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Google Fi: Their new $20/month Worldwide Phone Service

Shot on Nexus 6 - you may start noticing nicer pictures on this blog from now on.

Shot on Nexus 6 – you may start noticing nicer pictures on this blog from now on.

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know that I have been a fan of Republic Wireless for several years now. Sneaking onto the scene in 2012, they quietly started offering a more-or-less Unlimited Everything smartphone plan for $19 per month while most of us were still forking over $50 to $100 for our service.

I joined their beta program as soon as they would let me in and I’ve been a happy customer ever since. I wrote about it more than once and thousands of this blog’s readers have become loyal customers since then. It’s almost a badge of membership, to whip out your Republic Moto X phone at a meetup of Mustachians to show you are the real deal.

Since then, the company has been upgrading technology, bringing in new phones and recently changed their plan structure to become even cheaper for the majority of users: $10 per month base price (unlimited talk and text) / with data as needed at $1.50 per 100 megabytes with no minimum charge (see Figure 1 for an example).

Republic's rate structure as of September 2015

Fig. 1: Republic’s rate structure as of September 2015

Despite the boiling competition in the US phone market (among dozens of companies known as Mobile Network Virtual Operators), the Republic setup has been a no-brainer and no other offer has tempted me to stray from my simple plan.

Until Now.

This year, rumors started circulating that Google itself was starting a phone service called Google Fi. I’m a long-time Google Fanboy and I get great life efficiency gains from their search, email, calendar, documents, photo, and map/navigation programs among others. So I had high expectations.

Although the $20 per month base price was double that of Republic Wireless, I found the specs tantalizing because the Google Phone service works virtually worldwide with no roaming charges. That is right – in 120 countries, you get seamless voice, text and data at the same price as you do in the US:

Google Fi Pricing:


• $20 per month for unlimited talk+ text
• $10 per Gigabyte ($1 per 100MB) data In Most Developed areas of the Earth
• And it includes Wi-Fi Tethering
(Update: they have now added a referral bonus system: you can use mine, or one from any of your Fi-using friends, for a $20 credit)

This sounded useful to me, since the Mustache family spends every summer in Canada, plus I end up in Central or South America at least once a year too. Longer stays in Europe, Australia and New Zealand are coming too, as my boy grows up and becomes more comfortable with the world outside our bubble. While my Republic service continues to work worldwide whenever there is Wi-fi, I have found the lack of true international cellular access to be quite limiting when planning complex adventures on the fly. When you add in tethering (the ability to broadcast my own private Internet Cafe) to allow me to work on the blog with a laptop in foreign lands or share data with friends, the appeal became even stronger.

At this point, you would be fully right to start playing your Mocking Violin of Consumer Justifications, then ask if I’d like a Bedpan and a Catheter to go along with this serving of Worldwide Data and Wi-fi tethering. It’s totally over-the top, and if I were living my true retired pre-Adm Karpinsk-life, I’d be traveling less, floating in fewer business expense account dollars, and probably not upgrading to Google Fi at this point. Especially when you find out how much the phone cost me.

The Overly Fancy Google Phones

Like Republic Wireless, Google Fi keeps costs down (and flexibility up) by using a hybrid calling system: if you are out in the wild, the phone selects between Sprint, T-mobile, or international carrier networks as needed. But if you’re connected to a reliable Wi-Fi network, it routes all your calls and text seamlessly through the Internet instead. You don’t have to know what is going on in the background, but it means the phone needs some special capabilities and software to let this happen. This means that both Republic and Fi only work on selected phones.

When I first wrote this post in September 2015, Google Fi service was available on only one phone, a massive but powerful “phablet” called the Nexus 6. Then the phone options greatly improved – there was the standard-sized Nexus 5x and the bigger Nexus 6P, both absolutely top-of-the-line and worth giving up an iPhone for.

Unfortunately, both of these were discontinued as Google moved on to the insanely pricey Pixel and Pixel 2 models. As of November 2017, the best option is a used Nexus 5x from eBay ($150 or less), or the new Motorola x4 from the Google store ($400 new, for now).

nexus_vs_moto_vs_iphone4

Nexus 6 vs. Moto X v1 vs. Antique iPhone 4 for scale, all with thin protective cases. All phones are equidistant from the camera, so the Nexus is indeed way bigger. But Look how many icons and fancy things I can fit on my homescreen now! Note that my hands are on the XL side, so it might be a two-hands phone for less lanky readers.

The original Nexus 6 was my biggest reservation about adopting the service back when the Nexus 6 was the only option, because I have some manly insecurities about public displays of technology. I like my phone functional, but minimalist and tough. My phone spends most of its days walking around in a tattered pair of construction pants experiencing heat, pressure and sawdust. In the winter it might be squeezed into some snowboard pants next to a Ziploc of almonds and sliced cheese. I drop it on concrete floors occasionally. I attempt to take selfie videos while mountain biking. And I try to take incognito photos of jam bands through the cloud of Marijuana smoke that hangs over the busy crowd of fellow revelers. None of these activities seem to pair nicely with a $350 telephone that sports a massive, bright 6″ screen with 2560×1440 resolution. I was worried that cooler men would make fun of me if I whipped out a big toy like this in public.

But in real life, it’s not so bad. My initial horror at the size of the phone upon opening the box quickly faded, and I noticed that it is definitely more useful for reading long emails, books and websites. The clarity and color of the screen is somewhat astonishing, as is the quality of photos and videos the camera can produce. It has stereo speakers that are actually good enough to get a few friends dancing in your hotel room in a pinch. It also has long life battery and a multi-mode charger that can fill the big battery much more quickly than normal, ideal for a rapid boost during a day of travel.  It’s powerful enough that I will now start leaving my laptop behind for most trips. And it still fits easily in my pocket.

With a few adjustments to daily life (I stash the phone in a backpack instead of my pocket when doing a harsh day of construction), it works fine for me after all. And for those with office jobs, it is even more compatible.

But How Much Will the Data Cost Me?

The first question I had when moving away from a plan with ‘unlimited’ data, is how much the new setup will cost in typical use. The easiest way to check was to look at my data use on the Republic plan during early August, which was a time of extensive travel for me. Both Google Fi and Republic make this really easy with their respective built-in apps:

data_usage

My Republic data use in August (left) vs. Google (right) data use over the past week. My peak month in the past year was about 320MB.

For those who use more, your optimum choice will vary because of the different rates of the two carriers.

rates_with_data

Due to Google’s cheaper data rates, they break even with Republic around the 2GB/month data usage level.

How to Cut YourData Use

data-adjustIf you find you’re using much more than me, it might be due to apps stealing some of your data in the background rather than stuff you’re actually doing yourself. If you look at Settings -> Data Usage, you’ll see a breakdown of how much data each application consumed. Then you can decide to nuke or restrict any apps that you don’t think should be using data while the phone sits in your pocket.

For example, on my phone I tapped each app in the list and found that the Chrome web browser was using some foreground data as expected, but the Engage energy monitor app was also sucking up mobile data in the background, which is not acceptable to me – I don’t need information on my home’s energy consumption while the phone is sleeping in my pocket. So checked the “restrict background data” option for that app. Facebook, YouTube, Pandora, Skype and other audio/video intense programs may consume a lot of data. At today’s data prices, you can afford to be sloppy, but if you are burning multiple gigs per month, it is worth optimizing.

Scary Data Epilogue: The day after typing that paragraph, I went to the grocery store and found the phone annoyingly trying to connect to the store’s network, so I disabled WiFi. Then I went home, made lunch, and watched a useful Ted talk and a pointless rap video on YouTube as I ate. Forgetting to re-enable WiFi first. This immediately burned 482 MB, which is equal two months of normal data consumption, or $4.82, or a pint of good beer at the new Wibby brewery. Oops! Just like money, data can easily fly out the window while delivering little or no life benefit.

So What is Adm Karpinsk’s Final Choice?

For my own life as a recovering computer nerd who also maintains this fairly active blog, the greater worldwide connectivity,  and fancier phone make it worth the extra cost of switching to Google Fi. So it’s a keeper. If you need more money in your pocket more than you need data during international travel, however, Republic is probably a wiser choice, because both the phones and plans are cheaper. For ultimate frugality, you can even buy a used Republic-compatible Moto X from ebay for under $100.

Mrs. Money Mustache, however, plans to keep her Republic Wireless service as always. She can just inherit my Moto X phone as an upgrade from her Moto G. In fact, when traveling together her phone can simply use mine as a Wi-Fi hotspot so both will continue to function internationally. We may even pass the Moto G along to Junior MM for use as a music player and camera, perhaps activating it at some point so he can keep in touch with us and with his friends as he becomes more independent. At a base price of $10 per month, getting phones to allow you to keep a leash on kids no longer seems like an exorbitant thing to do.

If you’re interested in checking out Republic Wireless plans, you can do so here.

Google Fi is still in an “invitation only” beta period, but I signed myself up at fi.google.com and got my invitation within about two weeks. The video below makes the case pretty concisely as well.

(Note: This blog is still a happy Republic affiliate and I also used Amazon affiliate links in keeping with my Affiliate Policy. Google Fi has no such program but the recommendation is still just as strong.)

So if you’re still paying $30+ for a phone of any type, get with the program!

—–

Footnotes and FAQ:

“I live in Canada (or another country).. Can I just get one of these and use it instead of my own country’s inferior phone options?”

