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.

republic wireless moto x
Republic Wireless

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.

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18 replies on “No, you can’t use a the $299 Republic Wireless Moto X on Sprint”

  1. I signed up with republic services and want to stop there service because it is so difficult to reach a person to talk to. Yes the moto x is nice but I understand that I have to return it . Will they cancel my service when they get the phone back?

  2. was linked to this article recently and noticed some misinformation: “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 pectrum, and the phone is ESN locked to that spectrum”

    this is patently false.

    RW’s phones (including the moto x a year ago when this article was written) are not “ESN locked” to some subset of Sprint’s spectrum.

    The closest to “valid” this claim comes is to note that the RW and Sprint Moto X (1st gen) phones only support 1 of Sprint’s LTE bands (B25). that’s not unique to RW’s variant though (it matches Sprint’s variant precisely).

    As folks seem to continue to be confused about this and are referring to this article as “evidence” that RW’s moto X is somehow special (in a negative way) I felt the need to post this corrective comment.

  3. I made a great decision to switch from T-mobile to RP. Recieved the phone within a week and phone work pretty good. Porting number took less than 24 hours. It kinda lag in beginning with MMS but it work flawless since then. I specially love wifi-feature. It automatically connect to cell right after wi-fi not available. So if u want to sign up, use this referral link to save $19

  4. Hi Brad,

    Is there a source for the ESN lock? I feel like that should be on the RW website – well, I they they might be burying this information and I’d like to be able to prove it I guess.

      1. the ESN lock is misinformation (this is different than a locked bootloader/recovery)
        RW’s moto X uses the exact same spectrum as Sprint’s moto X (the article claims some mystical ESN lock confines it to a subset of Sprint’s spectrum).

  5. You guys are forgetting that switching carriers is not something that has been common with CDMA anyway. Try taking a verizon phone to sprint, wont happen.

  6. >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.

    The Sprint variant of the Moto X has AT&T/T-Mobile (in metro areas) HSPA+ compatibility (though no compatible LTE). I wonder if there’s anybody enterprising enough to figure out how to get one of these to work on AT&T/T-Mobile…

    1. it has been done (i recall reading about it in XDA) but why bother?
      the RW moto X carries a higher resale value than other moto X’s do… sell it and buy an identical replacement, even after shipping it looks like I’d end up with $50+ in my pocket doing so to switch to AT&T or T-Mobile.

  7. Why would you bother using sprint when republic uses their network and charges less for it? Im a current republic user – the service has been nothing but stellar in and around the Boston area.

  8. Wow, the U.S. telco world is strange. Here in ‘the rest of the world’, we use common frequency bands and most countries ban total locks (they allow locks with a reasonable unlock fee).

    1. Because America is run by monopolies and corporations not common sense. In the movie “Killing Them Softly” Brad Pitt’s character at the end of the movie has a wonderful line. He says “America’s not a country it’s just a business. Now f’ing pay me!” Pretty much sums it up.

  9. Thanks for this update, Brad – I was just thinking that yesterday: “I wonder if this Moto X can be rooted, wiped, and used on another network?” You answered it for me. This is a huge drawback to Republic Wireless. One of the things that helps defray the costs of a new smartphone (particularly when you spend a lot of $$ to buy it off contract) is the knowledge that you can help recoup at least some of those costs later by selling it through eBay or Swappa. Since you would presumably only be able to sell this Moto X back to other Republic Wireless customers (and even that seems dubious here), your ability to recoup some of the cost of the phone in the future depends on whether you’re willing to bet that there will be more Republic Wireless customers willing to buy it from you. We all know that Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mo will likely be around in 4-5 years, so buying an on-contract phone from them carries less of this kind of risk. Republic Wireless, though?? Not so sure. So, it seems almost counter-intuitive, but if someone is interested in Republic Wireless, I would urge them to buy the Defy XT rather than the Moto X – less upfront $$ risk, and if you like it, you can always upgrade. But, if you hate Republic Wireless and you start with a Moto X, you may be stuck with a big bill and a phone you can’t resell. I’d love to be wrong on this, but that’s what it looks like to me.

    1. True for the most part… but theoretically you could spend as little as $420 over the course of a 2-year contract with a Republic Wireless phone, which is ridiculously cheap and makes the idea of having to recoup your costs pretty unimportant. Worst case scenario: you’ve basically got an Android version of an iPod touch which you can use around the house.

      More realistically, most customers would probably opt for at least the $25/month plan — but even that comes out to just $900 over two years for the phone + contract which is the best deal around.

      That’s all assuming you’re happy with the service for 2 years, of course…

      I can’t fault Republic Wireless for their pricing. But yeah, I’d be a bit reluctant to be one of the first customers to try this out without waiting for reviews from others.

      1. You’re right, the 2-year costs work out to be pretty good. I guess I was focusing on that last big “if” – whether you are happy with Republic Wireless’ service enough to stick with it for 2 years. That’s my real hesitation here. By contrast, if you spent $300 on an aftermarket phone, you could get one with great specs (comparable or better to the Moto X, though used of course) and activate it on an MVNO like Straight Talk or Page Plus for around $25-30/month without a contract, and then cut it loose whenever you like and resell the phone for a minimal financial loss. I guess my point was that it would be potentially challenging to do that on Republic Wireless. Yes, you’d have a nice Android media player at the end, but then assuming you want to continue to have a cell phone, you’d pay full price again for another phone after you’re done with Republic Wireless.

        1. I’m also a current Republic Wireless customer. And let me tell you, the service is HORRENDOUS!! I could practically write a book on what is wrong with this wanna-be phone company – or you can visit RW’s forums and see the tons of complaints there. No MMS. No actual customer service (public forums where everybody piles into to ask and plead for help is in no way customer service by my standards). Poor call quality with calls dropping, echoing, pings. And a whole helluva lot more. My advice…pass on Republic Wireless! Their new pricing schemes are not much better than the many other MVNO’s that are vying for our business. Go with an unlocked GSM phone and take it with you to an MVNO that will give you the best price for your needs. Reviews and RW fanboys gloss over this fact, but RW is actually RAISING prices on their current 3G service. So much for David Morken’s claim that prices for his company would go down the more wifi people use.

          @Wes – I’m glad it’s working for you but let’s not being using review sites and comment sections to recruit new members for RW so you can be rewarded with a $19 credit for each one you bring in. (Brad Linder, can you remove that post that is spamming for customers? Thanks)

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