Hoping that you could pick up a Moto X smartphone from Republic Wireless for $299 in November and then use it on a different wireless network? You’re out of luck.
While Republic Wireless is offering the best deal on a contract-free Moto X around, the company says the phone will only work on its network. And even though Republic Wireless operates on the wireless spectrum provided by Sprint, you won’t be able to easily unlock the device and simply use it on Sprint’s network… or anyone else’s.
For the most part, the Republic Wireless version of the Moto X will be just like the phone you can buy to use on any other network. It’ll ship with Android Jelly Bean, feature the same 4.7 inch, 1280 x 720 pixel display and 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. And it’ll feature access to the Google Play Store and other Google apps.
But the phone will also feature Republic Wireless software designed to use the company’s unusual network. When you’re connected to WiFi, it’ll route phone calls and text messages over WiFi in order to keep costs down. That’s how the company can afford to offer unlimited plans starting as low as $5 per month (for WiFi-only), or $10 per month if you actually want to use your phone while you’re out of the house.
The good news is that Republic Wireless says it’s come up with a solution to a problem that plagued earlier phones on its network: When you’re on a WiFi call and move out of range of your wireless signal, the call won’t cut off and initiate a new call over a cellular network. Instead, the call will automatically transition from WiFi to cellular and neither you nor the person you’re talking to should notice the difference.
The bad news (for bargain-hunters hoping to just score a cheap Moto X) is that it’s not just the Republic Wireless software running on the phone that’ll keep you from using it on other networks. Republic Wireless uses a specific portion of Sprint’s spectrum, and the phone is ESN locked to that spectrum.
If you were to successfully root the phone and/or replace the Republic Wireless firmware with different software, you still wouldn’t be able to use the phone with Sprint or Verizon, because the phone’s hardware isn’t set up to work on those networks.
Still, with WiFi-only plans at $5 per month, WiFi + cellular talk and text for $10, and unlimited 3G for $25 or 4G for $40, Republic Wireless has some of the best carrier pricing around. Now they also happen to have the best contract-free price for the Moto X. If you’re bargain-hunting for a phone to use on a different network, you won’t find it here. But if you’re just bargain hunting, you could probably do worse.
Update: As you might expect, if you do manage to unlock your Republic Wireless Moto X bootloader without bricking the phone and plan to install a custom ROM, you’ll lose access to the Republic Wireless service. You need the company’s software in order to handle the combo WiFi/cellular network services. And Republic Wireless will be responsible for rolling out over-the-air updates for the phone.