Technically it could work. You’d need a US billing/shipping address to set up the service, but once you have it established everything is done online. However you’d have a phone number that would be billed as “international” if your friends called you, and you would still have to pay international rates to make local calls (20 cents/minute for calls from Canada to Canada, for example). See traveling rates here. SMS remains free, but data speeds may be limited to lower rates as well.

Extra Data Simsin December 2015, Google added a cool “free extra data devices” feature: they will ship you extra SIMs you can pop into compatible laptops and tablets (like the Nexus 9) to share the metered $10/GB data that comes with your plan. This could be useful for sharing the affordable data love to family members in other countries. More details here.

“How’s the Reception and Sound Quality?”

Great as far as I can tell. Still got data in some pretty remote mountain valleys, plus wi-fi calling means both of these phone options are REALLY solid even inside heavy structures with metal roofs like my house, or a basement computer lab where you might not normally get a signal. The Nexus 6 in particular has some beefy voice processing hardware (and 4 microphones!) which may be helping improve call clarity.

“How is the International Service in Practice – do you actually get reception?

Update: I took this phone to Ecuador in October 2015, and found slightly flaky but still very useful performance. Landing in Quito I saw “no service”, but rebooted the phone and it reawakened with full voice and data signal.

This signal remained usable along the winding mountain highways, and in the towns of Mindo and San Miguel de Los Bancos. However there was no reception visible at my resort.. except one time when I had full voice signal (no data) and made a few phone calls. It intuitively feels to me like a software problem rather than a cell reception (analog) problem, which means Google may be able to make it reliable with future releases. I’ll update you on the Canadian situation after my next trip there. But already, it was astounding to be able to use my phone in South America, accruing a grand total of $1.70 of data charges for my 0.17GB of use.

Google Voice Users: If you have an existing Google Voice account, the Fi service will want to take that over as the real phone number for this phone, or else make you give up your old Google Voice number in favor of whatever number you choose to use with Fi. (You can port in an existing number, or generate a new one.)

I’m not sure exactly why this restriction exists, but I happily embraced the Fi as my new Google Phone, as the other features like multi-phone call forwarding continue to work. Another alternative would be to create a second Gmail account to associate with the phone and a different phone number, so it doesn’t know about your main Google Voice account.

Republic Tethering Update: In early December, Republic announced new support for tethering on all their standard “Republic Refund” plans. You simply pay for any extra data you use at their usual $15/GB rate.

“Why are you mentioning Republic again when you wrote about them last year?”

Long-time readers of the blog often feel that we’re all old-timers and thus should not repeat stories too much. But from my end the stats screens tell a different story: due to churn and growth, over half of readers are generally new within the last 6 months. The biggest things people seem to mention to me in their financial recovery stories are ditching bank-financed gas guzzlers,  starting to ride bikes, and switching to Republic. So besides sharing my excitement over Google Fi with fellow tech geeks, this post is meant to introduce the newest 50% to ten-dollar smartphone service via Republic.

Republic may be slightly bummed that I left them, but if they happen to read this I offer the following suggestions: add Wi-fi tethering to your service ASAP (now done – nice work guys!). Then start thinking about international, maybe starting with Canada and Mexico if it’s easier. Competition does not stay still and good luck!

  • Brian September 20, 2015, 2:43 pm

    Love the perspective, MMM. I’ve been drooling over google FI (pun intended!) since it was first announced.

    Reply
    • Stockbeard September 20, 2015, 4:51 pm

      Same as Kyle below, I’m with T-Mobile and I pay $30 a month for 5GB of LTE Data (then unlimited 3G if you use all of the 4G). That $30 unlimited plan is limited in voice and text* (100 minutes of voice/month, 100 sms per month), but is extremely useful for people who rely mostly on Data. I’d say from a Data perspective, it beats the s… out of Republic Wireless and Google FI, and I don’t picture myself switching. (my review here: http://howtoretireearly.net/the-tmobile-unlimited-30-5gb-lte-prepaid-plan/ )

      For international roaming, cheap alternatives exist in many countries. I rented a Wifi 3G hotspot in Japan for $40 a week with unlimited 4G.

      If you think voice and text are a thing of the past and all should rely on Data, then I still think the $30 t-mobile plan is the best option.

      * T-mobile also does the Wifi/4G automatic switching, meaning that when you’re home or at work, you can use as much voice as you want, it won’t use the 100 minutes bucket.

      Reply
      • Radhika September 20, 2015, 5:04 pm

        It should be noted that the Simple Choice Family Plan for T-Mobile (not the pre-paid, but still really easy billing) can go as low as $20/month/line and includes international roaming in something like 140 countries.

        Reply
        • Jay September 22, 2015, 5:38 pm

          Amen! I’m surprised the T-Mobile family plan is perennially overlooked in any discussion of low cost cellphone plans.

          I pay approximately $23/month (including taxes) and get basically what people on $70 monthly contracts get: national roaming, unlimited data (with throttling after 1gb), unlimited talk and text, and no worrying about overages and WiFi access points. I can use any phone I want too.

          Reply
          • Jay A. September 22, 2015, 11:27 pm

            Hi.

            Please start using the initial of your last name or other unique identifier. I used “Jay” when I replied to MMM blog posts from late 2013 until about a month ago when I first saw your replies.

            Thanks.

            :)

            Reply
            • Jay X September 24, 2015, 12:36 am

              Lol.

              I started reading (and commenting) in *mid* 2013, so that technically gives me priority on “Jay”. But fine, I’ll go to Jay X

              Reply
      • Ramparts September 20, 2015, 5:46 pm

        I used to be on that $30/mo T-mobile plan as well, but I found the 100 minutes of voice a month much too limiting. Usually I hardly use voice at all, but one long phonecall with family or with your friendly customer service hold line and the minutes are gone :(. I found myself essentially tethered to Google Voice for talking, and with WiFi I would never get to 5GB of data anyway. And around here, the T-Mobile data network frequently drops down to edge speeds while an AT&T device has a fast connection. Not fun when I’m lost and want the maps to update!

        I’ve tried a few others since then (stay away from Jolt mobile!) and am currently on Cricket at $35.00/mo (unlimited text/messages + 2.5GB). Still expensive compared to the MMM recommendations, but I’m not interested in switching phones at the moment :)

        Reply
        • Wondergirl May 13, 2016, 2:34 pm

          Yes, I have the Iphone 6 and just switched to Cricket from Tmobile after reading this. It should be a drop from 55 to 35 and with better data. Cricket also said there would be a $50 credit for coming from tmobile and a $50 credit for transferring my number. Seems like a good deal. Have you had any issues with Cricket since using them?

          Thanks!

          Reply
      • FuR September 21, 2015, 7:21 pm

        I’ve got the $30 tmo plan but it’s unlimited text and data… up to 5gig and then slower.
        I never talk on the phone, but text and data use is up. Fi would cost me more, even if i never
        currently use over 2gig.

        Reply
    • david fitelson October 27, 2015, 1:36 pm

      Went for the 5x–only model available as per my invite. Received and tried to activate. Couldn’t. Called, got no help. Asked how to go about returning it. Was told to expect an email. Two days later, received this:

      Hi David,

      Thank you for contacting Project Fi Support about the return of your phone to Project Fi.

      I’m sorry that we weren’t able to get your issue completely resolved today. As we discussed we are looking to resolve an issue we are having with our system to get you that email with the return label and extra information you will need. Sorry for the inconvenience caused and all the complications for a simple return. This was not an ideal start for Project Fi with you and we hope to get this issue resolved as quickly as possible and will send you the email with return information as soon as we get your return label created.

      Thanks!

      Rene R.
      The Project Fi Support Team

      Jesus wept. I fumed.

      Reply
  • Kyle September 20, 2015, 3:00 pm

    I tried it, but the service tends to be worse than just straight T-Mobile (switching between Sprint/T-Mobile is bad).
    Also with taxes it ends up costing more than a prepaid plan (~$36 vs $30 for T-Mobile 5GBLTE prepaid plan).

    Reply
    • Stockbeard September 20, 2015, 4:53 pm

      Yup, and T-mobile works on pretty much any GSM Phone, so you don’t have to buy a new one just to switch provider…

      Reply
  • Radhika September 20, 2015, 3:07 pm

    I’m still on board with T-Mobile. I’m on a 6-person family plan for $120 a month. This includes compatibility with most phones (including Moto G), data-free music streaming (my most used data), international roaming like Google Fi, and some moderate amount of data that works for our family. I think it’s 1-2GB per person for a total of 10GB a month.

    These alternative services aren’t the only option these days.

    Reply
    • Adm Karpinsk September 20, 2015, 3:31 pm

      Nice Radhika! When I look at T-mobile (http://t-mobile.com/cell-phone-plans/family.html), the plans seem to be much more expensive than what you have. Did you have some special insider or now-expired deal?

      Reply
      • Radhika September 20, 2015, 4:54 pm

        Nope, the Simple Choice Family plan should be it! We might have got in on some promotion for 2 GB/user/lowest plan, but looking over at the site now, it’s still 1GB/line for 6GB/month at the same price.

        The only key is that it’s really only worth it with 4-6 people. 2 people = $40 a month each, but each line after that is $10 each, so 6 people = $20/line/month.

        Reply
        • Radhika September 20, 2015, 5:06 pm

          Here’s what I’m seeing on the site: http://i.imgur.com/ivCeCk5.png?1

          + taxes and fees, but the billing is pretty transparent.

