*Update* Republic Wireless has a much nicer phone now. Read my Republic Wireless’ Moto X review.
I must have been one of the last bloggers who have been holding out on getting a smart phone. I’m a cheap guy at heart and I would hate to pay $60+/month for the privilege of checking emails on the go. Well, it’s over now. I chucked my dumb phone and joined the smart phone revolution. Now that I’ve had a taste of a smart phone, I don’t think I can go back to a dumb phone anymore.
We have been using Tracfone for probably 10 years now. It’s cheap and the cellphones work just fine for us. We spend about $20 every 3 months each and the price was right. We are not heavy users and only occasionally use the phone for voice calling and texting. The only time I wished I had a smart phone was when we went on road trips. It would have been helpful to check Google maps for directions and to find good places to eat with Yelp.
Mrs. RB40 is going to stick with her Tracfone for a while longer. She’s even cheaper than me and she doesn’t even want a smart phone. I will miss the $20 every 3 months bill, but we all have to move on some time.
Sure, I have been itching to try out a smart phone, but the cost was a huge deterrent. I found out about Republic Wireless a while back and they were the leading candidate for a cheapo like me. Even I can’t complain too much about the $19/month for unlimited talk, text, and data service with no contract. I was still putting it off though, because I rarely need a smart phone and was still reluctant to upgrade. I knew I couldn’t go back once I upgraded. That’s the downside of lifestyle inflation… Also, the phone is pretty expensive.
Currently, Republic Wireless only has one phone to choose from, the Motorola Defy XT. *Update* The new Moto X will be available in November. It will cost $299 and there are a few plans you can choose from. The price has gone up to $25 for unlimited service with 3G, but you can also choose the $5 and $10 options. Read my Republic Wireless’ Moto X review.
Lower price: Pay $99 for the Motorola Defy XT and $19/month for service.
The plan for the new phone is a bit more expensive so I think I’ll just stay with the Moto Defy. The new Moto X has 4G, but you’ll have to pay $40 for unlimited 4G.
Luckily, I made contact with a marketing representative and they sent me a phone to review. From what I understand, the Motorola Defy XT is a bit dated and is running on an older version of Android. This didn’t mean much to me because by comparison, my previous phone was a 1,000X worse. Let’s go over how this phone performed for me over the last 2 months. Keep in mind that I’m coming from a dumb phone.
The Motorola Defy XT
Physical dimension – The Motorola XT is 4.5 x 2.3 x 0.5 inches and weighs just 4 ounces. The 3.7 inch screen is quite small compared to other smart phones. It’s the perfect size for me. I always carry my cell phone in my pants pocket and the size is just right. I don’t want to lug a brick around in my shorts; it’ll screw up my stride alignment and I’ll have to go see a chiropractor! (Sour grapes???)
Ruggedness – The XT is dustproof and water resistant. There are rubber plugs to protect the ports and it shouldn’t mind a little splash here and there. This is a great feature for me because RB40 Jr. dragged me to a bunch of splash fountains every week. The phone got splashed a few times, but it hasn’t been submerged yet. The screen is also made with gorilla glass and should hold up pretty well with a crazy 2 year old around.
Performance – From what I read online, the phone is quite sluggish. It hasn’t made a big difference to me, though. It seems to work well enough — another advantage of coming from a dumb phone. It’s running on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) which is a few generations behind the current Jelly Bean (4.1). Again, this means nothing to me.
Camera – Camera works pretty well. I even sent an email to Mrs. RB40 with a picture attachment from the phone. Wow, that’s smart.
Real World Usage
You might wonder how Republic Wireless can offer such an inexpensive unlimited plan. The secret is the XT will switch to Wi-Fi whenever it can. Most of us spend a lot of time at home and the office which usually have pretty solid Wi-Fi coverage. If you’re not connected to the internet, then your calls and data are routed through the Sprint network. How does this perform in RB40’s real world? Check it out.
Voice calling – The voice quality over my router at home is mediocre. My Ooma VOIP system sounds much better when I’m at home so I usually just use that anyway. On the street, the voice quality is fine. If you started off using Wi-Fi and moved out of range, the phone will hang up and redial with cellular. I haven’t experienced this because my calls are short and I don’t move around that much.
Apps – The XT comes with a bunch of Apps – Gmail, Google maps, Google calendar, YouTube, and more. Gmail, calendar, and maps are particular useful. I can set up appointments in Google Calendar on my laptop and the reminders will show up on the phone. Nice!
I installed a total of 2 apps since I got the phone.
- Twitter – This was extremely useful during WDS. I was able to meet up with people and shared snap shots on the phone. If I didn’t have the XT, I’d have to lug the laptop around everywhere. I uninstalled Twitter later because the phone was constantly beeping. It’s useful when there is an event, but I don’t really need to check Twitter every few minutes…
- Star Wars Angry Birds – Recently, I have been addicted to Star Wars Angry Birds on Facebook. It’s a lot of fun and it’s free. Can’t beat that. The Android version has more levels and it’s a fun way to kill time when I’m waiting for the streetcar. The screen is a bit too small and it’s much more difficult to get good scores compared to playing on the laptop. Anyway, I’m done with it now and will probably delete it soon.
Battery life – During WDS, I checked the phone constantly and the battery couldn’t last the whole day. Now that I’m just occasionally using it, it’s a bit better and I only need to recharge once a day. Coming from a dumb phone, I think the battery life really should be much better. I only needed to recharge every few days with my old phone. I guess that’s the price you have to pay with a phone that’s constantly syncing.
Pretty good deal
All in all, I’m very happy with Republic Wireless. It enables me to keep a tab on Retire by 40 and find my way around if I get lost. Mrs. RB40 asked why I keep looking at the phone though. That’s another downside to having a smart phone. I was always annoyed when my friends kept glancing at their phones when we’re talking. I guess that’s modern life. It’s kind of sad.
Anyway, if you have been itching to upgrade from a dumb phone, check out Republic Wireless. It’s also a good option if you are tired of paying a ton of money every month for a cell phone plan. You can use this link to sign up with Republic Wireless: $19/month Unlimited Data, Talk & Text. I heard there are more options available for cheapskates like me, though. I’ll have to keep an eye out for the new affordable plans from their competitors.
How much are you paying for your cell phone usage? Is it worth it? Are there better (cheaper) plans out there?
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