Relay and onward: Why we built it and what comes next


Hi everyone,

I’m Chris, the CEO and Co-Founder of Republic Wireless. If you haven’t already heard, I’m excited to share with you that Republic Wireless will soon be launching our new product, Relay, a device that gives families, a safer way to stay in touch. It’s as simple to use as a walkie-talkie, but works wherever a cell phone works, includes location tracking, and will in the upcoming months have other fun features such as music, games, and voice assistant functionality.

While that hopefully sounds relevant and intriguing to you, I’m sure some folks are wondering why we decided to build Relay. Let me explain.

Republic was born in 2011 with a mission to provide remarkably simple and affordable ways for families to stay in touch. We pursued this mission by harnessing the power of two of America’s largest cellular networks AND the largest, fastest, free network all around us: WiFi. Over the last 6.5 years, thanks to your trust in us, we’ve been able to save our hundreds of thousands of members over $500 million off their cell phone bills.

In 2014, we began to see a need emerging in our families, and in the market at large, for solutions that were safer as well as simpler. While we love the benefits smartphones bring, they’ve introduced dangers as well—especially for our children. Screen addiction, cyber-bullying, contact from strangers… all emerge or amplify the moment you give your child a smartphone. But for parents wanting to stay in touch as their children explore the world around them, what were the alternatives?

So we expanded our mission. We set out to create remarkably simple, affordable, AND safe communication solutions that would meet the needs of the whole family. We challenged ourselves to design “kid up” vs. “adult down,” and “safety first” vs. “just safe enough.” It had to be fun for kids. And be smart on the inside, but with a super-simple exterior that could survive outdoor play and not distract from it.

We questioned every convention. Do you really need phone numbers to communicate with your family? Do all calls need to be two-way, or should they be more like texts? Can we build a solution so simple that it doesn’t need a screen—and thereby eliminate screen dangers?

Nearly four years and countless iterations later, we’re proud to present Relay: built from passion, hard work, diverse talents, and the belief that we could create the missing product our own families needed. We see Relay as an excellent complement to our existing Republic Wireless services, allowing us to offer families a solution that is safer, simpler, and more affordable than smartphone service for younger children in particular. Across all of our products, Republic’s goal is to march on and grow the savings we deliver to our members from over $500 million to over $1 billion, while providing them with the best experience for families.

I want to thank you for being a part of Republic Wireless. Your enthusiasm, patience, support, and feedback have fueled and shaped who we are and what we do. Please don’t ever stop giving us feedback on ways we can better serve you. I want to hear from you, answer any questions you have moving forward, and offer you the opportunity to be the first to know when Relay is available for you and your family. Just click the link below to sign up for updates and comment below with your questions.


When will Relay be released?
Will relay be able to plug those coverage holes?
Notable Newbies: Welcome!

We’ve been with RW for many years now and always impressed with your customer service. Our kids are super excited to receive their relays once they available. Thanks for creating the relay! We will keep our eyes open for when it’s released officially :slight_smile:


Thank you for the encouragement! Relay truly comes from a very personal place and is a labor of love. My kids really enjoy the early versions they’ve tried and I hope yours will as well. Looking forward to hearing what you and your kids think of their experience.


Sounds like an interesting device. Does it come with the clips and straps or do those need to be purchased separately?


I worked at Republic for several years and I can tell you they really care about their members. Excited to see the new things this company is doing for folks - They are true to their mission! Miss everybody :slight_smile:


Huge kudos to RW for the Relay. I held out as long as I could before getting my son a smartphone. When all other kids had one in 7th grade, he did not and he wasn’t asking for one either. When he was going on a school trip out of state, it was assumed every kid had a cell phone to call their parents. When I raised the question at a meeting about the logistics with my child not having one, a teacher complimented me with a “Good for you!” that he didn’t have a phone yet! After that, though, I did get my son his smartphone, and he, of course, is glued to that now and to his gaming. I wish we’d had the Relay available back then as an option and I’m sure it will be a very successful product line. In the meantime, I love the service I’ve gotten from RW over the years. It’s been a godsend to me as a single parent on a tight budget, and I’ve saved a bundle. I tell people about Republic all the time, and I’ve watched jaws visibly drop when I tell them I pay less than $20 a month for cell service. I hope you’re around for a good long time!