          Reply
        • Kevin September 21, 2015, 11:23 am

          I used to have the T-Mobile $30 monthly plan. It is a hidden plan in that only new phone plans can get it and it’s mostly a simm plan offering when you first sign up. Everything mentioned is true.

          Reply
          • Cam September 22, 2015, 10:13 am

            T-Mobile is an extremely good value on the North America family plan. I just dropped Verizon and got 4 phones with unlimited talk, text, and data (10GB of which is 4G before speed restrictions for EACH phone). Comes with free music streaming, data “stash” and Canada and Mexico operate theoretically the same as in the U.S. I will soon add Mom to our plan for $20 and she’ll have 10 GB of 4G too! Oh, and I did the free test drive and their coverage was fine (I travel US, Canada, and Mexico for work) and their data was faster than Verizon using side by side iPhones.

            Reply
      • Ashley September 22, 2015, 10:31 am

        Awesome deal! I have something similar with AT&T for 3 smart phones and more than enough data (10GB) for $110 a month (including taxes). I could try to reduce the amount of data but then the plan would cost more for less :/ I received my Google FI invite about a month ago but it would probably cost us more: $40 + $40 + $30 + taxes, and we would need new phones.

        Reply
        • Elisa March 21, 2017, 10:56 am

          Hi Ashley,
          I have an iPhone 5S and have AT&T without a contract for $68/mo including fees and taxes for 2 GB data and unlimited text and voice. I’m in WA state and am hesitant to switch away from either AT&T or Verizon since other carriers, i.e. Tmobile or GoogleFi, seem to have low cell coverage around much of the state. Do you have tips on how I could reduce my monthly big cell phone bill with AT&T?

          Reply
      • Dorian September 29, 2015, 1:48 pm

        I use the Standard T-Mobile family plan, for 4 users it is $100/month +$12 in taxes, with Unlimited Data, but you get slowed down after 1GB, which breaks down to $28 per person per month. Historically, all of the people on my plan have only exceeded 1GB 3 times in the last 2 years, and this is at no cost on T-Mo.
        The best part about the “family” plan is there is no enforcement about who is in it. I have 4 adults in 3 different households in my plan. Need to find 2 more, to lower my costs even further.
        Maybe you can join my “family” Mr. Mustache :). That would lower it to $110+15 tax or $25 per person.

        Reply
      • Miles October 9, 2015, 12:02 am

        Wow! I can’t believe they still don’t have their 30 dollar plans on the main site. The plans on this page are open to all customers, except the (un-discounted) 30 dollar one, which is only for customers activating a new sim. At least that’s what I was told when I switched a few months ago.

        https://brightspotmobile.com/

        Reply
        • Kenny November 23, 2015, 12:14 pm

          Looks like that plan is going away in December per the link you provided.

          Reply
    • Darin September 28, 2015, 7:28 pm

      Ditto on the TMO plan. I think you can get them to bump you up to 2.5GB of data per line if you call and ask customer service about it (might take a few tries). I’m paying $110/month (plus taxes) for five lines.

      Reply
  • Brandon Curtis September 20, 2015, 3:14 pm

    Ah, sweet disruption! I’d hate to see the 800lb Google Gorilla eat Republic’s lunch, so I’m glad the pricing works out to target different markets. My usage is 100-200MB a month, so Republic is the winner for now.

    Verrry interested to see if the telecom incumbents respond with similar pay-per-byte plans.

    Reply
  • Marcia September 20, 2015, 3:19 pm

    So, Nexus 6 only? Because I have a Nexus 5 and I love it. But we run on ATT. Still a “cheaper” plan at $45 a month (or is it $40?) I have to say thanks to Republic wireless and others, ATT services have been going up and prices going down. It used to be that I’d run out of data on ATT if I were ever on vacation. (WiFi at home). Now, I don’t run out of data ever, even when I forget to re-enable Wi Fi at home.

    (I have Wi Fi at work, but things like facebook and messenger are blocked, and this is how I coordinate and organize a lot of things, so I have to disable Wi Fi at work sometimes, and then forget to re-enable). First world problems.

    Reply
  • CL September 20, 2015, 3:19 pm

    I also have Google Fi, but like a complete sucker, I just bought the phone from Google itself…costing me over $150 more than what the phones are going for on Amazon. Oh well. Net I still saved over what I would have paid ATT.

    The service is not as good as ATT, but it is much cheaper to have this phone for sure. I didn’t even notice the international service. Thanks for helping all of us out, MMM.

    Reply
    • ndw_dc January 5, 2016, 9:08 pm

      You should try the Tasker app. It provides almost limitless customization for your Android phone. In this case you could set your phone to turn off wifi when at work, and then once you leave that particular network you wifi could automatically come back on.

      Reply
  • Mary-Ellen September 20, 2015, 3:28 pm

    I will have to keep an eye on this development! I have been loyal to Verizon (too expensive I know…) as they have the best service I have experienced and often I have been the only one with a working phone in some rual areas I frequent, but This looks promising and I would love to cut some costs on my phone plan! Just need to wait until they have a smaller phone.

    Reply
    • JessC October 2, 2015, 8:56 am

      Oh how we loved our Verizon, especially on road trips in New England. We made the switch to MNVO Page Plus Cellular and still have most of the Verizon network at a prepaid price ($30 a month for 1500 minutes, unlimited text, and minimal data). We made the switch at a time when Verizon was phasing out the semi smart phones and charging extra for using any semi or smartphone.

      Reply
  • Gwen September 20, 2015, 3:30 pm

    I managed to get an unlimited data plan with Verizon before they stopped offering them. My last 6 months I’ve averaged roughly 15 GB of data. I do it just because I can, but I’m usually surrounded by WiFi networks that I could connect to but don’t. This Google FI plan is tempting with the tethering and world wide features. Food for thought!

    Reply
  • Mike September 20, 2015, 3:39 pm

    Been on Google Fi for about a month now (switched from T-Mobile). I really enjoy it and seem to get much better coverage because Sprint has better coverage in my area.

    Reply
  • Matt September 20, 2015, 4:02 pm

    My wife and I have been happy Republic customers since they offered the first gen Moto X. The bill was usually around $60 for two phones. We recently switched over to the new $10 base + $7.50 for 0.5 GB (minus any refund for unused data) on both phones. We’re both on wifi nearly all the time so I was excited to see the refund in action. Our bill last month was $27.26!

    Reply
    • Tom September 21, 2015, 8:04 am

      Same here, on wifi all the time, and our bill is <$26 for two months in a row now.

      Reply
  • Eurobubba September 20, 2015, 4:04 pm

    Feel free to mock me, but you’ll take my iPhone when you pry it from my cold dead hands. Any suggestions for cheaper (dare I hope for international?) phone service for Apple zombies?

    Reply
    • Adm Karpinsk September 20, 2015, 4:23 pm

      If you look at the MNVO list I linked to in this article you’ll find several iPhone options.

      But in general I hope you have at least TRIED one of these modern Android phones. I had to learn the whole Apple ecosystem back when I used an iPhone for a few years, then I’ve compared them as Android has developed. As a tech person, I like the Android world WAY better because it is just as sleek and pretty, yet the options are much more open. And it’s less of a ripoff – the Nexus 6 is similar in overall awesomeness to the Iphone 6S+, yet it’s half the price.

      Not a big deal either way but it is good to avoid clinging to one product out of habit – avoid the trap of brand loyalty! challenge yourself!

      Reply
      • Ryan G September 20, 2015, 6:06 pm

        I use T-Mobile with my iphone and its great. T-Mobile’s coverage isn’t the best, but it works well in all the metropolitan areas. Just like Radhika posted above they have a great family plan with data free music streaming and international roaming. If your not on a family plan with at least four people I might look into other options. Here are is the family plan options: http://t-mobile.com/cell-phone-plans/family.html

        Reply
        • Mike September 21, 2015, 1:37 pm

          I haven’t gotten it yet, but Tmobile is supposed to be much better on the iphone 6s because that phone (and a few others) have the 700 MHz antenna so you an take full advantage of Tmobile’s new spectrum and upgraded towers.

          So if you haven’t tried tmobile in a while check it out and see if they’ve made the improvements in your area.

          My wife and I slit a 4 person plan with her sister and brother in law so it works out to about 30/line with unlimited talk/text and 2.5gb LTE for each line.

          Reply
          • Mike September 21, 2015, 1:44 pm

            Oh that 30/line is after all taxes and fees. Base price is actually $25/line

            Reply
      • K September 22, 2015, 7:43 am

        I tried a Blackberry and an HTC Droid…. neither worked well past a year of use, and I had to buy another HTC on ebay so I could get my two years on Verizon before upgrading. I’ve had my iPhone now for 3 years and it still works beautifully, so I understand where Eurobubba is coming from! Maybe now, however, they’ve got more durable phones with better systems? I’m willing to look into it.

        Reply
      • Brett September 25, 2015, 11:20 am

        I have to agree with Eurobubba, having extensively used recent iPhones and Android phones (and being very familiar with both Operating Systems). I’d say there is no comparison that my experience has always been far superior using an iPhone.

        Reply
      • Chelsea September 30, 2015, 4:36 pm

        You can use your iPhone on Cricket. Cricket uses ATTs network, so it is really good service. My bill is $35 per month for unlimited talk, text, and I believe 5 gigs of Data.

        Reply
    • MBo September 21, 2015, 11:22 am

      We use Virgin Mobile with my wife’s iPhone. $30/month, unlimited Talk, Text and Data.

