questionsis there was a way to determine how well a phone…

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http://deals.woot.com/deals/details/b2070f61-0686-4a23-9d70-fd8456d2b55d/republic-wireless#3
This will use your WiFi in your house for data, text and calls, assuming you have internet in your house and a WiFi network.

The plans are unlimited* for the * see the website.
The $10 a month plan: When you are outside it switches to Sprint service automatically for phone and text (no data outside).
The catch? The phone is a $300 investment, but it is a MotoX, with all the bells and whistles.

The $25 a month plan: Data outside is Sprint's 3g.

4g is available in some areas, you should check that out yourself if interested.

I upgraded 3 text only phones to 4 phones on this plan. My only regret is my wife lost her phone number, my kids got to keep theirs.

Phone + year 1 + year 2 divided by 24 months. (300+120+120) $22.50 a month.

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@caffeine_dude: Hey! Thanks, I never would have even considered one with a price tag like that . . . I'm expecting to use it forever . . . Gives me something to think about, monthly price may be the tipping point . . .

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This is really weird. There have been a dozen or so questions in the last year about Trac phones (I took notes on some of them, so I know they existed), but none of them show up on a search for "trac phone" today.

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@magic cave: Trac Phone was my first thought, but I don't know how to tell what would let it break through the concrete house I am living in. Thanks!

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@magic cave: Could be because the name of the brand is TracFone with no spaces.

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@omnichad: Um, gosh. You don't suppose the search feature is so weak that it can't even figure out what I was trying to find??

:::slinking off:::

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@magic cave: Taking Google features for granted and expecting them on other web sites... Such a hard thing to cope with sometimes. I am quite guilty of that.

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It doesn't matter how good the phones antenna is. It depends on the frequency of the signal. The lower the frequency, the better it penetrates buildings and walls. There are 4 major US carriers. T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. The other smaller carriers like TracFone, don't actually have their own towers. They have agreements with one of the 4 major carriers use their towers. T-Mobile's frequencies are the highest. They use 1700/2100MHz for their signal. It does not penetrate through walls well. Same with Sprint. Your best bet is going to be using an AT&T or Verizon prepaid option. Either straight through them, or an MVNO that uses their towers. Straight Talk will work well for you as long as you get their AT&T SIM. The Republic Wireless suggestion is a good one, but if you want a basic flip phone, it's not an option. Do a little research and find out what's available in your area and which of the big 4's towers they use. AT&T and VZW have the best chance of reaching you inside.

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@housry23: Thank you! I think this is what I am looking for. Just a little surprised that different phones use different carriers while in the same location. Too complicated for my little, weary mind to straighten out. Thanks for the 101 class on towers.

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You might also consider the following 3 alternatives (split in two comments) for a cell-proof (Faraday cage?) home:

1) Repeaters - they are available in many forms and range from cheap to quite expensive. Requires a bit of research for your preferred carrier since the devices that actually work are frequency-speific. They pick up whatever cell signal is available and repeat that signal into your home. Google something like "cell repeater" and you're off and running.

2) Microcells - 'not sure what carriers have them available but AT&T does. They've been known to provide them free to valued customers who could demonstrate poor coverage in their homes. They use your Internet connection to create a mini "cell tower" in your home. Very compact tho, like a router.

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Cont'

3) Bluetooth capable landline cordless telephone set - like the "Link-to-Cell" Panasonic models frequently sold on Woot. If you can get a usable cell signal anywhere in your house, perhaps next to an upstairs window, locate the Panasonic base wthin 15-25 feet of that location and park (charge) your cell phone at that location. By paring your cellphone to the Panasonic base, all your Panasonic handsets around the house now give you remote access to your cell calls. Limit of two paired cell phones and only one cell call at a time. No landline needed. The latest Panasonics even alert you to a text on your cell phone. (But do not relay the text itself.)

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@caffeine_dude: Republic Wireless looks like a very interesting provider, thanks! Based in Raleigh, NC if that matters.

Did a little checking and it looks solid, especially if the underlying Sprint coverage in your area is solid. We checked our metropolitan area on their zip code checker and the cell/3G looks good, but 4G is a problem. Also, I'd recommend anyone considering it who spends a lot of time at other locations, like a summer property, check those zip codes.

Normally CNET's reviews should be considered with cynicism because parent CBS has demonstrated they interfere with honest assessment, but the following piece does a nice job of summarizing Republic:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57616584-94/is-republic-wireless-too-good-to-be-true/

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@bluemaple: A lot of information there. Looks like I'm gonna be busy studying today. Thank you for the insights!