Sounds like a neat device. I’m hoping that I can give a relay to my child, but then install a phone application on my smartphone instead of needing another device in my pocket. If this approach is possible, I hope that the application works on any smart phone (not just RW phones).

My wife has an RW phone, I have a work provided phone that is not RW, and I would consider getting a relay for my children if it meant that a phone app could be used on any phone for the adult-end of the conversation.

Good luck RW!


I am super excited about this. Please keep us updated!


I think this Relay product is a very bad idea. Cell phones should not be used by children. Their brains are still developing and RF emissions from cell phones have an FCC near field exposure minimum distance of about 5/6 inch away from the body, especially near your head. Your eyes are not well protected and despite all the FCC specifications none of those specs are related to a child or the elderly. This product is marketed as a “family” device. I suggest that includes children. A parents we need to protect our children as our first duty, getting this Relay product and giving it to children who will not be able to understand the near field exposure risks will be placed at risk.


You’ll get your wish. There will be a Relay app for both Android and iOS devices.


Hi heidil.02oumj! We’re glad you’re excited! You can check out the website to learn more and sign up for updates about Relay here as well:


I have five children and two are old enough for phones while the other three are quickly approaching. My wife and I are not looking forward to buying them phones simply because of all the stuff on the internet these days. Safety is a pretty big deal for us. I look forward to reading more about this idea and will certainly share this information with other concerned parents like us. The one thing I doubt about this concept is your ability (or anyone’s) to make this idea more appealing to kids than what they already have. While I can force products on my children, I can’t really make them like it. I would prefer they have nothing at all than something they won’t want to use. As I’ve said, good idea, but there is a reason nobody has tried this yet.


I’ve been with RW for a few years, and am sold on the concept and company. Very interested in Relay for different application than most. I think it will be a great thing and fit for my 92 year old father. Looking forward to finding out!


Thank you Republic for doing this! As our kids’ friends are starting to get smartphones, we’ve heard horror stories about the stuff they’ve been exposed to as very early ages. Relay looks to be an amazing solution that will both allow for parents to communicate with their kids, but to do so in a safe and reliable way. Thank you thank you thank you for thinking of a solution to this very relevant issue!!


I can’t up-vote this enough. When my children come of age, i will feel confident in relying on Relay as a means of communicating without having to give them the smartphone and all of the potentially adverse influence it can have. Keep on innovating!


Any info on costs for the product and service? My oldest is starting middle School and will be starting to walk to and from school so I would like him to have a way to contact me when in not at home but he is definitely not ready for a cell phone. I’m really excited about this option. One of my friends got the Verizon watch for her kid but I love RW so I’m glad there will soon be an option from you!


@williamb.yksa9j the Relay is not a cell phone (it a walkietalkie like device that will not be put up to one face or ear)
the concept to to use a relay as a replacement for giving a child a cell phone (smartphone) and to reduce the screen time a child has, while still being able to communicate with them and giving then the need space to grow out side of the house


the monthly cost is currently listed as $6.99 per device
they are also showing cost of the device to be $99 for 1, $149 for 2, and $199 for 3)


Hi, I’ve been a republic member since the second year. I have several phones now that use your service. Relay sounds like a good idea and I will recommend it to other family members with young kids, and perhaps I’ll get one for my grandson soon too. I would like to make one suggestion, though. For close-quarters use, or for when active cell towers are not within reach, why not have relay with a walkie-talkie only function, bypassing cell towers? Verizon actually did this with some of their regular cell phones a few years back.


The full functionality is not clear. How many phone numbers can the device be set up to call? Can it be set up to contact emergency services?

Can the device be called from any other line, or can it only be “called” through another relay device or an app?

I’d like to get my daughter one of these and let her not only contact us, but also some of her friends. However, I don’t want her texting or using the internet unsupervised. So this seems like a good device for that, but only if it can be set up to call her friends as well.