      Reply
      • LD September 25, 2015, 11:26 am

        Same! Love it. No contract, never need consider how much data or minutes I use. Works great in the city, though only OK coverage on highways and rural areas. But every year service improves. Last year my phone started getting service down in the subway.

        They do throttle data after 2.5GB. Probably not ideal for everyone. Suits my purposes fine though–I’ve never reached that threshold.

        If only it weren’t near impossible to shop around for a new phone. Maybe this is common for other plans too…but VM only works with VM phones. Half the time their site is sold out of iPhones even if I wanted to buy through them. Only thing that’s made me consider switching from VM.

        Boost Mobile, like VM, is Sprint-owned with a similarly priced unlimited plan. Only real difference is they throttle after 2GB instead of 2.5, and they let you use Sprint phones as well as Boost phones. Don’t see why VM couldn’t allow that too.

        Reply
    • Slim September 21, 2015, 12:37 pm

      I use my iPhone 5 on Airvoice Wireless, which costs me $30/month. It was a little tricky getting the sim card sized properly and I lost my group message and picture message capabilities from other non-iPhone users, but other than that it has been working great.

      Reply
    • Kristi September 21, 2015, 1:08 pm

      Eurobubba..we use TING (MVNO) which uses the Sprint network (we don’t have any Verizon coverage on our street so had to pick a Sprint MVNO) and you can use droids or iphones there. It’s a simple pricing structure based on usage, and for two of us using lots o’ minutes and data, it’s usually $60 per month. You’d have to pry the iPhone from my hubby’s dead hands too, so I understand. :)

      Reply
    • MacGyverIT September 21, 2015, 1:31 pm

      Eurobubba, have you considered picking up a SIM from Tracfone?

      They have data only deals (Scroll down to “Special Cards, only for smart phones” –> https://tracfone.com/direct/Purchase?payGo=true&app=TRACFONE&lang=en ). 4 Gig for $50 until you’re ready to add more data. You could use that you’re out and about, and make calls via Wi-Fi otherwise. Skype number for calls and Messages or Skype for chat messages?

      Reply
    • 205guy September 25, 2015, 5:26 pm

      My wife and I have been very happy with our unlocked iPhones on puretalkusa (.com), an MVNO that uses ATT network (best coverage in my area). You can use an old iPhone from ATT and get it unlocked after 2 years of contract, or buy a new unlocked phone (iPhone 5 was around $500 at the time–ouch). Puretalk has data plans that don’t sound as cheap as republic, but I haven’t checked recently. We have talk and text plans only, and we pay the minimum of $15 per month (more when we talk or txt a lot)–it’s a family plan with 2 phones.

      I know that living without mobile data isn’t for everyone, but it wasn’t really necessary in our lifestyle (plenty o’ internet at work and at home), so it really simplified our lives and saved money to live without it. Now that data prices are coming down it may not be such an issue.

      Reply
  • Lindsay September 20, 2015, 4:08 pm

    A recommendation for anyone who finds themselves in a situation like mine:

    I did the math and realized that 90% of the time, I was within WiFi range either at home or at work, and 90% of the other 10% of the time, I was somewhere I didn’t really want to be on my phone, like out with friends or at church or doing something else I wanted to give my undivided attention. When I’m on WiFi, Google Hangouts routes all my calls and texts flawlessly over WiFi (and obviously my other apps just use WiFi data and function like normal).

    For the other 1% of the time, I picked up a $10/90 days pay-as-you-go AirVoice plan and a factory-unlocked Blu Studio C phone for $99. It’s rare that I use more than $5 a month in non-WiFi calls or data, even when traveling. For navigation, for example, I can turn on data, look up the address, have Google draw the blue line on the map to show me where to go, turn data back off, and GPS still moves the blue dot along the line as I drive without needing data. I’m a big podcast listener, so I just load up on them before I leave home and don’t worry about music when I’m out.

    I haven’t ever missed having more connectivity. In fact, I know its made me more attentive to most things I do. Obviously it isn’t an answer for everybody, but if you live in a major metro area (like I do in Indianapolis), I don’t think you can beat the price to have coverage you need!

    Reply
    • Insourcelife September 21, 2015, 7:25 am

      Another satisfied Airvoice customer here! I’m on their $10 per month plan which I like because unused $$ roll over every month. So now I have a $70 balance and don’t think twice about turning on data to use for things like GPS and email and some browsing when not on WiFi. The best thing, besides the obvious money savings, is that AT&T network that Airvoice uses is far superior to Sprint or Tmobile that other MVNOs use, at least in my experience with all of them over the years.

      Reply
    • Lenan September 21, 2015, 9:17 am

      I am in pretty much the same situation where I have WiFi almost everywhere I need it, thus keeping the costs down. I live in Sweden and got a plan which costs about 11.5 USD/mo giving 1 Gb data, 200 min calling and a bazillion SMS.

      I use Tasker to create geofences to toggle WiFi (On) and mobile data (Off) when coming home or to work, and the other way around if I am out and about. This works really nice to avoid spending mobile data at places where I know there is WiFi. Also it improves battery life.

      Other fun stuff to use Tasker for is wake-on-lan to boot computer when coming home, and shutting it down when leaving.

      Reply
    • Julia Bloom September 21, 2015, 12:57 pm

      Me too! My husband & I got into Airvoice after reading an old MMM post, and for BOTH of us, each using our own iPhone and the pay-as-you-go plans, we average spending about $10-15 per month on cell phone service (about $5-7.50 per person). We use Google Hangouts and Voice to make phone calls and text whenever we’re in wi-fi range. I also occasionally use data on my “antique” iPhone 4s (which I just bought to replace my “prehistoric” iPhone 3gs), and still we very rarely go over $15/month for both of us.

      Reply
    • Mike September 28, 2015, 8:19 am

      We basically do the same thing, but using P-Tel. We’re only a month or so in, but I think we’ll pay something like $5/month each by cutting data.

      Downside for some is that it’s a T-Mobile reseller, so service might not be great where you live.

      Reply
  • Mike Reiche September 20, 2015, 4:23 pm

    This could be great for all those who have never heard of Republic and seem a little unsure about switching to a phone company they have never heard of. I am sure more people will be willing to try out a google plan that may have otherwise been uninterested. Thanks for the update, I think until my retirement account reflects a few more hundred thousand than it does now I will be sticking with Republic! Thanks.

    Reply
  • Frugal in DC September 20, 2015, 4:27 pm

    Would be worth considering if service from Sprint and T-Mobile wasn’t so sucky around here. Also, my “Antique” iPhone 4 works just fine.

    Reply
    • Lindsay September 20, 2015, 7:08 pm

      My “antique” jailbroken iPhone 4 with its screen shattered to smithereens is still a perfectly serviceable backup phone any time I’ve had problems with any other phone! Have to give credit where it’s due!

      Reply
  • Dave Andersen September 20, 2015, 4:33 pm

    I’d love to see that table expand to include Cricket – at $35/month (total, including taxes & fees) for 2.5GB (after which it gets slow, but, interestingly, they don’t charge you more), it seems like Republic and Fi are both better deals at < 1GB, but then Cricket starts to become a much better deal after that. It's a little hard to compare because of the taxes & fees accounting difference. Fi looks like the best option if you want global data roaming – I haven't seen anything else that comes close to that deal.

    (Note that you have to be on auto-pay for Cricket to get that price – it's $5 off, and they don't give you that discount on your first month.)

    Hint for using Cricket: Find a friend who has it already and get them to refer you, because you _each_ get a $25 service credit. Note that it takes almost three months for the credit to appear, grumbly grumbly.

    Reply
    • Dam September 21, 2015, 9:51 am

      +1 for CRICKET!! I just switched from Sprint and I am saving over 50 dollars a month. My wife is going tome switching as well and her bill will only be 30 dollars, if I add my patents, they are 20 and 10 dollars for each of them. Can’t beat the ATT coverage w/ unlimited talk and text and 2.5GB of high speed data.

      Reply
    • Karl September 21, 2015, 10:03 am

      I also use Cricket and it really becomes cheap when you have multiple phones to the same plan. I currently pay $100 for 5 Smart Phones with 2.5GB of Data each. That works out to $20/phone (everything included like taxes and fees).

      Reply
      • Dan September 21, 2015, 2:08 pm

        Cricket doesn’t get enough cred IMO on money saving blogs. 35$ a month with tax for ATT cell coverage. Got friends? You can get that down to 20 a month. Fi a RW are great values but not as good as Cricket if you got a friend or two. Plus, Sprint and T-Mo coverage where I’m at aren’t even close to ATT. Not to mention you’re not locked in to a single phone (fi) or 2-3 phones (RW) making getting and selling phone easier. Want wifi calling? Port your number to Google Voice. Bam.

        Reply
      • Chris H. September 21, 2015, 2:51 pm

        I use cricket as well on their 5 for $100 plan. 2.5GB for $20/line is hard to beat! Also, AT&T has better coverage in my area than T-Mobile or Sprint.

        Reply
    • Jeremy October 13, 2015, 12:18 pm

      I also use Cricket and love it. Too many people here mention sprint/tmo and they just aren’t a good alternative for most people.

      Straight Talk is another good one, on ATT, but they are more expensive than Cricket.

