$20 Unlimited: Republic Wireless & Moto DEFY XT

Testing and Final Thoughts

We wanted to look at both the service and the hardware to get as clear a picture as possible of the value that Republic Wireless is offering. To start things off, we put the DEFY XT through a couple of benchmark tests to see what the hardware is capable of. Bear in mind that we compared this phone to older handsets sporting similar specs; newer phones will blow most of these scores out of the water.

As you can see, performance is mostly middling, although the battery life is excellent. Note that we usually run the battery test on mobile phones with WiFi turned off, but in this case that doesn’t make any sense because the DEFY XT relies on WiFi for calls and general connectivity, so that score is all the more impressive.

We were curious if we’d be able to detect a difference in call quality when talking over WiFi versus out and about on Sprint’s network, and in fact, we could not. That said, we found that there was a noticeable, but slight amount of crackling on all calls, no matter when or where we chatted. Otherwise, the call quality was clear with solid audibility.

Final Thoughts
As you might expect, the Motorola DEFY XT’s hardware performance isn’t anything to get too excited about, but then again nobody is claiming that this is anything but a midrange phone. And for as much as I love having a larger display on my phone, there’s something to be said for toting around a device with a smaller footprint. The DEFY XT t’s so small that you forget that it’s in your pocket. The ruggedized features of the device are a plus, too.

In terms of usability, we didn’t find that making calls over WiFi was an issue at all, and in any case, handsets jump connections between towers and networks (eg, 3G to 2G) all the time, so the WiFi-to-cell tower handoff isn’t a big deal. And even if the WiFi is acting screwy, you can just disable the WiFi calling and fall back on the Sprint network anyway.

It hurts a bit to imagine forking over $249 for this phone, but the unreal savings you can get from paying so little per month makes up for the initial sticker shock. Consider this: If you pay $75 per month for an individual “unlimited” phone plan and get the phone free with a 2-year contract, you’ll be paying about $1,800 for 24 months of service; if you roll with Republic Wireless, you’d be paying for the phone and $19 per month, which works out to $705 for the same time period. That’s a savings of nearly $1,100. Spread out over two years, that’s actually more than $45 per month back in your pocket.

Republic Wireless recently unveiled a plan that reduces the initial cost of the handset and ups the monthly fee somewhat, so you can get a DEFY XT for $99 and pay $29 per month instead of $19. (Over two years, that works out to $795.)

The company says that there are plans in the works to add more phones to the service at both higher and lower tiers, so those hoping for a better phone and those more interested in less expensive options will both be pleased. That said, Republic Wireless was mum on exactly which phones those might be and when they might be available.

If you’re as particular about your phone as most of us are around here, this service and its lone handset option may not be for you. But make no mistake, Republic Wireless is for real, and it offers an excellent value. In other words, it’s not too good to be true.

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