Review Republic Wireless and the Motorola Defy XT

first_imgThe team at Republic Wireless claims that they have returned from the ashes of their previous beta experience with new found strength and desire to deliver a $19/month unlimited everything mobile experience powered by your wireless network. When we last took a look at the service, almost a year ago, it was clear that it wasn’t ready for primetime. Republic Wireless feels that their infrastructure is up to the task of handling many more users, and that now their service is complimented by a handset that was made specifically for it.With all that in mind, it’s time to re-visit Republic Wireless and see whether or not it’s worth investing in .Voice and dataRepublic Wireless is a WiFi-based carrier first, with the ability to fall back onto Sprint’s 3G service when you need it. It doesn’t cost anything extra to use Sprint’s airwaves, in fact there’s nothing stopping you from using only Sprint. If you have a good home WiFi setup however, there’s no reason to skip out on the SIP-based calling and SMS offered by Republic. Many people connect their smartphones to their home WLAN networks, so this doesn’t seem like behavior that is too far out of the way.The call quality when connected to Republic Wireless’ network is fantastic. After using the service exclusively for a week, I found myself with better call quality than I have ever had on a mobile carrier. I also have a top-notch wireless setup in my home, so this wasn’t terribly surprising. I went to the local Starbucks and McDonald’s, connected to their wireless networks and attempted to make calls. Surprisingly, even when the WiFi at McDonald’s was so bad that I was struggling to load a webpage on my tablet, I was able to make and receive calls just fine. There was a noticeable difference in call quality, but the difference put RW in line with what I expect from a cellular networkThere’s still one painfully obvious wrinkle with Republic Wireless: there’s no call handoff from a SIP call to cellular. If you are on a WiFi connection when you receive a call, you’ll need to stay on that network until you have ended the call or it will drop. I’m not sure that there can ever be an adequate way to solve this particular problem, but it is something that will frustrate any user who is unaware of why their calls drop when they walk out to the car.HardwareMotorola and Republic Wireless collaborated to release the Motorola Defy XT exclusively for Republic Wireless. On paper, the Defy XT is an aging Android device. This phone is at least a year old and can’t possibly compare to the amazing superphones that are being released to carriers today. If you’re not interested in a top shelf device, if you’re just looking for something that will allow you to take advantage of a $19/month unlimited everything plan, the Defy XT does the job quite nicely.The Defy XT packs a 1GHz processor with 512MB RAM and a removable storage slot. The 5MP camera and VGA front-facing camera get the job done, but don’t take particularly breathtaking photos or video. The 480×854 FWVGA display works great indoors but, like most ruggedized smartphones, is mostly unusable in direct sunlight. The Gorilla Glass screen and durable construction don’t stop the 3.7-inch phone from being pocketable, but the rubber stoppers over all the ports are somewhat tedious. The phone feels incredibly solid, right down to the locking battery panel.Republic Wireless is nicely integrated into the Android 2.3-based Defy XT. Once you connect to a WiFi network, Republic Wireless will prompt you to start the service. This is a huge improvement over the previous iteration of their software, which forced you to connect to a WiFi network before you could do much of anything on the phone. The build of Android 2.3.7 is supported by Motorola, so your UI is Motorola Experience Android complete with all of the bloatware that Motorola typically includes on their handsets.Final ThoughtsRepublic Wireless has made some significant strides in their offering. The service has improved significantly, and unlike their original beta their device will have actual customer support in case there’s a problem, since it’s not running community built software any longer. Unfortunately for Republic Wireless, the rest of the world moved at the same pace they did, so their device offering still seems a little behind. Considering you can get a GSM Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.1.1 for $349, the Defy XT just doesn’t feel worth it at $249. You get a lot more for that $100, and while the Republic Wireless teams have claimed they have every intention of launching more advanced devices in the future, there’s nothing for it now.The world is ready for a $19/month unlimited everything plan that is powered by WiFi, of that I am certain. If I could bring my device to Republic Wireless, or if it worked as an app that could be added to a prepaid phone, I think I would seriously consider making the switch. I am far from being alone either, I think that those who are using smartphones right now already spend more than half of their days on a WiFi network.Republic Wireless is absolutely on the right path to creating a service that is really interesting, and now that their service is really great hopefully we’ll see devices that are worth spending money on soon.last_img read more