      Reply
  • Larry S. September 20, 2015, 4:34 pm

    I live in NM. I often frequent rural areas. I keep watching Google Fi and Republic Wireless. Hoping that there rural map will get better. Google Fi has several big holes in my NM with no coverage. I have a Tracfone that uses the Verizon network. It costs around $200 a year. And they allow you to bring your own phone. So I use a Moto X. Granted I do not use my phone a lot. Around 400 minutes, 400 texts and .4gb of data a month. But it gets great coverage in the rural parts of my state. I traveled to Oregon, Washington, Arizona this year. I travel in the Western half of the U.S. A lot. And find I get coverage when nobody else around me does. Im hoping that Republic wireless surprises us with there plans to also introduce multiple carrier experiance.

    Reply
    • EMML September 21, 2015, 11:28 am

      Another Tracfone customer here. I’m also a light user, but like to use a little bit of eveything. TracFone was most recently costing me about $10/month for my usage, until I bought a new $100 phone with a year of service/1000 each of talk, text & web. I use my phone all of the time to browse on my home WIFI.

      I think the key is to get the best deal for your individual usage/situation. Right now, this is the best for mine.

      Reply
  • Pete September 20, 2015, 4:48 pm

    As a huge Google addict (I’m pretty sure they know more about me than any other entity in the universe), I wish you had written this a few months ago. I recently switch from Voldermo… Verizon to Republic and I honestly couldn’t be happier. I really like their “pay back unused data” policy. I signed up for 2 gigs, and I only ended up using about 1.2 last month, so my bill was $30 instead of $42. Compared to my “corporate discount” with Verizon that was still $80 for 1 gig every single month, I think it’s a good option.

    I will keep an eye on Google FI, and I will pray to the Lord of the Interwebs that they start offering their Fiber service in the Denver metro area in the near future.

    Reply
    • Cameron September 24, 2015, 10:46 am

      Agree on bringing fiber to Denver! I read that if Fiber came to Denver that it would create a monopoly. God forbid anyone challenge Comcast. Do you have any issues on Republic here in Denver? I’m looking to leave sprint and like the Moto X 2nd Gen.

      Reply
  • Dave September 20, 2015, 4:55 pm

    Following up on my comment above (which I hope went through) — the taxes & fees look like they’re probably in the 8-9% range:

    http://scottgreenstone.com/2015/05/project-fi-breaking-down-bill.html

    That would mean that Fi is probably $1/month cheaper than Cricket @ 1GB (and a big win if your average use is less than 1GB). Republic is about $6 cheaper @ 1GB. The Fi breakeven is probably 1.1GB, and both are worse at 2GB.

    If you’re really a data hog (or using your phone as your home Internet access device – grin), T-Mobile’s “Unlimited” LTE plan (prepaid) is $80/month, which starts to beat out Fi at over 6GB. (But you shouldn’t use it until you hit 10GB, because Cricket’s $60 is cheaper for that). I do cynically wonder if they kick you off if you consistently use ~15GB/month, but that’s just me. :) Anyone have experience in the huge data range?

    So continuing my personal tabulation:
    10GB: T-Mobile unlimited.
    Heavy international data roaming: Fi all the way

    Reply
    • Dave September 20, 2015, 5:13 pm

      Argh – that got lost because I had less-than signs in my tabulation. HTML. Bah.

      Under 1GB: Fi or Republic. Costs less than $34.
      1GB to 10GB: Cricket. $35, 45, or 55 depending on tier.
      10GB and up: T-mobile unlimited. $80
      Heavy International roaming/data roaming: Fi all the way, from $20 through ??, but no other plan is close for international.

      And as per my previous note that didn’t go through, if you do Cricket, find a link from MMM or a friend for the referral (it’s $25 for each of you)

      [MMM note – Dave I had to remove your referral code because if we allow them here in these comments I find you immediately get thousands of people signing in to post theirs for every product under the sun.]

      Reply
      • Dave September 20, 2015, 6:27 pm

        Whoops – sorry about that! Thanks for the clue; will refrain in the future.

        Reply
  • Jon September 20, 2015, 5:00 pm

    I switched to Republic Wireless when the first gen Moto X came out and I decided to comment because the timing couldn’t be any better. Why? I just switched to Verizon. I really wanted Republic to work for me and I have had some good experiences, including traveling around England with a WiFi Hot spot and loosing zero functionality, but in the end the cons outweighed the pros.

    First, the phone service through Sprint/T-Mobile whatever just doesn’t cut it. I live right in the middle of Dallas/Fort Worth and rarely had what I would consider decent service considering the population and phone services in this area. Not only was reception poor but I would guess at least half of the time people called me, the call would go straight to voicemail with no indication to me that I missed a call. This was at work, without WiFi, and at home, with Wifi. Service calls etc to Republic never resolved the issue. Also, the data speed seemed throttled. The supposedly 4G service loaded extremely slow compared to my previous AT&T service and I’m not a “data hog” and typically just want to check email and the occasional video.

    Second, battery life. I have friends with Moto X phones on other services that never ran through battery power like I have, with it sometimes only lasting four to six hours. This wasn’t a phone problem, this is actually my third Moto X phone, so I must assume it is the Republic software constantly searching for a WiFi signal. I would turn WiFi off when I was out of range but the software would override my selection and continue to search. Yes, this is partly my fault not having WiFi at work but it shouldn’t stop me from disabling it.

    Third, the service from Motorola was poor at best. I broke my screen a while back and not having the opportunity to pickup a phone locally is a major problem. I was without a phone for close to a week and it was especially annoying since tracking information showed that the phone was being sent out from a location 15 minutes from my home. I paid full price for the replacement and it completely locked up within a few months. Same issue with shipping again but this time they offered a free replacement since it was nothing I did. Unfortunately, the replacement phone was obviously a refurb with a scratch on the front plastic and a wavy looking screen. Also, I requested an upgrade to a second generation Moto X, hoping my service would improve, and under no circumstances would they discount the price. They were willing to give me a refurb for free, why couldn’t they offer me at least some discount on an upgrade?

    Sorry for the rant, I really like the phone, the price, and the Republic Wireless concept which is why I have stuck it out for so long. At some point though it isn’t worth ANY money if people can’t get a hold of you. Maybe I’m letting the pendulum swing too far going with Verizon but I’d rather be spending an extra $20 a month for what I hope is the best service in my area with no calls going out to the great unknown.

    Best wishes to everyone going to Google Fi, I hope you have a better experience with it than I did with Republic!

    Reply
    • Mike Reiche September 20, 2015, 5:53 pm

      Thats too bad about your service in the DFW area. I live in Haslet, just north of Ft Worth and have not had any issues (with exception to the occasional software update needed to operate smoothly) with connectivity. I only use the $10 plan, so only base things on wifi, however when I first started service I had the 3G plan and my battery was wearing out in 4-6 hrs, but only when I was at work. Turned out that I was getting very poor reception so the phone was constantly searching for a network to connect to. Killed it within a few hours of my shift, my work doesnt allow phones to be on when we are working the floor anyway, so I just put it in airplane mode and turn it back normal when I go out to make a call. Also having all the background apps constantly downloading and pushing info to your phone surely kills the battery….. All I mean to say, really, is sorry it didnt work out for you with Republic!

      Reply
      • Jon September 21, 2015, 9:06 am

        I’m glad you’ve had some success! Good point about the reception, that was very likely causing the poor battery life as well. I did have poor reception at work but in my situation I needed my phone to work for work related calls. I was the only one in the office with poor reception and shut off all but a few of my push notifications to save battery life.

        Reply
    • Bridget September 21, 2015, 7:24 am

      I’m with you – I had such high hopes for Republic, but it just isn’t worth it for me because it just flat out cannot be relied on to work – even with full signal and even on Wi-Fi. Constantly missing calls and texts. When a call does manage to go through, it often drops out right in the middle. When a phone won’t even function for phone calls (not to mention all of many the other problems I’m not even getting into here), it’s just not worth it. Just wanted to chime in and say you’re definitely not the only one who has not had any luck with Republic.

      Reply
    • Sarah S September 21, 2015, 9:29 am

      I also had bad luck with Republic, mostly due to customer service issues. (I’ve mentioned this in the forums previously.). I tried to take advantage of the fact that you could switch between different tiers of service when traveling, by not having 3G data unless I was on a trip. I switched up to 3G data when I left for my trip, then tried to switch back to WiFi only when I returned. I pressed the wrong option, and left myself with the lowest tier, WiFi only, which meant I couldn’t even make phone calls when not on WiFi. I assumed a quick call to customer service would help me out, but they told me that 2 switches a month was a hard limit, and I would not be able to reactivate non-WiFi phone service until my next billing cycle. As soon as my billing cycle flipped over, I switched back to having phone service. Unfortunately, I had another trip coming up that month. I used my second switch that month to switch to having 3G data, then had to wait until my NEXT billing cycle to switch back to WiFi + phone service. It ended up costing me quite a bit, and was also frustrating.

      Now, admittedly, I made the mistake in the first by switching back to the wrong plan, but surely they should be able to override this given that I called within minutes of the mistake. By not doing so, they lost me as a customer. I’m on Ting now, and pretty happy with them. I was able to bring my own iPhone 4 which I like much better than the Moto E I had.

      Reply
      • Sarah S September 21, 2015, 9:31 am

        Should say “switch back to WiFi data only”, meaning that I could still make calls on the cell network. If this is confusing to you, it was also confusing to me!

        Reply
    • rjack September 21, 2015, 4:19 pm

      I just switched from Republic to Cricket. I view Republic as a beta+ quality-of-service. If you are thinking of going to Republic, make certain you reads forum posts in the community and carefully study the many Health & Wellness issues.

