MVNOs Part 2: For you Sprint and Verizon users

In my original article I let you know what options there are for those of you who wanted to switch to discounted phone provider (also known as an MVNO) in the US to save some moolah, but I focused mainly on carriers who operated on the AT&T and T-mobile GSM networks.  Since then I’ve gotten some good experiences with two other MVNOs and wanted to share my findings; one for all those of you who think you HAVE to be on Verizon’s network (and if you live outside a major Metro area you’re probably right). And another which seems to be redefining low-cost quality cell service and combining cellular and wifi calling working on your cell phone amazingly well.  So let’s jump right in for your Verizon folks with PagePlus.

Page Plus

PagePlus runs on the exact same network as Verizon, but offers very discounted service compared to Big Red.  This reduction in cost comes with some minor trade-offs, and there are 2 caveats to using their service I should mention.  First is their phone support, which is definitely not as good as Verizon’s, thought admittedly I’ve not used VZW since 2007.  But the phone support does get the job done, and as long as you don’t like to call up your carrier every month just to say hi, you should be fine.

The other caveat is that currently, as far as I’m aware, you can’t use 4G on PagePlus.  To be clear, you can use whatever (Verizon-compatible) phone you want on their service, it just won’t get LTE speeds when you web browse or buy apps, etc, and every phone will just revert to 3G and go merrily on its way.  If you use your phone casually and aren’t constantly watching high quality YouTube videos on your phone, this limitation should not end up troubling you in any significant way. 3G speeds on Verizon are quite respectable, and if you’re living in the boonies with a whopping 2 bars on Verizon then you are just wasting your money thinking that you’re really getting anywhere near 4G speeds anyway, just because your phone has the word LTE slapped on it.

Case in point: my father, who was spending more than $90 a month for Verizon’s cheapest individual smartphone plan.  On PagePlus he now pays $30 a month for a very generous 1200 minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB of data.  If you really need unlimited talk and text, you can get it but that’s $10 more a month; unfortunately there’s no unlimited data option.  Anyway, this adds up to savings of more than $700 a year from what he was paying before.  That’s easily going to save the cost of buying a brand new phone every year should the mood strike, and leads me to the last thing I should mention: to use PagePlus you have to own the phone you’re activating with them, be it an iPhone or Android or whatever.  If you just signed your life away to Verizon for another two years because you wanted the newest Samsung or HTC smartphone, now is probably not the time to switch.  Once your contract is up, take that bad boy to PagePlus, port your number (yes you can keep your phone# when you switch) and tell Verizon to kiss off.

Republic Wireless

Now onto Republic Wireless.  I really haven’t been this excited about cell phones since the first iPhone and Android devices were the rage in 2007-8.  These guys have been hard at tying the cellular and wifi phone networks together to save money all around, and unlike other companies they DO pass that savings onto you.  By making wifi calling an integral part of the service, Republic is able to charge ridiculously low costs for phone service.

Now to be fair T-mobile also has wifi calling, but unlike T-mobile’s version, Republic’s works amazingly well, and you can go from talking on the (Sprint) cell network to wifi and back to cell, and your phone call just keeps going with little more than a brief pause during the switch. I cannot state how awesome the wifi calling feature is, but this is admittedly not for everyone.  Generally it seems like people want the fastest internet speeds possible, so if you have a pricey FiOS or cable modem that you are keeping around anyway, why not send your calls and texts over that line when you’re home?  If you have dialup or are reading this at the public library or something, then Republic probably not the best choice for you.

Republic rewards you handsomely for trying out their high-tech phone network by making their service the cheapest you’re going to get for unlimited service.  Their unlimited calling, text and unlimited 3G data plan is a staggering $25 a month (okay plus tax, big deal).  The 4G version for you speed demons out there who haaaaaaaave to have LTE speed costs just $40 a month, again, for unlimited everything.  If you recall from my other article, that’s better than Simple Mobile’s deal (which is only 4G for the first 1GB of data), and republic is on Sprint’s network which I find has much, much better coverage here in Massachusetts than the Tmo network Simple Mobile uses. I’ve heard in some areas Republic can roam on Verizon, which seems promising but I’ve not seen evidence in the areas of MA and NY where my family and I live.  Lastly, I should point out the $10 unlimited calling and text option (sans data), which really is just unthinkably cheap, and sounds good for those with text-happy kids at home but dont want them chewing up your data allotment.

So aside from the fact that you should probably have decent internet service at home, there are two other things to consider with Republic:  First, they do not offer phone support. At all.  It’s web-based support only baby, and I assure you this doesn’t thrill me either, waiting days for a response to your request when you hit a problem on Christmas day as I recently did.  But when they are open and responding, the web-based service has been very good, and for most problems you can get support from the Republic community forum, where their staff also hang out.

Caveat number 2 is a biggie and may also be a deal breaker, in this case if you are a brand fanatic. You can’t just grab any Sprint-compatible Samsung or HTC phone and throw it on Republic, and if you want an iPhone you’re out of luck.  Like Virgin Mobile and some MVNOs, you have to buy a phone from Republic themselves.  This is needed because of way Republic has implemented its wifi calling integration with Android, and is definitely a shame.

On top of that, they sell only one halfway decent phone, which fortunately happens to be the outstanding Moto X.  Disclaimer: I work for Google, which owns Motorola, but if you know me at all, you know I’m extremely picky about phones and am constantly trying out new ones, in the past year including the (Virgin Mobile) Galaxy S II, the (MetroPCS) Galaxy S III, the (T-mobile) HTC one, various unlocked phones like the Galaxy Grand and Nexus 4, and many more. All that said, I really think the Moto X is the best all-around phone you can get regardless of carrier.  Here’s an article about the unique features of the phone, many of which will eventually get pushed into all Android devices most likely, but for now the short answer is it’s an amazing phone on what could be a revolutionary carrier. The upside is that Republic is only charging $300 for the phone, which for a great phone without a contract is a pretty amazing deal.

At the end of the day I think it’s crazy not to grab the Moto X for $300 and try out the $10 month unlimited calling and texting plan, as it’s just too cheap to not potentially get some serious savings, assuming you either have decent wifi coverage in your house or Sprint cellular coverage in your area.

Again, I’m not getting any compensation from Republic or Motorola for this article, nor from anyone else for that matter, I just work for Google and love trying out phones, I like seeing people save money, and I think Republic is actually doing something amazing and I want them to do more of it.  I wish Google would buy Republic but am unclear what conflicts of interest that would create with their relationship with the big 4 carriers.  But honestly I hate the big 4 carriers so it might be for the best 🙂

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