Republic Wireless Just Got Way Better

You may not have heard of Republic Wireless, but the Wi-Fi-first carrier is about to go mainstream — or at least closer to it. The low-cost provider that marries Wi-Fi calling and messaging with cellular networks is adding seven new phones to its previously limited lineup, including the Galaxy S7 and and S7 Edge, as well as the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X.

In the past, Republic has only offered a few Motorola phones with its service, including the Moto X, the Moto G and the Moto E. But because the carrier has recently been able to free its network switching technology from the ROM level of the phone up to the software layer, it's now able to offer its service to, theoretically, all phones that run Android Marshmallow.

What Is Republic Wireless?

Republic Wireless is a hybrid carrier that helps customers save money by prioritizing Wi-Fi connections over cellular whenever possible. By making use of Wi-Fi for calls and texts, Republic Wireless subscribers need a minimal amount of cellular data and thus save money on their cell bills.

Plans start at $10 for unlimited talk and text with no cellular data (but free Wi-Fi calling and messaging), while each 1GB of 4G LTE data costs an additional $15 a month (for a total of $25 monthly). Republic will return your money for data you have not used, so you pay only for bytes you've actually consumed. That's similar to what Google's Project Fi offers.

Republic is also starting to offer a $20-a-month 1GB plan with non-refundable bytes aimed at customers who want a low monthly rate.

When you're out of Wi-Fi coverage, Republic piggybacks on Sprint's 4G LTE network to continue your call. Republic will add a new GSM carrier partner soon, with all indications pointing to T-Mobile. That would make Republic Wireless nearly identical to Project Fi, which also uses both Sprint and T-Mobile's networks.

A key difference between Republic Wireless and Google Fi is that the former offers Bonded Calling, which fills in any gaps during Wi-Fi calls with available cellular data to minimize interruptions.

MORE: 5 Sneaky Ways Your Wireless Carrier Is Ripping You Off

What Phones Work With Republic Wireless?

Although all GSM Android M phones should theoretically work with Republic Wireless' service, the carrier is careful to promise compatibility only with phones it has tested. Republic Wireless will maintain a list of compatible phones, but at the moment, it's listing support for seven new phones, including:

  • Google Nexus 6P
  • Google Nexus 5X
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
  • Moto X Pure

The company will continue to test other Android M phones to ensure compatibility, with an eye toward updating its list of supported devices over time.

If you're looking for a way to cut down your monthly cellphone bill and you don't mind depending on the presence of Wi-Fi connections to keep in touch, Republic Wireless could be a solid alternative. Stay tuned for a full review of the hybrid carrier and its devices to see how it stacks up to its rivals.

Cherlynn Low

Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.