      Reply
      • reader in the rockies September 22, 2015, 7:05 am

        I also view Republic as a sub par quality service. I have not heard anything about health and wellness issues. I assume their phone carries the same “health risk” as any other phone. What were you referring to?

        Reply
    • Brian B September 28, 2015, 8:29 am

      I’m on Republic now, but I somewhat regret it. I live in a major metro area, and I’m constantly dropping calls. I also notice a lag time within the call, where I start to speak, and suddenly myself and the person on the other end are talking over eachother. This is in addition to a slightly manufactured, robotic sound quality throughout.

      While customer service is responsive (via email), it never seems to quite solve the problem. I love my Moto X (2nd gen), and it’s so much better than my old iphone, but I agree that the battery life since getting Lollipop is horrible. I circumvent this by basically having a charger everywhere we go (car, work, home, etc.)

      It seems that right after I switched from ATT to Republic, all the carriers dropped their rates, so now may be a good time for me to switch to Cricket.

      Reply
  • Tom September 20, 2015, 6:20 pm

    For domestic calling, I found RingPlus hard to beat.
    For FREE, you get 300 minutes / 500 SMS / 300 MB of data.
    They are using the Sprint network, hence you’ll need a Sprint compatible phone. I prefer them over Republic Wireless, because you can bring any Sprint device (no special firmware needed), and they are not doing VOIP, but rather Sprint’s wireless network for calls.
    Unlimited plans with 1GB of data are $20.

    Reply
    • Paul September 20, 2015, 9:00 pm

      Great find!

      Two of my kids are using FreedomPop. We went this route for the “free” data but the voice service has been, well, a bit voip-y. Texting is usually fine. This runs on Sprint LTE and Wifi.

      Nice to know that RingPlus is a Sprint MVNO that actually uses the voice network (rather than voip) in case FreedomPop doesn’t work out. (There are sometimes billing shenanigans which I’ve finally figured out how to avoid after having them for about a year.)

      DW and I are still using H2O Wireless which has been very dependable (AT&T network) and we don’t really need data. You can go as low as $10 for 3 month’s service if you’re conservative with your usage.

      Reply
    • Sue September 21, 2015, 7:26 am

      Did you sign up recently, or have you had the 300/500/300 plan for a while? I checked RingPlus just now and only found their biggest free* plan (keep $5 on your account) at 250/500/10. That 10MB made me nope all the way home, though I can definitely see the appeal if you do little to no data stuff on your phone and want good call quality for free.

      Reply
    • Michelle A October 1, 2015, 10:01 am

      Um. 700 minutes, 300 texts, and 1gb of data for $10?! What’s the downside? What am I missing? Unlimited talk and text, plus 2gb of data for $20? This seems like a good deal…

      I was about ready to switch to Republic Wireless. I would like Google Fi if the base were $15 at least. I don’t want tethering at this point (paying per mb, so wouldn’t want to use the data, unless I built up some business reason to need to transfer data from my laptop), and don’t travel internationally. I figure I’ll be using 1gb at the most, hopefully, but have no history to look at since I am currently on Virgin Mobile and they don’t have historical data. RW is less expensive at that level or less, and the phones on Fi are more expensive.

      RingPlus looks to be a LOT cheaper though, so am confused I haven’t heard of it before today.

      Reply
    • Michelle A October 1, 2015, 11:24 am

      Ah, MMS costs extra. I know it’s not much, but I don’t want to have to worry about what is MMS versus SMS. $15 would be 12.5 MMS messages a day. I don’t know if that’s possible or not, but with Republic, I may not even be using the full gig of data, so will hopefully be spending less than $25, hopefully even less than $20. And $10 would be 8.3 MMS messages a day. Anyway, I want to get those business coupon texts and not worry about how many they’re sending and how much it’s costing me. It still looks like I’m going to try Republic Wireless first, but I’m a little worried about the service problems some people are still having. But Fi is enough more expensive that I’m not convinced to try it first… :-/

      Reply
      • Paul C March 11, 2016, 8:34 am

        For what it’s worth, we’re now running 5 phones on RingPlus and paying $ 0 per month.

        My wife and I use our phones conservatively (less than 500Meg / mo) and the kids got onto the promo with 1.25Gig per month each. None of us even come close to using the minutes or text allotments.

        Service has been good, so we’re very pleased. And to think we’re spending less now than when we were doing month-to-month prepaid on H2O Wireless … !!

        Reply
        • Adm Karpinsk March 11, 2016, 9:09 am

          Wow, pretty amazing trick! Anyone else have experience with RingPlus?

          Reply
          • Robert May 14, 2017, 11:07 am

            I went to look at RingPlus and looks like they have closed, with customers acquired by Ting. Must not have been a sustainable business model.

            Reply
  • dave September 20, 2015, 6:26 pm

    It won’t be able to work in Canada now or probably into the future. Out oligopoly of phone companies won’t agree to share their networks with google.

    Reply
    • aB September 21, 2015, 9:56 am

      For smart phones, get a tablet plan and a VOIP app (Fongo).
      Tasker, to switch to WiFi, when at home or work.

      So just replicate it yourself.
      Currently on Fido. $11.30 a month, (tiered, so $25+tax if I go over 150 megs.)
      Just make sure to only accept calls coming through the VOIP app, not the normal dialer.

      Reply
  • dave September 20, 2015, 6:29 pm

    I prefer the Asus zenfone 2. Cheaper phone than this one with close to the same specs. And I have always loved Asus hardware.

    Reply
  • The DeLeon September 20, 2015, 6:55 pm

    Thank you for this article. I had heard rumors at the beginning of the year about Google Fi but it fell off my radar. This got me back to signing up for their invitation and I hope to switch over to their fantastic plan. I love the ability to pay for a certain amount of data and get re-funded if I do not use it without hassle. I am currently on Verizon and its annoying when I do not use up my data that I paid for and it doesn’t carry over to the next month. It always feels like I am getting taken advantage of. If Google doesn’t get back to me I will be switching to Republic Wireless later this year or the beginning of next. THANK YOU MMM

    Reply
  • anon September 20, 2015, 6:56 pm

    It is also important to note that with a Google phone you get Google’s Android OS and therefore security updates the day they come out. If you have republic, you need to wait until Republic bothers to update their Android OS… Which can take them days or weeks. Meanwhile, your phone is open to well-known, already published exploits.

    So you could think of the extra cost as a small insurance fee against a criminal monitoring all your data and then stealing everything you own :)

    Reply
  • The Frugal One September 20, 2015, 7:46 pm

    I had signed up for Google Fi, figuring I had time to decide whether I really wanted to get a Nexus 6. I like having a larger smartphone. I can use it as a Kindle; the larger screen makes it so much easier to read a page.

    When the offer finally came to be able to sign up, I decided on Republic Wireless instead. I had the chance to play with both phones. I have XL hands. The Nexus 6 was too big to use comfortably. The Moto X 2nd gen is almost too big. I wish I could have used the Moto G, but I always make calls on speaker phone. The Moto G 1st gen had a terrible speaker.

    Are you able to type fast enough on the phone that leaving the laptop at home makes sense? I haven’t been able to find a keyboard app that allows me to type nearly as fast as a regular keyboard. It takes forever to type anything out on the phone in comparison, and I don’t hunt and peck.

    Reply
    • KariO September 21, 2015, 3:26 pm

      Swype (and Google’s voice recognition) are way faster than phone typing for me.

      Reply
  • LCM September 20, 2015, 9:28 pm

    We need more info/discussion on economical cell phone options in Canada. (Or is that goal as hopeless as it often seems to be?)

    Reply
    • dave September 21, 2015, 10:18 am

      For Canada the Asus Zenfone 2 and a carrier like speakout wireless is excellent value.

      Reply
      • LCM September 21, 2015, 9:33 pm

        7-11’s Speakout looks worth trying. First I need to burn up the credit on my Roger’s pay-as-you-go account. I also have an AT&T SIM card for when I am in the US. The AT&T pay-as-you go is something I wish I could just keep & use in Canada. But I suspect they’d figure that out and nix it somehow.

        Reply
        • Mike September 28, 2015, 8:12 am

          This is what I used to use when living in Milton and commuting to Toronto.

          It’s pay as you go and they have a $10/month data add on. Wasn’t too fast for me to use on the GO train, but that could have been because I was using a very old Android phone at the time.

          My wife and I still use this service when we visit Canada. It’s nice because the money on the pay as you go account is good for a year (no matter how much you put on).

          Reply
    • Mike C September 21, 2015, 11:21 am

      Your best bet is to get an address in Manitoba or Saskatchewan, and then you can get lower rates from the big providers (because of the increased competition in those provinces). Your second best bet is to petition the CRTC to open up more cellular competition.

      Reply
    • Kate September 23, 2015, 3:01 pm

      Koodo prepaid is not a bad deal, for Canada (not as great as Republic or Ting in the US, but still cheaper than any plan). For $15 you get a phone number and unlimited texting. Data and phone minutes are bought in prepaid increments. I mostly try to use wifi, so it works out to be pretty affordable.

      Reply
  • Sean September 20, 2015, 9:40 pm

    Dang, not available in Canada:( . The cellular marketplace here is pretty much the 3 telecoms and Fido, all who offer the same packages, more or less.
    Yay for Canadian telecom laws that protect the big guys (sic)

    Reply
    • aB September 21, 2015, 10:02 am

      You can replicate it, sort of.
      I’m on a Fido TABLET plan, on my Nexus 4. Tasker to automate WiFi switching, Fongo, for VOIP.
      No text, but you have data, so use Hangouts/Email.
      $11.30 a month if you don’t go over. (Don’t answer the normal dialer)

      Reply
      • m1k3 October 23, 2015, 11:17 pm

        @aB I’m curious what your thoughts are on Public Mobile in Canada? It is an MVNO operating on Telus’ network. And, a follow-up question: any work around for text via data?

