Live Long and Prosper, my friends

Four years ago my family cellular bill (on Verizon) was around $175. This was for a limited number of minutes (2000, if I remember correctly) and unlimited texting - but no data, and no smart phones. I really wanted a smartphone, but I didn’t really need mobile data. I wanted to be able to do things like browse web sites and check email from places that had wifi, when I didn’t have my laptop with me. Like when sitting at a car dealership while my car was getting inspected, for example. But, Verizon didn’t allow you to get a smartphone, without a mobile data plan – nobody did for that matter. And I refused to go above the $175 I was paying for the family cellular bill.

Then one day I discovered Republic Wireless, and it was a dream come true. Suddenly I could not only get a smartphone, but it included unlimited mobile data, and it was cheaper than anything else out there. At $19/month, I could get 4 lines and cut my Verizon bill by two-thirds. Yes I had to pay for the phones, but Verizon was at that time starting to make you pay for new phones anyway (use them for two years, then you could get a new one for a discount but not free, and only one discounted phone per account, and we had 4 phones). The only issue was, my wife refused to leave Verizon, primarily because she wanted to keep her number (which couldn’t be ported to RW, the first of many little quirks that you have to put up with when using Republic) and she wanted an iPhone, and also because she liked their service. Note that in my neck of the woods, Verizon was, and still is, the only game in town if you wanted high-quality, saturated-coverage cellular service. Any time we’d be on the phone with someone and the call started breaking up, we’d joke that they must be on some carrier other than Verizon.

So anyway, I moved 3 of our 4 lines to Republic. We couldn’t port the numbers but that seemed to not matter to the kids, although it was a big step for me (looking back, it was no big deal). I kept my wife on Verizon at about $70/month, and the three of us on RW at $57/month, for a total of $127 plus the cost of the new (DefyXT) phones. The savings of around $50/month paid for the cost of the phones (then $250 each) in about 15 months. All was well. And, I was a hero, to my kids … because I was able to provide them with smart phones and data, which is what only the “cool” kids in school had at the time. I kept close tabs on the Community and contributed often, even wrote an app called WiFi Pilot which helped extend the battery charge for the Defy. I felt like I was part of this new high-tech forward-looking company that was going to change the world. I overlooked a lot of glitches, a lot of things that just didn’t work right on RW, because they were a “beta” service and I was willing to cut them some slack, as I considered myself to be an “early adopter”.

Fast-forward to today and a few iterations of phones later … My kids are four years older. The world has changed. Now every kid (er, young adult) has a smartphone, not just the “cool” ones. Some have crappy service, and the “cool” ones have Verizon. Not only has my family become accustomed to, and dependent on, having smartphones, but we also want to have data everywhere, not just at the car dealership or the school, but also on the drive between home and those places. And the kids want everything to ‘just work’, the way it does on Verizon.

I’ve gone from being a hero, in my family, to being the jerk who refuses to move us back to a ‘real’ cellular service. Every time a call drops (which happens eventually on every single call between us and our son in college), every time a text gets delayed or a texting app doesn’t work right because it “isn’t supported”, every short code that doesn’t work, every annoying voice-delay that causes people to talk over each other, every call that has an echo that makes it hard to speak because you hear yourself about a second after the words you say … all are my fault. Instead of being on the cutting edge of technology, we are on the back edge, playing catch-up, holding our breath and waiting for the next release of something from Republic that will make the service closer to ‘normal’. We are now the people that our friends joke about, because we have “that goofy cheapo cell phone”.

