I have had service with Verizon for years, but recently I decided to switch up my service provider. In the middle of 2012, I started doing research on two new MVNO’s: Ting and Republic Wireless. As the new year approached, I knew I wanted to pick something new, but I needed to decide between them. After some research, I decided on one of them (you can skip to the bottom if you have no patience). Below, I’ll spell out the details of my decision and let you in on how I made my choice.
First, a little background. What are these providers, where did they come from? Both Ting and Republic Wireless are mobile virtual network operators, or MVNO’s for short. What this means is that they do not own the wireless network infrastructure, but instead they lease access to it from a major service provider. In this case, both Ting and Republic Wireless operate on the Sprint network. This means that wherever Sprint phones get service, or 3G, then so do these phones. However, you never interact with Sprint. You get customer service and everything else from the MVNO.
How does Ting work?
Here’s how Ting operates: you pay for as much talk, text and data as you use. That is a bit of an oversimplification, but it is the gist of how they work. Ting has different levels, or categories, of use available (see Ting plans). You pay a flat rate of $6 per line. Beyond that, the less you use, the less you pay. However, as you use more minutes, messages or data, you actually pay less per unit. For instance, if you use 100 minutes, you pay $3 or 3 cents per minute. If you use 1000 minutes, you pay $18 or 1.8 cents per minute. In other words, you aren’t punished for being a heavy user. The nice part is: you only pay for what you actually use. If you think you’ll use 1000 minutes but use under 500, that’s what you’ll pay. Or if you use more, you automatically get bumped to the next tier- no ridiculous overage charges.
How does Republic Wireless work?
Here’s how Republic Wireless operates: you get “unlimited” talk, text and data for $19 per month. Obviously, this seems like an amazing deal, but there is a catch. When you have access to WiFi, your phone will use WiFi for all calling, texting and data. When you are not on WiFi, it uses Sprint’s regular network. You do technically have unlimited use, but you need to be spending the majority of that use via WiFi. If you use too much talk/text/data on the traditional Sprint network, they will warn you about your usage. As I understand it, after a few months of warnings, Republic Wireless might revoke your membership and suggest another carrier that would better fit your needs.
Here’s what I like about both:
No contracts or long term agreements. I do not have to agree to stick with them for 2 years or any period of time. If I decide I don’t like my service any more, I can leave with no penalty.
They are both creatively trying to save people money. Although they are doing it in very different ways, they are innovating and moving the world of wireless service forward rather than just plowing away with the same old two year contract lock-ins that you see from the major providers.
They both seem to care about taking care of their customers. Because they are relatively small and new, they can’t afford to treat people poorly the same way a massive provider can. If Ting and Republic Wireless want to grow, they know they have to provide excellent customer service.
Now let us get into the advantages and disadvantages of each, and let me explain my ultimate decision.
Advantages of Ting:
Pay for actual use. You use less, you pay less. If you are a heavy user that is often traveling or not near WiFi, this is a bad deal for you. You are better off with a truly unlimited plan from a traditional provider. If you are a light user, or you are always near WiFi (like me), then this is nice. I can keep my minutes and texts to a minimum, and use all the data I want because I’m doing it via WiFi.
Out of Beta. Ting is up and running and ready to go. While there are some minor kinks they are still working out (like bringing a used phone to the service), you can go there, buy a phone and get started right now.
Phone selection. Ting has a pretty wide range of phones available. They have models ranging from low-end smart phones and refurbished phones to top-of-the-line models like the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC Evo 4G LTE.
Disadvantages of Ting:
No unlimited use. I can’t go crazy on the data when I’m traveling or in between WiFi hotspots. As this isn’t something I do, it’s not a big deal for me.
Cost of the phone. You have to pay for the phone up front. Because they don’t get to amortize the cost of the phone over a 2 year contract like Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile or any other major carrier can, they need you to pay for your own device. As I understand it, they aren’t really making money on the phones, but it still sucks that you have to eat the full cost.
Bringing your own phone is still sketchy. At the time of this writing, they are working on letting you bring used Sprint phones to their service. A month ago, you would have to buy a device from them. Now you can bring certain models, but only those that were used on the Sprint network.
Advantages of Republic Wireless:
“Unlimited” use. If you’re near WiFi, you can call, text and download as much as you want. Outside of WiFi, you are still unlimited, but you can’t go crazy.
Lower cost. If you’re on only one line, it will be hard to get a better deal than $19 a month for yourself.
Disadvantages of Republic Wireless:
Phone selection. If you want to use Republic Wireless you get to choose between the Motorola DEFY XT and the Motorola Defy XT. That’s right, there’s only one phone. Because they have to run custom firmware in order to handle running all calls and texts through WiFi, they don’t have the manpower to design and install custom firmware for a dozen different phones. As a result, they only have one phone available.
No Rooting or Custom Mods. As far as I can tell, you can’t root your Republic Wireless phone or otherwise modify it because you’ll break the custom firmware that lets their hybrid WiFi/traditional service work.
Still in Beta. I signed up for the Republic Wireless Beta in May 2012. I waited about 6 months before I got an email saying I could join if I wanted to. Furthermore, discussions in their forums indicate that they are still working out issues with hybrid calling.
No MMS. If you send and receive a lot of multimedia messages (e.g. picture texts), then Republic Wireless is not for you. At the time of this writing, MMS does not work on Republic Wireless phones due to complexities inherent in MMS delivery.
So what did I choose?
I chose Ting for a few reasons. First, I needed a wider selection of phones. I didn’t want to be stuck with one phone and if I paid $250+ for a phone, I want to be able to modify and change it as I please. I couldn’t do this with Republic Wireless.
Second, I wasn’t just getting a phone for myself. I needed service for myself and my wife. This changes the $19 per month for Republic Wireless to $38 per month. It turns out, for $40 a month I can get pretty decent service from Ting, such as 500 minutes ($9), 1000 texts ($5) and 500 megs of data ($13) on two lines ($12), which totals to $39 per month.
Third, Republic Wireless can’t yet handle MMS. This isn’t a big deal for me, as I can just send pictures via email. However, it is a big deal for my wife, who sends and receives lots of MMS to her family. This by itself would have meant I’d be on the Republic Wireless plan by myself while getting something else for her.
Fourth, if I ever want to leave Ting, I can sell my phones or take them with me. There’s a pretty strong used phone market for Android smartphones. So, if I want to move to a different provider or change to a different phone, I can sell my phones on eBay or Craigslist. If I’m on Republic Wireless? Finding a buyer will be more of a challenge.
Now, I have nothing bad to say about Republic Wireless. I never paid for their service, so I don’t know how well it works. In different circumstances, I might be happily using a Republic Wireless phone right now. So if you have experience with Ting or Republic Wireless, let us know in the comments.
Also, if anyone is interested, I have a custom link that will give you $25 off a phone on Ting. If you are interested, post a comment and I’ll put it up.
Filed in: Uncategorized