        Reply
  • AF September 21, 2015, 12:03 am

    Thanks to MMM I started looking for alternative providers instead of AT&T, and in spring 2014 my wife and I switched from AT&T to BlackWireless. Now we pay $30 per 30 days per phone for unlimited talk/text and 500 MB of 4G data. I like that they use AT&T infrastructure. We have no problem with call quality. The only downside is that their data is 4G, not LTE like was with AT&T.

    Reply
  • Bryan September 21, 2015, 1:52 am

    Love the article. From my perspective though your point about international travel ignores simply buying a local service for your time in a new country. As a US citizen living abroad and who travels a ton, including Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, the cheapest, easiest route is to simply buy a pay as you go (PAYG) SIM upon arriving at the next country that you’re visiting. Combine that with a Google Voice US number, iMessage, Skype, what have you, you’ll enjoy guaranteed service wherever you’re at, and it’s usually super cheap. Plus, you kinda feel James Bond badass as you sit on the plane leaving that new country and you’re switching SIMs in your phone back to your host country’s network – the person next to you is always super impressed (at least in my head).

    Reply
    • The Frugal One September 21, 2015, 1:00 pm

      AT&T will let you put your account on hold for up to 6 months in a given period of time (I can’t remember how often, or how rarely off the top of my head). So it could work where you put your stateside plan on hold while you’re traveling on a much cheaper plan, not have to double dip where you’re paying for a service you’re not using for a few days/weeks/months.

      Reply
    • casserole55 September 21, 2015, 8:30 pm

      Both my husband and I have Republic Wireless. We spent about 3 weeks in Europe this summer in 2 AirBnb apartments.. We discovered the hard way how important it is to be able to contact our host via phone or text. We missed a message when our flight was delayed (because we could not log on to airport WIFI), that the keys to our apartment would be left in a bike panier outside the apartment. We ended up buying a dumb phone to use to cover us for the rest of this trip, and bought an extra SIM card for our next trip to Europe. Good to know in an AirBnb apartment that you have a phone for an emergency call if necessary. May consider Google Fi for our next trip to Europe. But that will be in about 2 years and who knows what will be available then . . .

      Reply
  • josh September 21, 2015, 5:04 am

    State of the art Nexus 6? Replacing a functioning phone? Increasing your monthly bill? Where am I?

    Reply
  • Rob from Munich September 21, 2015, 5:47 am

    “if I were living my true retired pre-Adm Karpinsk-life, I’d be travelling less, floating in fewer business expense account dollars, and probably not upgrading to Google Fi at this point. Especially when you find out how much the phone cost me.”

    Isn’t that the whole point of frugality spending on experiences rather than things? Rather than spending 30 grand or so on a kick ass pickup truck to get the mail at the end of the lane you use your el-cheapo bike and spend that money on first class trip around the world. People think you’re poor till you comment “yeah just got back from 3 months in insert exotic location.

    Just my 2 cents

    Reply
  • Chris September 21, 2015, 6:44 am

    I found MMM via a Republic Wireless Google Search a couple years ago, so the two are tied together in my mind.

    I’ve been a member of RW for about a year and a half and I’m considering leaving. Too many technical issues. It has reached the point where the cost savings barely justify the loss in utility. In fact it’s probably passed that point, but I’m stubbornly clinging to my RW customer status. It DOES feel like a badge of honor, and I’m reluctant to remove it.

    I would consider google fi, but I’m worried it will have similar issues as RW. Can you let us know if there are any technical quirks with the services? Does it reliably send MMS messages? Does the phone freak out when you’re on a weak Wi-Fi signal? I would think that controlling all technological aspects (phone, OS, service) would bode well from a reliability standpoint.

    Reply
  • Matt September 21, 2015, 6:54 am

    I looked at Republic (and Google Fi) but both require my wife and I to buy new phones. We have perfectly good phones, so why pay another few hundred dollars to get new ones??

    Our Verizon contract just ran out, so I think we’ll be going with Ting because we can transfer our phones over for the cost of two SIM cards ($9 apiece) rather than entirely new phones. Their plan goes by actual data usage, so it should be between $45-65/month for two phones based on past usage stats. That seems pretty comparable to the other plans mentioned.

    Reply
  • Steve September 21, 2015, 7:19 am

    I started using Republic Wireless with a Defy XT and the old pricing model, and I recently switched to a Moto X with the new pricing model. I love the low cost, but I’m considering ditching it for one reason: the wifi call quality sucks, to the point that it’s almost unprofessional to use it for work calls. I’ve found that to be true with both phones on multiple different wifi networks. With the old plan, you could solve that by just disconnecting from wifi whenever there was a problem, but the new pricing model forces you to use wifi as much as possible, so that problem has been coming to the forefront for me since I upgraded my phone.

    I see a lot of complaints about this online, and the typical suggestion seems to involve doing things to the router. But the whole point of the service is to encourage people to connect to lots of different networks, and typically you won’t have access to the equipment on most of them. I spend a lot of my time in big office networks where I don’t have the right to fiddle with the equipment, so I’m out of luck in that regard.

    The other issue I’ve had is that the handover from wifi to cell seems to happen too late, so as I walk around I’m always running into this outer band around the network where I’m sill slightly connected with horrible wifi call quality, but it won’t do the handover until it totally loses the wifi connection. I seem to be making calls in those locations a lot for whatever reason.

    Is Republic a great option for many people? Absolutely. But you have to be willing to deal with some annoyances: it doesn’t “just work”. I wonder how Google Fi compares in that regard.

    Reply
    • chris September 21, 2015, 7:45 am

      Sounds like you need to enable handover in your advanced settings. This will allow you to switch from Wi-Fi to cell whenever you want.

      Agree with your final conclusion though. As I said in my post, I’m considering leaving for a variety of different issues. I’ve been waiting to allow RW time to fix some of the issues. I would be wary of Google Fi for fear of the same issues.

      on the plus side, if you don’t like Google Fi service you can always use the phone with a different MVNO service like cricket. You wouldn’t have the same sunk cost issues that you do with RW.

      Reply
  • Ben September 21, 2015, 7:49 am

    If you want tethering / wifi hotspot, but your phone doesn’t support it, you can try installing Cyanogenmod on your phone. It’s an open source version of the Android operating system. It takes a bit of tech skill to install, but the wiki pages are good at explaining everything.

    https://wiki.cyanogenmod.org/w/Install_CM_for_ghost
    https://wiki.cyanogenmod.org/w/Devices

    They typically release updates faster than many carriers do. If you have an older phone, you can get a much newer version of Android after your carrier has stopped providing updates.
    I use it on my Sony Z1 with Ting wireless (not as cheap as Republic, but they let me use the phone I already had) and it works great!

    Reply
  • Tom September 21, 2015, 8:00 am

    How is tethering beneficial, when you’re paying per byte of data used? I don’t quite get it.

    Or is it that your phone is a Wi-Fi repeater?

    Reply
  • Tommy September 21, 2015, 8:16 am

    It’s funny that you just posted this. I got the same sale on amazon and signed up for Fi last week.Very happy with it.

    Just a quick note: 2 new nexus phones (5x and 6P) will be released at the end of Sept. Both should work with project Fi and likely be affordable. Also it’s been reported that the new Moto X Pure Edition works with Fi, but not sure how well.

    Reply
  • Andrew September 21, 2015, 8:20 am

    I joined Project Fi in June and have had a really positive experience. In Houston, the reception is not quite as solid as I had with Verizon (embarrassingly expensive), but everything else has been amazing. Calls over Wi-Fi are fantastic, and the link to Google Voice means you can answer phone calls on your computer or iPad via Hangouts. That feature is pretty great when you forget your phone downstairs while crunching numbers and can just answer the call with your computer headset.

    We traveled for 10 days in Japan, so I can talk a little about the international coverage. I didn’t use voice, but had a signal basically everywhere. Data we used just like we always do and the grand total for my wife and I was $7 in data; which we would have spent anyway in the States. For comparison, my brother-in-law spent $300+ for his international data, and used way less than we did. If you travel internationally at all, I think this is absolutely a no-brainer.

    Reply
  • Andy September 21, 2015, 8:46 am

    I hope this isn’t off topic, but I pay $65/month with Verizon and have a year left on my contract. I don’t mind buying my way out of it, but would like to stay on their network. Several people have mentioned either switching to or from Verizon in this discussion, so does anybody have any input on good experiences with any Verizon MVNO’s? Page Plus is about the only one I’m aware of that will port me in if I’m still under contract, so have been considering them. Just curious if anybody has any input on them or any other Verizon MVNO they’re using?

    Reply
    • chris September 21, 2015, 10:26 am

      Total Wireless.

      Reply
    • Matt September 21, 2015, 11:57 am

      Andy, my wife and I have been happily using PagePlus with no issues. We both have the $30 plan (total cost is $31.16 with taxes). This gives us 1500 minutes, unlimited text and 1 GB of 4G data. These allotments were increased last month.

