Why are some phone variants not compatible?

Unfortunately, this may be the end of my time at Republic. I’ve been a member for about 7 years now I think, and for the most part enjoyed the experience, but the compatibility restrictions have pushed me to try a different service provider.

Out of curiosity, what makes one variant of a phone compatible with Republic as opposed to another? I understand there’s a blanket statement that branded versions are never compatible, but I’m not sure what the reasoning behind that is.
Is it the supported bands or something else readily apparent about the device, some other technical feature, or does Republic do some incredibly specific software development unique to each device they choose to support?

In my particular situation, the new phone I purchased is sold as a T Mobile version, but is immediately unlockable and can be used with other MVNOs that use the T Mobile network. Is there potentially something actually different about the hardware, or is it a software or firmware issue?
Would flashing the international standard firmware resolve the issue if it were the last case?

Hi @josephk.gbpxsp and welcome to the Community!

Sometimes there are hardware differences among variants of what would otherwise be the same model phone. For example, Samsung often uses its own Exynos processors in Galaxy S series phones intended for use outside the U.S. while using Qualcomm Snapdragon processors for Galaxy S series phones intended for use in the U.S. Additionally, phones intended for use outside the U.S. (a/k/a international variants) will indeed sometimes lack one or more cellular radio frequencies (a/k/a bands) used in the U.S. The reverse is also true.

The above said, the issue with Republic compatibility generally is a matter of the phone’s firmware. Unlike most mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), Republic doesn’t merely rely on the cellular network infrastructure of its network partners. Republic blends the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) network of its former corporate parent Bandwidth.com with one of two cellular network partners. VoIP is the technology powering the WiFi portion of Republic’s blended service.

This blending of disparate networks (one VoIP, one cellular) is managed by Republic’s required mobile app. Republic’s app, in turn, relies on certain application programming interfaces (APIs) being present in a supported phone’s firmware. Generally, firmware on phones intended for use with a specific carrier(s) (a/k/a branded phones) lack the APIs needed by Republic’s app.

This is the reason behind Republic supporting only carrier agnostic U.S. factory unlocked variants. While phones that didn’t leave the factory in an unlocked state may indeed be unlocked by the carrier(s) it was branded for, that is not the same as a factory unlocked phone. An after-the-fact carrier unlock does not in and of itself change the firmware on a phone.

In theory, if one is able to access it and has the skills required to do so, one might manually flash the U.S. (not international) factory unlocked firmware to the phone. Manually flashing a phone has risks. If one doesn’t pay attention to detail, one might end up bricking the phone. In any event, while one has every right to assume that risk, one should not expect Republic to assist if something goes wrong. Nor, should one expect Republic to assist in making a manually flashed phone work on its blended network if for some reason it doesn’t.

For what it’s worth, there’s some excellent advice for sourcing carrier agnostic U.S. factory unlocked Republic compatible phones here in the Community: How to Find a Compatible Unlocked Phone.

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Thanks a bunch for the comprehensive answer. It definitely makes a lot more sense that it’s primarily a firmware issue. I may do a bit more research regarding the firmware flashing… I see you noted the need for the U.S. version of the firmware and not the international version. In my case, I think the two are the same if I remember correctly, but I assume the gist of it is I would need whatever the normal firmware is that would come shipped on the unlocked version of the device if purchased in the U.S.
I appreciate that there are many risks and rewards associated with manually flashing firmware, and it is very understandable that route wouldn’t be suggested to the average user or officially endorsed by Republic, but is there anything explicitly forbidding that practice?
It may be something I consider down the line.
At this point I’m thinking that I’ll try another carrier for a couple of months and see if I love it or hate it…
I’ve been with Republic for so long (since the very first smartphone I’ve ever used) that I’m a little nervous about leaving, but also curious to see what it’s like on a more traditional MVNO.
Perhaps I’ll return if I decide to gamble on flashing or the next time I replace my phone.

You’re most welcome!

I suppose it may be true in the case of certain phones, however, generally U.S. factory unlocked firmware and unlocked firmware intended for use on international variants is different.

Technically, use of an unsupported phone (which a manually flashed phone would be) is a violation of Republic’s Terms of Service. That said, I’m confident Republic isn’t wasting its resources intentionally hunting down such violations. There’s always the possibility an update to Republic’s app or a phone’s flashed firmware might break something even if it initially works.

Bottom line, lack of support and won’t work aren’t always the same thing. Yet, I fully appreciate why Republic (and other companies) tend to suggest otherwise. Frankly, not everyone is willing or even understands that when doing something unsupported doesn’t work out as hoped. they and they alone bear the responsibility. Were Republic to suggest it might work anyway, many would expect Republic to “fix” it for them.


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