Recently Republic started offering the 3.0 phones and plans, and my kids of course both got new phones right away. (BYOP phones, which they were at the last minute told that they’d have to wait an extra couple of weeks to activate because we didn’t buy them from Republic … once again, Dad’s fault for trying save a few bucks). We were excited to get on the new GSM carrier, because the coverage map showed my area saturated with LTE data availability. The phones came, then eventually the sims, and the kids jumped on their new phones only to find that the coverage was worse than Sprint, at least in my home town. Actually, for most of the area in a 2-mile radius of my house, there is zero coverage. No roaming, no voice, no data. Again, Dad’s fault, he has to try to be cheap. Meanwhile, as the kids have gotten a bit older, they are using more and more data. My daughter has busted out of the 1 GB plan and is on the 2 GB plan, and is pushing that limit. My son does a little better, but has needed more than 1 GB of data once or twice because of travelling. I use a minimal amount of data, but only because I refuse to use the phone anywhere that doesn’t have wifi. That has a ripple effect, because I refuse to go to restaurants that don’t have wifi, and so on. And everywhere I go, I look for wifi to log onto. I also turn the wifi off when getting back in the car (or in my case, on the motorcycle), to save battery. I actually like doing this kind of thing, because I’m a “geek” as my kids would say. But, my kids don’t like doing it. They don’t want to have to mess with the wifi all the time. They want to use their phones in the car if I’m driving, and with kids, “using the phone” has nothing to do with talking, so what that really means is using data. Meanwhile the Republic bill is about to reach $70/month and is in danger of going higher, and the phones are crazy expensive.

Anyway a Verizon deal caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. 4 lines with 20GB of shared data, for $40/month per line or $160/month total. I started thinking about how, back in the day, I was ok with spending around that much for 2000 minutes, unlimited texting, and no data. I decided to look into moving back to Verizon, because they finally had gotten their pricing back down to that ballpark, but now including data (and a lot of data, at that). I checked it out, and it seemed to me from the fine print, that to get that price, you had to buy new phones and finance them over 2 years. Well but even that was ok, because we could sell our current phones, two of which were almost new, and the third was still worth $200 on swappa. I talked to my family about it, and of course the kids were 110 percent in favor. We were on a fairly long weekend trip and my son started browsing Verizon’s offerings, and he discovered that included with this deal, was a promotion on the Moto Z Play, which ended up being free. That’s right, we had to buy new phones but the monthly cost of the phones was credited back to the account, making them effectively free, and they were Moto Z Plays which are awesome phones. It had became a no-brainer.

We drove home on a Sunday night and at the end of the 8-hour drive, we stopped at the Verizon store and did the deed. My wife remains on her Verizon plan, we all joined it, and we have the 4 lines / $40 per line deal, and we have 3 new Moto Z Plays. The deal was so good we decided to buy an extra phone and line for an older family member and give him the phone for Christmas. (We had been paying for his RW line, and he had been using one of our hand-me-down phones. That phone was getting long in the tooth (and short in the battery) and he was making noises about wanting a new one, which meant he would soon be on the $20 3.0 plan. We could add him to our Verizon plan for the same $20/month, and in the process get an extra 2 GB/month to share, and of course the free Moto Z play.) The 20GB of data “rolls over” for a month, so if you only use part of it you eventually have 20GB “in the bank” in case you have a “bad month” and need 40 GB. And, if you manage to use up all that data, your data drops to 128k bps, so it’s slow but it’s still there, and it doesn’t cost any extra. Oh and the kicker? They casually mentioned that with each new phone “purchased” (in quotes because they are free anyway), we got a $50 Starbucks card. (So $200 in Starbucks cash, which should last my wife at least a couple weeks, LOL). And, you can watch NFL network anywhere without using your data (and NBA too) … neither of which interest me but I thought I’d include them here for completeness. Oh and they also have wifi calling, which works pretty well, although it doesn’t handover as far as I know, and I don’t know if texting also works over wifi.

We are now in the process of porting our numbers out.

My situation is of course not the same as everyon else’s. What makes mine particularly suited to this Verizon deal is the fact that I have a family of four (actually 5) and my wife never moved from Verizon. Having to pay for one Verizon line, means that even though the four RW lines are cheaper (but getting more and more expensive lately due to 3.0 and increased data usage), our total bill was approaching the magic $160 level. Now we are at the $160 fixed price, or actually $180 if you include the extra family member (yes there are fees and taxes and what-not) but we have lots of data to use, we have coverage galore, and all the short codes and goofy little things work. And I am once again, a hero … or at least, no longer a jerk.