      Reply
      • Andy September 21, 2015, 12:04 pm

        Thanks for the tip Chris. And holy moly Matt! I had been looking around a couple of months ago, and Page Plus seemed to be the one I kept coming back to that seemed to make the most sense for me. I think at that time it was maybe 1200 or 1300 minutes, 2000 or 3000 texts, and maybe 500 MB data for $30. I calculated my averages for each for the past year and realized I would probably be ok with all three of them. But now there is no doubt about it. I had just never “talked” to anybody who has the service, so wasn’t sure if I wanted to proceed. Sounding like I may need to find out my ETF from Verizon and get ported over.

        Reply
        • Jeremy September 21, 2015, 12:09 pm

          Agreed. I’ve been with Pageplus ever since my VZW contract ended. I felt instant freedom after doing this too haha. The plan before (when it was only 500mb data) was whatever and not that great of a value. It’s a bit better now. I’m still on a 3g Moto G, which was grandfathered in as a Boost device. I’m not sure what device I’d get to replace it if it were to die on me but perhaps the Moto E or Moto X if I can find one for pretty cheap. LTE would be nice. If you’re looking to keep your current phone and just want a cheaper plan though without the headache of completely switching to a different carrier (and likely phone), PP is definitely a good way to transition over.

          Reply
          • Andy September 21, 2015, 12:26 pm

            Sweet! And have either of you noticed any difference in coverage or quality compared to Verizon? I have a Galaxy 5S, so I’m interested in keeping the phone and not crapping out more money for a new one. So that’s what I was thinking, if I can find out what my ETF will be, I have one year left on my contract, I’m sure the $35/month savings will cover the ETF over the next year, and as long as I can keep my phone and number, it seems like a no-brainer.

            Reply
            • Jeremy September 21, 2015, 12:33 pm

              No difference that I can tell. Supposedly VZW’s normal network is more ‘expansive’ and offers more ‘coverage’ then their prepaid counterpart but I think the difference is minuscule in most areas of the country. I don’t recall but can the Galaxy S5 work on other carriers? Or is it strictly tied to VZW? If it can work elsewhere, that opens up more options of course. But yea, important to figure out what the ETF is, or if you could even get out of your contract without having to pay haha.

              Reply
              • Andy September 21, 2015, 12:42 pm

                I was told by a member on the forums here that it can be used on a couple of the other networks. Can’t remember which off the top of my head, but I have a message from him. I’ve had Alltel/Verizon ever since my first cell phone, and have always been happy with the coverage and service. I always seem to here from others where I live that have had Sprint and some of the others that Verizon is better. I do remember the gf and I driving somewhere and needing pull up Google maps, she couldn’t get hers to load on Sprint, but mine came up just fine. So I was just thinking I wanted to stick with Verizon coverage because I’ve been happy with it.

    • JessC October 2, 2015, 9:09 am

      We haven’t had coverage issues on Page Plus any differently than when we had Verizon. Or if we have we haven’t notice.

      Reply
  • Dan Lothrop September 21, 2015, 9:41 am

    Hi MMM,

    Just to clarify – there are no roaming fees for data internationally.

    However, there are fees for calls. They are cheaper on WiFi e.g if you’re in Thailand calling a Thai number, WiFi calls are 2c/min vs 20c/min on network. Here are the rates:

    https://fi.google.com/about/rates/

    Reply
    • The Bechardian September 22, 2015, 10:16 am

      I first thought this article sounded too good to be true, as my wife and I travel to Canada frequently (and plan to eventually move there). But any calls in Canada when not on WiFi are a killer 20c/min. Dang! Still on the hunt for something in Canada that comes even close to what we have with Republic Wireless.

      Reply
  • cptmrpants September 21, 2015, 10:23 am

    With 3 rental properties and hopes for international travel, this is huge.

    If you can take and make phone calls in Nicaragua, en route to Panama, why would you 10% to a property manager?

    Reply
  • Paul September 21, 2015, 10:26 am

    When roaming in other countries:
    “Keep in mind that data speeds in the 120+ supported countries will be limited to 256kbps.”

    Reply
  • Professor Else September 21, 2015, 10:58 am

    Great post. I got turned on to MVNO’s from this site over a year ago, and my wife and I have since dropped our cell service costs from over $100 to $50 for two phones. As long as you don’t feel the need to constantly upgrade phones, thus tethering yourself contracts (or paying substantial amounts for new phones that kill your savings), this is so the way to go.

    Reply
  • Mike C September 21, 2015, 11:17 am

    As a Canadian, Google Fi looks interesting, but I’d be stuck using 3G data and not LTE. I’d also like to bring my own device, because I’m firmly embedded in the Windows Phone camp. (Yeah, I know, “challenge the trap of brand loyalty”, but sticking with this platform means using the same tools to develop my own apps on the phone as I do on the desktop. And besides, I like to work with a company where I know I’m the customer (Microsoft, Apple) and not the product to be sold to advertisers (Google, Facebook).)

    All that said, hooray for the competition and choice, as this should only lead to similar plans in the future that offer global LTE and BYOD.

    Reply
  • Frugal Bazooka September 21, 2015, 11:19 am

    Thanks for the investigative post MMM. This is what this site does best, helping people find ways to optimize their lives with a frugal slant while still enjoying the fruits of the modern world. I would never find the time to research phones with the depth and information that you provide. The free market works best when consumers are informed and MMM website does a great job of doing just that.

    Reply
  • Retire29 September 21, 2015, 11:26 am

    While Republic Wireless and Google FI are good, nothing beats RingPlus. 300 Min / 300 Text, 1 GB data for $8/mo ($9.54/mo after taxes and fees).

    I wrote an article (http://retire29.com/the-954-a-month-iphone-plan/) about it at my blog, if anyone cares to read more about how it has worked out for me for the past year.

    Reply
    • Crystal October 1, 2015, 8:17 am

      Yes, but is it good for international travel?…that is kind of the point of this article that many are missing. What is the best deal for travelers.

      Reply
  • superbien September 21, 2015, 11:32 am

    I posted awhile ago about my concerns about Republic Wireless’ creepy terms of service – will they really pull your account if you send a survey on the best time for a meeting, or send your partner a racy photo? Likely not, but the terms say they totally can. No way.

    I ended up on T-Mobile, with a phone that switches between network and Wi-Fi, and can tether my laptop (necessary as I’m ‘critical personnel’ at work, and work subsidizes $70/month). T-Mobile has great customer service, but the data and network coverage is very spotty outside of metropolitan centers. Frustratingly, I can have 3 or 4 bars but not have any data or GPS navigation. (My workaround has been to download Sygic and the relevant maps, so I have them in a pinch, given occasional work trips to rural areas)

    I’m definitely looking for a cheaper alternative, so I appreciate the post!

    Reply
  • Ben Luthi September 21, 2015, 11:33 am

    One thing to note, I spoke with Republic Wireless reps at FinCon last week and they told me they’re planning on setting up network connection through all networks, so you’re not stuck with Sprint. You’ll basically get coverage wherever there’s a tower nearby, regardless of who owns it.

    Reply
    • Andy January 18, 2016, 3:32 pm

      This isn’t necessarily a good thing in some situations. I live in the mountains of western Colorado and use Republic. Since there isn’t a Sprint signal where I live, it automatically roams on the Verizon tower which is quite nice. My wife tried Project Fi and instead of roaming it switched to the Tmobile towers which are really terrible in this valley. Until Tmobile boosts their rural signal this could be an issue for some people. So in my case, I hope Republic doesn’t do this.

      Reply
  • Jeremy September 21, 2015, 11:34 am

    I was extended a Fi invite and even got the welcome box, but still don’t have a Nexus 6. Hahaha… I’m torn about putting out $300 as I haven’t spent more than $50 on a phone in the past several years (of course, I’ve probably gone through 2-3 phones in the past 5 years on that cycle). I currently have a Moto G (3g yuck) and am still on Page Plus as of now. They actually increased their plan to compete I suppose: the $29.95 plan is unlimited talk/text and 1gb of data compared to 1200 talk/text and 500 measly mbs of data. I also paid $40 recently and signed up for Freedompop’s Kyocera Hydro Icon. Despite a recent Play services update from Google breaking all their apps on many Kyocera phones, including mine, it’s a decent device considering the monthly plan is free (also unlimited talk/text with 100 international call minutes and 1gb of data…well 500mb default but an extra 500mb with FP friends). The FP service is decent and LTE speeds aren’t bad (I’ve gotten above 10mbps). I can’t speak too much to call quality as I haven’t used it a whole lot, but from what I’ve tested it seems fine. Aside from FP’s antics with over/upcharging and what not, they’re not too bad – of all the extra charges (which really haven’t been that many) I’ve gotten I’ve been able to work it out and get reimbursed via Twitter DMs. Still, a Nexus 6 would certainly be cool to have. I have an old 1st gen Nexus 7 I should probably dump though before I decide on the Nexus 6… maybe by then there will be more price drops or perhaps they’ll extend Google Fi to BYOD soon.

    Reply
  • Aperture September 21, 2015, 11:34 am

    $350 for one phone!!! I am shocked at your behavior Mr. MM. Just moved my family from AT+T to Cricket with a bring-your-own-device deal and am paying $100/month for 4 phones with unlimited talk/text and 2gb data on 4G. Google is totally glamtastic, but I thought Mr. MM would always help me sort the bling-bling culture that masks wage-slavery from the financial independence that means true FREEDOM (cut to Mel Gibson in Braveheart). Wag of the finger.

    Reply
    • Jeremy September 21, 2015, 11:37 am

      But it was $299.99 on Ebay for a period of time before it went OOS….lol

      Reply

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