android 4.2.2 because the OS has been adapted to support WiFi calling and texting. They will likely have an Android 4.4 update eventually, but that OS was just revealed earlier this month so it takes some time to modify and get it working for their service.

The Moto X for Republic Wireless is available for just $299 in either black or white with 16GB of internal storage. Moto Maker custom Moto X units are not available at this time. You cannot bring other unlocked Moto X devices to Republic Wireless because of the custom WiFi connection capability. You also qualify for 50GB of free Google Drive storage.

The Moto X hardware is the same as all the other Moto X devices, including the 4.7 inch AMOLED display, X8 Mobile Computing System based on a 1.7 GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 10 megapixel camera, and more.

Nothing beats the feel of a Moto X in the hand and it truly is an incredible smartphone. This is not the kind of hardware you typically find with a no-contract prepaid service and can't be beat.

Software

Much of the attraction of the Moto X is the custom Moto software that includes Active Notifications, Touchless Control, Motorola Assist, and Motorola Connect. It is very convenient to just state "OK Google Now" and have the Google Now service start up even when your display is turned off. Active Notifications let you quickly see your notifications on the lock screen so you can triage notifications without even turning on your device. Motorola Assist manages your driving, meeting, and sleeping activities. Motorola Connect lets you text from your PC via the Google Chrome extension and have these messages synced to your Moto X.

The Android OS installed on the Moto X is nearly a pure Google form of Android with the few Motorola customizations listed above. The only carrier influence you will visibly see is the Republic Wireless Dashboard that shows you your phone number, current plan status, current connection status, and links to change service plan options.

The initial camera software had a few issues, but thankfully Motorola moved their camera app into the Google Play Store so you can update the software for an improved camera experience. The Android 4.4 KitKat update includes a bit more functionality that hopefully will come to the Republic Wireless Moto X in the future.

Many of the excellent Google services are installed out-of-the box. These include Google Drive, Chrome, Gmail, Hangouts, Google Maps, Google Play Movies & TV, Play Music, Quickoffice, and YouTube.

Usage and experiences

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When the Moto X first launched, many of us were disappointed that it wasn't priced to compete with the Nexus line. With this particular Moto X, Republic Wireless shows it can be priced reasonably with no-contract or service obligation. It isn't quite as open as a Nexus device where you can pop in any SIM card, but the service offerings are fantastic and have me considering a black one if I decide to return my custom T-Mobile device.

T-Mobile used to have a UMA (unlicensed mobile access) service that would switch between WiFi and cellular signals, similar to what Republic Wireless now has and in my experiences I find the Republic Wireless service to perform better than T-Mobile's ever did. I have a great WiFi signal at home and the office so making calls via WiFi in areas where I spend the majority of time is perfect.

I never had very good Sprint coverage in the past, but I do see that their LTE network is starting to roll out in the Puget Sound. In the testing that I have conducted over the last couple of weeks, I have seen pretty good LTE coverage and as you can see in my screenshot when you do have LTE it can fly.

If you do get solid Sprint coverage, then $40 per month for the Republic Wireless Moto X is a fantastic deal that can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars over your current service. 3G on Sprint is quite slow, but fills the gap between LTE and WiFi at a low cost.

Pros and Cons

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To summarize my experiences with the Republic Wireless Moto X, here are my pros and cons.

Pros

  • Gorgeous 4.7 inch AMOLED display
  • Nearly perfect in-hand form factor and design
  • Innovative software functionality
  • Unique WiFi-focused wireless service options
  • Excellent quality and high volume mono speaker
  • Excellent price with no contract

Cons

  • Limited internal storage capacity
  • Custom software leads to slower Android updates

Pricing and availability

The Moto X is available for $299, which compares with the no-contract T-Mobile 16GB model at $499.99. You save $200 on the phone and also see significant savings in the selected prepaid monthly plan that you choose.

The competition

There are plenty of excellent smartphones available today, including the iPhone 5s, Nexus 5, HTC One, Lumia 925, Lumia 1020, LG G2, and more. The Nexus 5 is similarly priced to the Moto X with a similar approach to a pure Google Android device. Motorola has added some simple, yet extremely effective touches that make it one of the most user friendly devices available today.

In looking at other similar prepaid service providers, you can find the very expensive Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy devices, HTC devices, and LG phones. However, you are unlikely to find a phone as capable and priced as low as the Republic Wireless Moto X.

Specifications

  • Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean OS
  • X8 Mobile Computing system powered by a dual-core 1.7 GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM and 16GB flash storage
  • 4.7 inch 720p resolution display
  • 10 megapixel rear camera
  • 2 megapixel front facing camera
  • 2,200 mAh non-removable battery
  • 802.11 a/ac/b/g WiFi radio and Bluetooth 4
  • Dimensions of 129.44 x 65.3 x 10.4 mm and 130 grams (4.59 ounces)

Conclusion

The more I use the Moto X, the more I enjoy what Motorola has done with their custom software touches that make it one of the most consumer-friendly phones available. Republic Wireless has some compelling service options with no contract obligation. I found their WiFi calling service to provide good quality calls and the handoff to cellular worked well in my testing.

You can purchase the Moto X with Republic Wireless and try out the phone and service for 30 days with no obligation. If you are not completely satisfied then you can return the Moto X for a full refund within 30 days. In the PR materials we were sent, they also offered suggestions if you want to stop service after the first 30 days. They wrote that you could sell it (only usable on Republic Wireless due to the custom ROM), give it away, or keep it and use it via WiFi without calling or texting service.

Contributor's rating: 9 out of 10

Further reading

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