I love the Republic Community and I wish everyone well. I think the company has great potential, but only if they remain committed to engineering innovation. They must fix all the “little” things, and they must support and maintain their product, better than they have been. For example, the biggest innovation that they have come up with (other than the original wifi call offloading) was the Bonded Calling. But that turned into an albatross, as it didn’t actually work, and it made the wifi calling not work right anymore (at my house and at thousands of other places, I’m sure). But they seemed to ignore this for many months, until one day they admitted that they had been finally able to duplicate the problem in-house. Really? This was the one thing still separating Republic from all the other carriers; this was their bread-and-butter technology that was how they distinguished themselves, and they broke it and couldn’t fix it for half a year? Then, six weeks later, I guess they’ve now finally released the fix, but only in one direction. I’m sorry, you have to do better than that. You’ve got to not only fix stuff right away, but you’ve got to also have ongoing engineering, and be working on enhancements and improvements to give people better quality service than all the other MVNO’s out there. You can’t tease people saying you are developing a multi-device experience, and then abandon the subject for a year and a half and counting. If I were single, I’d stay on RW and ignore all the quirks, because the engineer in me would be having fun with the technological aspect and life on the edge. But, I’m not, so I am leaving.

Anyway I’ll check back from time to time and see how it is going. Thanks, Republic, for making me the hero for a little while back then, and for helping me understand that it’s not about just me; sometimes I have to choose based on the needs of the many, rather than the few … or the one.

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@matthewc

Wow! Thought Rolandh or Bitflung wrote that! In RW’s defense, things are about to break open SOON. When have you heard that? I am waiting to see how the Sprint 3.0 goes. Then again I really don’t have problems with the Legacy phones or if I do it’s minimal and also rare lately. RW has saved me thousands of dollars coming up on 4 yrs now. I am a die hard sadomasochist I guess, Just pile on the abuse, I can take the pain. I have overcome the jeers and ridicule , the email jokes, laughing texts that I missed something days ago. I don’t care because God (not seriously a religious rant) won’t pile on what I can’t take.

Matthewc, RW is like a old car or a old friend to me (my cars & trucks are old friends) I just keep them around to see what fails or falls off next being smack dab in the middle of the rust belt & a gigantic salt mine miles under Lake Erie. I keep spending monthly service fees with RW to see what happens next. The Next Big Thing!

"Wifi Space... The final frontier...  These are the voyages of the Starship RW. Its continuing mission:
To explore & approve strange new devices... To seek out the cutting edge technology;
 & the newest alternatives for all civilizations ...
To boldly go where no one MVNO has gone before!"

         I know it's corny but I had to go there. Matthewc I think everyone can understand your personal dilemma & whats
best for you and your family.
Good luck And Godspeed (John Glenn remembrance)
   
***                                 ~~ßocephous™***
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Interesting title, as I’ve been watching the Star Trek HD marathon on BBC America. My story is similar, my solution was a bit different. I still have one phone on RW for the mother in-law. Thanks for all the entertaining and helpful posts.

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Group/family pricing has always been a hole in RW’s plan.

Your history demonstrates an erosion of RW’s edge over the big guys. Imagine if, moving on from the beta days, RW could have just fixed the things that didn’t work while keeping the good stuff like full access to both Sprint and Verizon.

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I didn’t come here to save money, but at the time Tracfone didn’t offer smartphone plans. So I came here.

They said that 2016 would bring changes that would knock my socks off. But all I’ve seen is a big Ho Hum to a bit of disappointment.

Republic has always been a niche player in the cell phone business, and I certainly understand why the other carriers are getting more attractive. We can thank Republic and TMobile for pushing Verizon to lower their cost of service to the point they are now make financial sense to you and your family.