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Up until quite recently, Republic was offering Motorola Defy for about $100 but I don;t see it on the site anymore so I guess it has been phased out. I switched from tracfone (which I had for years and loved) to Republic because I had cell connectivity problems at home and because I needed an android phone to take credit cards for my art sales. Republic's biggest weakness it the lack of phone support, but they have a thriving forum where you can get direct help from members, and staff seems responsive in the staff forum to problems that can't be solved by group-think. One unexpected benefit is that I'll be able to use my phone internationally using wifi, a nice bonus.

@magic_cave: Coming from someone who has trouble with the space in her username, that search problem is ironic.

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@moondrake: @magic cave doubly ironic ;-)

bracket@user namebracket and the space will show up correctly

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@bluemaple: I live in Raleigh and I know a lot of college students that have had and still have a republic phone. they seem to work well in this area at least. I'm tempted to give them a try myself.

I agree with the suggestion to check into getting a microcell. My brother-in-law has one and has put all our numbers in it for when we visit Charleston. It works great. They had to pay for theirs, it was $250 if I remember correctly.

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@moondrake: "@magic_cave: Coming from someone who has trouble with the space in her username, that search problem is ironic."

Oh, silly! I don't have trouble with the space in my name. I'm fine, since I established this name when spaces were acceptable.

It's other people who have a problem with it. Putting an underscore between the two parts of my ID doesn't fix it.

Nevertheless, irony is irony. I liked your comments on that other thread.

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@nmchapma: Raleigh is a nice spot but a bit too hot for me in the summer. Too much Michigan blood I guess. I have close relatives in next door Cary. My nephew and niece graduated from Duke and UNC. I laughed when told Cary stands for "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees". Seems to be true.

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@magic cave: Ah, I didn't realize that some folks needed the underscore and others didn't. That's just odd. :)

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@nmchapma: As part of a role in a prior life I managed the corporate mobile relationships. The trick with getting AT&T to help you out with coverage issues is to report service issues regularly. That log matters. With smartphones I regularly use the AT&T "mark the spot" app. Not a waste of time since those reports get associated with your account.

General observations about the carriers - almost everyone else rides on these networks: (corp perspective)
Verizon: most solid network, but buggers to deal with - their Finance department rules them (a key reason they did not get the iPhone initially).
AT&T: might not have quite as solid a network, but much easier to deal with. AT&T has been on a major customer satisfaction drive recently.
Sprint: nationally, has coverage issues. Hungry, friendly but not as professional support.
T-Mobile: significant coverage issues nationally. Stuck in network technology decision paralysis mode. Mother Deutsche Telekom trying to sell US division.

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@moondrake: @caffeine_dude: Can you ballpark how much taxes/fees are added onto your monthly plan? Example, you have the "$25" plan, but your bill is ~$41 every month. Oh and is there any $10/month "smartphone" or "premium data" upcharge BS like Sprint tacks on?

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@firebirdude: Oh, and is there ANY chance any other phones can be activated with their service? For example: Sprint phones?

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@firebirdude: the Republic site is really helpful. They claim the typical customer sees about 17% in additional taxes/fees.

And they are very specific about phone hardware - only theirs works due to having custom ROM software to support the wifi calls and handoffs.

Reminds me of the previous T-Mobile wifi-calling capable phone service - they advertised it as a way to minimize calling minutes charged to your plan.

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@firebirdude: I am on autopay. I'll look at the credit cards on the taxes question (I am not sure which it is billing to) and answer early next week. There are no upcharges that I know of (I've only been on their service for about 3 months). You can't use any other phones as they use a hybrid phone specially made for them by Motorola to access wifi. It's my understanding that you also can't buy the Moto X for $300 from Republic, which is about half the market price, and then take it to another provider. These phones only work on Republic's service. I haven't ever had a Android phone before and it is really wonderful, aside from the hazard of having Plants vs Zombies, Catan and Netflix in my pocket while I am at work (and keeping it in my pocket).

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@firebirdude: I finally paid all my bills this morning and found the credit card I am using for Republic. I am on the $25 a month plan and am paying $30. I seems odd for it to be a round number like that, maybe they round it off somehow.

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@moondrake: Thanks for much for getting back to me! I'm so sick of paying out the nose for my cell phone....

