$20 Unlimited: Republic Wireless & Moto DEFY XT

Intro, Service, and the Handset

When something sounds too good to be true, we’re as skeptical as anyone, which is why we raised an eyebrow at Republic Wireless last year when the company pledged to offer unlimited mobile service--that’s unlimited talk, text, and data, mind you--for just $19 a month, without any contracts. Compare that number to current wireless offerings and Republic Wireless' proposed $19 plan seems like a total impossibility.

However, Republic Wireless held to its promise, announcing two large-scale rounds of beta testing last year and finally offering its absurdly low-priced plans to all late last fall.

Motorola DEFY XT

The Service
Republic Wireless pulls off this feat by leveraging WiFi; whenever your phone is connected to a hotspot (i.e., your home or work networks), it will make calls and surf the Web via WiFi instead of using more expensive 3G networks. When it’s not connected via WiFi, it will fall back on Sprint’s mobile network.

That approach makes a lot of sense. Most of us spend quite a bit of time near a secure WiFi network at home or at work, so why not use it automatically, even for phone calls? And to bridge the gap more smoothly, Republic Wireless easily and smoothly switches between WiFi and 3G networks by adding WiFi Hybrid Calling Technology to its handset, the Motorola DEFY XT.

The Handset
Ah yes, the “handset”--singular, not plural. This is the only catch to Republic Wireless’ service: Users are limited to just a single phone option, and because there’s no service contract with Republic Wireless, there’s no discount on the Motorola DEFY XT. The phone isn't cheap, either; it will run you $249 in addition to a $10 startup fee.

That means no iPhones, Samsung Galaxies, HTC Ones, or Nokia Windows Phones. For some people, that tradeoff is a deal breaker, but for others, the Motorola DEFY XT may not be a bad option.

Operating System:

Keyboard/Form Factor:
Special Features:


Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
1GHz single-core Snapdragon S1
1GB (up to 32GB with microSD), 512MB RAM
CDMA 1900, 800, 1X/EV-DO Release A
Bluetooth 3.0
WiFi (802.11b/g/n)
5MP autofocus w/flash (rear), 0.3MP (front)
Virtual QWERTY
3.7-inch (480x854) FWVGA Corning Gorilla Glass
micro USB (charging and data), 3.5mm headphone
SWYPE predictive text, voice recording, MotoSwitch UI 2.0, FM Radio,
       dust-proof and water resistant, gravity ambient and proximity sensors, GPS
1650MAh, up to 9.5 hours
115 x 58.5 x 11.95mm

This is a midrange phone running an older version of Android with a single core processor, a small amount of RAM, and limited onboard storage--in other words, by today's standards, the DEFY XT is a starter smartphone. However, the DEFY XT is a rugged device, which is a big plus; it’s water- and dust-resistant, and the back of the phone has a rubberized grip to help users avoid dropping it. The MotoSwitch UI allows you to switch the phone back and forth between work and personal modes to keep your work and personal life separate, and the DEFY XT has FM radio capabilities, too.


Of course, users have access to the Google Play Store, but Republic Wireless preloads the device with plenty of apps. There are the usual suspects such as Gmail, a calendar, phone, email, YouTube, a Web browser, a notepad, a calculator, camera, and image gallery, but we counted nearly four dozen preloaded apps (including setup and settings-type apps). Republic Wireless included everything from a simple flashlight app to QuickOffice.

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