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@matthewc

Very sorry to see you leave … you have certainly been a valued part of the ‘community family’ and you will be sorely missed

Your family hopefully has gained a wee bit of tolerance and understanding of being on the leading edge of technology (or anything for that matter) that will help you regain your stature with them as ’ Head Geek in charge’ and possibly help them in their future.

Live well … here is an honorary Community Ambassador badge for you

Ben

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So long @matthewc I’m going to miss you. You have contributed a lot to the Community and I very much appreciated your ‘telling it like it is.’ Once you family has a few months experience with Verizon please come back and tell us whether or not they’ve run into any redials, latency, echo, dropped calls, etc. and how their WiFi calling works.

Are they again letting you sleep in the house and eat at table with them?.

Bill

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Not until all the porting is done

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Your moving on its just another sign that republic needs to find a niche that will draw in new and keep current customers, they are no longer be just a cheap MVNO, and the the WiFi first is not drawing or keeping anyone when it can be buggy [non technical people just want it to work every where] with out data roaming and dealing with the weaker subnetworks it doesn’t just work and sometimes one needs/wants data

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Matt,

I am sure that you will be missed by many, both for your incisive commentary and also for your many other contributions.

Each one of us has a story as to how and why we ended up at Republic. I too had Verizon before I migrated to Republic, though I had a short detour through Straight Talk. I was with Verizon, because they had a plan that offered free roaming in Canada, which was important to me. It was a plan that they discontinued, but people on the plan were allowed to continue with it. However, in 2010, I really needed a less expensive carrier, and came across Republic. However, I was late for the initial beta, but I signed up for the waves. It was in this interim period that I migrated to Straight Talk. Republic was a much better fit for me, at that time, because Canadian roaming was still allowed (no more sadly)

To me, the ability to have my phone operate internationally is important. To some extent, calling over WiFi accomplishes that. At the moment, I do have the capability to wait and see what RW comes up with. For me, the move the the 3.0 plans was disappointing at best. I like you was so hoping that RW would have a project FI type solution coupled with 2.0 type plans. I am hoping that something like that still happens. International travelling is still remains an outstanding issue.

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Hi @matthewc

I am sad to see you go as well. I have always enjoyed your contributions to the community and your often humorous, no-nonsense style.

I believe we all understand that it is important to do what is best for you and your family, and while I am sorry to see you go, I am happy to hear you have found something that works better for you… and may help elevate you back to “hero” status.

Happy Trails, .

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Not happy about your leaving, but appreciate the thoughtful review of your family’s experience (as well as your long history of contributing here).

Best of luck with your new carrier (sounds like you got an exceptional deal!); perhaps we’ll see you back here again after the cell carrier landscape goes through yet another sea change!

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Anything is possible. After two years I may be ‘shopping’ again. Thanks for the kind words.

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Just a follow-up / further information. Verizon’s wifi calling does indeed include texting, and it uses encryption for voice security on calls (something that is important to me). Also it reportedly does ‘handover’ as well between cell and wifi, although with a noticeable pause (I haven’t been able to test that since it’s very hard to find a place around here with low enough Verizon signal). Republic has a clear technological edge when it comes to the handing-over, but lags in the security.

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And so the exodus begins.

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May the competitiveness follow.

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So, when does the book come out? :slight_smile:

I suspect a few of us have similar stories to tell. I remember my first cell phone (the cheapest thing Walmart sold at the time and the cheap service that came with it).

It was a pretty bad experience. But around the 3rd cell phone and the 3rd carrier the experience, though still not perfect, was good enough that I decided to get rid of my landline. Several people warned me that this was a mistake (including people who had gotten rid of their own landline without even knowing it by getting “telephone service” from their cable company).

In case you haven’t noticed, landlines are quickly becoming a niche market. Earthlink and Windstream are merging because so few people are still using dial-up Internet for them to be profitable (both companies have attempted to diversify with mixed results). Yet there are still people and places not well served by cable companies, cellular towers and the alternative to dial-up Internet are both restrictive and expensive. Companies like Google say “we’re going to fix that!” and then two years later they lose interest.