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@firebirdude:

Every MotoX you buy one time only:
Balance Due: $0.00
One-Time Charges
Charge Detail
Moto X Phone Kit - Black (A-stock) $299.00
Sales Tax - State (6.00%) $17.94
Sales Tax - Local (1.00%) $2.99
Shipping & Handling $10.00
One-Time Subtotal: $309.00
One-Time Taxes: $20.93
Invoice Total: $329.93

Monthly Charges for no Data outside:
Charge Detail
Moto X Wi-Fi + Cell Talk + Text Service Plan $10.00
E911 (Wireless) - State (100.00%) $1.00
Sales Tax - County (1.00%) $0.11
Sales Tax - State (6.00%) $0.64
Fed USF Cellular - Federal (16.40%) $0.61
FCC Regulatory Fee (Wireless) - Federal (1.50%) $0.02
Monthly Subtotal: $10.00
Monthly Taxes: $2.38
Invoice Total: $12.38

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Different plan with 3G data outside monthly bill.
Moto X Wi-Fi + Cell + 3G Service Plan $25.00
E911 (Wireless) - State (100.00%) $1.00
Sales Tax - County (1.00%) $0.27
Sales Tax - State (6.00%) $1.59
Fed USF Cellular - Federal (16.40%) $1.52
FCC Regulatory Fee (Wireless) - Federal (1.50%) $0.02
Monthly Subtotal: $25.00
Monthly Taxes: $4.40
Invoice Total: $29.40

Get someone to sign up using your name you can get that person a $19 credit and yourself a $19 credit. I got the first phone to test for my family and then signed them up with different accounts to get the credits.

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OMG Thank you so much! I still haven't switched because I'm under contract with Sprint until the end of the year. But I did the math on the ETF vs Money saved each month by switching to RW. Apparently, I agreed to a...choke THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLAR early termination fee. Yeah. Gagged a little bit there. So it's about the same amount of money for me to ride out the plan I have. But I've been telling my family/loved ones about it. Once one of us are ready to switch, I'll have to get with one of you and get your information so we can both get the referral credit.

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@firebirdude: This blows my mind:
I am paying %24.9 in taxes in my area. If I have a $100 phone plan, my bill is going to be 124.90.
24.90 in taxes!
My total monthly bill for 4 phones is 49.52.

remember I do not have data outside wifi (only cell and text) But to be fair my $100 phone plan was for 3 feature phones, no data. If I remember correctly I paid a start fee with my old company. And I did not end on the same day the contract ended so I got to pay for a service I could not use. (my old company's name started with a V and has the largest 4g network.)

Hang in there, I did not have a cell phone for 2 years and 3 months, because I was waiting for RW to get a good phone, and I did not want to be stuck in a 2 year contract when RW finally released a good phone. Good phone = MotoX.

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@caffeine_dude: Yep. My base plan with Sprint is $69.99 and I get a 22% discount through my employer......so even with that hefty discount, I STILL pay ~$76/month with all their taxes and fees. AND I don't even have 4G in my area.....let alone LTE. That boils my blood to think about. Nearly 1/4 discount...and I still pay more than the actual plan is advertised for....and can't even utilize their fast network. Ridiculous!

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@firebirdude: FYI, regarding the data coverage, unless you are on wifi, Republic won't help your Sprint issues since Republic rides on Sprint's network. But Republic's pricing sure is tempting...

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@bluemaple: I'm aware. I actually don't particularly care about it....just angry I seem to be paying for "premium data" access but unable to utilize it.

Oh and the "premium data" upcharge is not voluntary. You have a smartphone, you pay it.

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@firebirdude: It is aggravating that carriers force you into a data plan simply because you are using a data-capable phone. I know folks who want to use their smart phones like dumb phones, but maintain the iPod Touch smartphone-like functionality when wifi is available.

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Do not get me wrong RW is not perfect. Just want to make sure you get the big picture.
You can not buy and sell used phones.
They could not port our 'expensive cell number', but were able to port the other 2 numbers.
I read somewhere they can kick out for using too high of a percentage of tower calls. I think this is so you do not drop you home internet and use this phone as your only data source.
$40 for the 4g plan
Good thing. You can change your plan 3 times a month. I was on the $25 (3g data cell and text) plan logged in with my phone and changed it to the $10 (cell and text), not sure how this is going to look on my bill.

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@caffeine_dude: I average about 2 years per cell phone. I generally only upgrade when my current phone stops working. I also used their online tool to see if my number could be ported over. Mine and all my families passed their little tool test. I have no intentions of getting rid of my high speed internet. I've done my share of tethering and it's waaay too slow for my daily needs. I don't have 4G in my area, so the $25 plan is as high as I'll go. But like you said, you can switch it yourself several times a month. I'll probably sit on the $10/month plan most of the time, as don't even use the dang phone much at all. Pandora. Couple hundred texts/month. Under 15 mins of voice calls/month. No games. Very little internet surfing. I can deal with WiFi only internet.

And my family uses their phone even less. ZERO data from both my parents. No email. No internet radio. No games. Nothing. Zero text from mom and probably 40/month from dad.