The phone we're all smitten with is now available on one of the cheapest carriers in the United States — but how well does Republic Wireless' 'hybrid calling' actually work?
What’s left to say about the Moto G? When we first met the Moto X’s little brother back in November, we raved about its solid spec sheet, gorgeous design and eye-popping price tag — the budget entry in Moto’s lineup was a refreshing look at just how few corners need to be cut to make a sub-$200 smartphone.
Six months later, we’re just as impressed as ever. The Moto G still feels like one of the best choices out there for smartphone buyers on a budget, and for those who refuse to pay for another contract-subsidized device. But now, unlike six months ago, it’s readily available – the unlocked version available on Motorola.com works on AT&T, T-Mobile, and a plethora of GSM carriers overseas, while CDMA versions have popped up at regional carriers across the country, even making it’s way to Verizon’s prepaid shelves. There’s really never been a simpler time to get your hands on a quality, affordable smartphone.
Here, we’ll look at the Moto G on Republic Wireless, the North Carolina-based carrier that combines Wifi coverage and Sprint’s 3G network to create what it calls its “hybrid calling” system. Republic Wireless is now available in nine out of 10 of the United States' major metros, with plans starting at $5 per month and topping out at just $40 per month. Combined with the $179 Moto G, Republic Wireless customers are looking at extreme savings compared to the major carriers, without having to make sacrifices in terms of hardware. But how sustainable is the model?
Inside this review: Hardware recap | Republic Wireless review | Bottom line
Back in November Alex dived deep into the Moto G and put its spec sheet to the test. After using the device for a few weeks, I can echo his sentiments: the Moto G performs remarkably well with its Snapdragon 400 processor, 1 GB of RAM and stock version of Android 4.4. KitKat. Its 4.5-inch 720p display is surprisingly gorgeous, and its sturdy build quality makes it a pleasure to hold in hand.
On any network, Moto G still is just about the best 'budget' smartphone out there.
If it’s been said once, it’s been said a million times: the Moto G is the closest a budget smartphone has ever come to crossing the line into mid-to-high range territory. It’s nearly impossible to tell you’re using a $179 device, which is not only a testament to Motorola’s impeccable build quality, but also to just how far Android devices have come in the past year.
No, not everything’s perfect. The processor isn’t going to satisfy hardcore gamers, and the lack of LTE (yes, Republic Wireless’ model is the LTE-free version) is hard to adjust to. And those smitten with the Moto X’s voice recognition and motion gestures are going to miss them on the G. But all told, these are relatively small sacrifices for a lower price point.
Launched on Republic Wireless last month, the Moto G is the second best phone you can buy on the carrier today, just behind it’s slightly more expensive (and slightly more powerful) sibling, the Moto X. There’s something to be said about the lack of choices on Republic Wireless – it lets the carrier focus on quality devices while keeping prices low.
It's not just pricing — with its Wifi-only route, Republic really is doing things differently.
Republic Wireless is more readily available than it has ever been, with a fairly extensive coverage map in most of the country’s most populated metros. Here in New York City, it joins the likes of Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Straight Talk as the low cost alternatives of choice to the big names like Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. These carriers are geared toward those on a tight budget, and they’re becoming more and more reliable every day thanks to the big-name carrier bandwidth on which they operate.
But unlike its fellow low-cost carriers, Republic Wireless is shifting away from the reliance on other’s airwaves and focusing on what it calls a “hybrid calling” model. In short, Republic Wireless devices are trained to seek out and join public Wi-Fi networks whenever possible – this limits reliance on cell coverage, which in turn reduces how much data you consume and pay for. When there is no Wi-Fi available, or when Wi-Fi coverage is too weak to be relied on, your Moto G will automatically fall back to Sprint’s 3G network.
Real world usage with the Moto G here in Manhattan produced mixed results. In midtown I found myself joining and falling off of Wi-Fi networks on just about every block. This would have been great if I had been stationary, but most of the time I was on the move, making the entire process frivolous and at times frustrating. And as a result, I spent a lot of time on Sprint’s 3G network, which is notoriously slow and unreliable. In short, the set up is ideal for folks who spends a large portion of their time in a Wi-Fi-covered spot; for those constantly on the move or using their device while commuting and traveling, the setup becomes more of a hassle it’s worth.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, well, better – when connected to a strong Wi-Fi network, your Moto G will use it data, texts and even VoIP phone calls, which sounds significantly louder and clearer than they would on a poor network signal. And if you’re confident in being always within reach of a reliable Wi-Fi network, in theory, you could get away paying only $5/month for unlimited VoIP calls, texts and data (the option to fall back on Sprint’s networks start at $10/month for unlimited talk and text).
The Moto G on Republic Wireless is a stellar device on a flawed but evolving network. $179 will get you a powerful stock Android experience in body that’s as well built as anything Motorola has ever developed; as little as $5/month, and up to $25/month, will get you unlimited VoIP calls, texts, data, and unlimited access to Sprint’s network.
For those looking for a ultra low cost option, this one is hard to beat. You will not, and I repeat NOT, find a more reliable and powerful phone at this price point. You will also be hard pressed to find a more affordable option for data, talk and text. You'll sacrifice true 4G speeds, which is a bit of a drag, especially since you're bogged down in Sprint’s dark, scary 3G zone, but the ability to utilize just about any open Wi-Fi network for VoIP services make up for it in the long haul.
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