One technology that is growing rather than shrinking is cellular technology. While nothing has changed about old phone technology in many years (hence the name POTS for Plain OLD Telephone Service) things are changing almost daily with cellular technology (or other wireless technologies). The result is that no one company can possibly keep up with it all. As each company invests millions, or billions of dollars in some new bit of science, another company is getting ready to leap-frog that with something that hasn’t been totally proven out yet. CDMA, GSM, Internet telephony, small cell techniques, WiFi from balloons/drones/gliders and then the gradual (somewhat) merging of these things into some (hopefully) cohesive service is happening all around us.

I would have never thought it possible that a company with some of the deepest pockets in the world (Google) could fail to produce a killer phone service that would please everyone. But they did. Project Fi was a disaster for me and if it had been any other company but Google I would have bailed out of in in a few months (or less). Instead I stuck with it for about two years during which almost no technical advances took place. The problems I had on day one, were the same problems I (and many other users) had on day-last.

One thing I can say though is that there is never a good (IMHO) reason to sign a two year contract with any service. My last dealing with one of the major cellular companies was with AT&T but even then I did not sign up for a two year contract because I know that nobody is going to “give” you a phone free and clear. At least not yet.

Eventually the list of things people want their phones to do will all be standard (even a barometer!) The prices of those devices will come down the costs of the cellular infrastructure will continue to fall to the point where some company such as Amazon, Facebook, maybe even Google will give you not only a phone but service to go with it in exchange for buying their products, clicking their ads, and letting them track you both physically and digitally. As time passes and a generation of people as well, we grow less and less worried about our privacy, convinced as we are that we never had much of it in the first place.

While all that plays out there will not be any single device or service that is right for everyone. Whether it is price, features, coverage, customer support, number portability (a congressional pipe dream) or any of a hundred other sticking points, there will always be something that looks a little bit better, just over the hill there.

One of the best, if not the best features that will become standard (I think) is the month to month plan. Any company that feels they need to lock you into a long term contract is a company that aspires to be like the monopoly phone company of old. With a little bit of luck there will never be such a thing again.

That, and the fact that Verizon phone (both landline and cellular) service totally sucks where I live will likely result in my never using them again. How forward-thinking can a company be that buys the remains of AOL and Yahoo?

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Hey some good points in here @macb … you seem to like to write like I do! Just want to clarify something though … the deal I got with Verizon is not a 2-year contract. The deal to purchase the phones is a two-year time-payment plan, which works out to $17 per month (for each phone). As long as the line associated with the phone remains on Verizon, they credit you back each $17 payment to your monthly bill. So it works like a two-year contract, kinda, but I can leave any time and just pay the remaining payments on the phone. $17 times 24 payments is $408 which is the going price for the phone anyway. I was ready to jump on the Verizon deal at $40/line anyway, just using our current phones … so if they want to let me buy a phone and credit me back so that if I stay 2 years the phone is free, I’m all for it. If I don’t stay 2 years I just turn around and sell the phones.

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Indeed I do like to write! Many days I can only make a quick comment on something due to time pressures. But today was relatively free for me. I think writing helps you organize your thoughts about things and the idea of keeping a diary that no one would ever read never appealed to me. The Internet gives us plenty of outlets for such things and it’s nice to get feedback (pro or con) about what you write.

Thanks for the clarification about the Verizon deal. Maybe the back of the 2-year plan thinking has been finally broken.

Of course RW moving to unlocked phones has been a part of that too. Although the RW service is a good fit for me currently, the Nexus 5x I got to run it is still a viable phone for a while and I can take it to another carrier (for the most part) a any time. I’ve already seen reports of the new Pixel phones spontaneously cracking (on the Project Fi forum no less), so I am in no hurry to get one of those.

I do hope your plan works out for you and look forward to updates on how it is going.

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You may want to add your voice to RW and let them know that you would like to move your Nexus 5X over here

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