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There have been two updates to this post. The latest is 9/2/17 and even though we left Republic Wireless – we’ve decided to go back. Here’s why.
I wrote a post last fall called Can a New Smartphone Save Me Time and Money? I had used a basic Windows smartphone for over a year and although it worked fine, it had a lot of limitations. My husband was using a four-year old Nexus 4 phone. We were really getting worried it wouldn’t survive the next crash to the floor! We only had one item on our Christmas lists – new phones. (And we’ll keep our old phones as emergency back-ups!)
We took all of your advice and spent a little over two months determining exactly what features we wanted in our phones. We also decided to get the same phone to make life a lot easier! A few of you thought we should figure out the carrier we wanted to use first, but we weren’t really worried about that. The phone was more important to us. We knew we were going to choose phones that could be used on a number of different carriers. What phone did we choose?
The Google Nexus 6 by Motorola. (And yes, I haven’t uploaded many apps yet as my son pointed out! Any suggestions?)
We bought them in new condition from Overstock.com for $219 each (including shipping) in late November. These are not the newest Nexus phone. The 6p takes that honor – but it comes with a price tag close to $600. We had ZERO interest in buying a phone at that price point. These phones were discontinued in January of 2016 but sold for close to $400 for many months.
Are we concerned that they are a discontinued model? Maybe. But based on everything we’ve read, we should be fine. (OK – we hope we’ll be fine!) I’m sure there will be issues down the road with updates, but we’ll have to figure that out when the time comes. If you can anticipate any problems we might have, feel free to share away in the comments!
Here are a few of the specs of our new Nexus 6 phones:
- 6 inch AMOLED display (Yes, it’s HUGE – call it a phablet or whatever you choose – we LOVE it!)
- 2.7 GHz quad-core processor
- Camera – front 2 MP, rear 13 MP
- Sensors – GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, ambient light sensor, barometer (I have a barometer sensor? I learn something new everyday…)
- 6.5 oz
- Scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- Unlocked – can be used on both GSM and CDMA
Along with a bunch of other things that don’t make a lot of sense to me.
This isn’t a phone that everyone would want. It is just too big for many people. But we LOVE them because of the awesome viewing experience! They are SO much nicer (and faster) than our old phones! We both noticed right away that we can see the screen without having to put glasses on all the time.
Our Project FI vs. Republic Wireless Experiment Begins!
We’ve been using Airvoice Wireless (an AT&T MNVO) for the last few years and for the most part, we’ve been really happy. We both used the Unlimited Talk/Unlimited Text and 100Mb of data plan for $20/month (including taxes/fees). I always loved knowing that the only charge we’d get from Airvoice was $40 for the two of us.
Based on your usage, you might be laughing at the 100Mb of data. We also had an AT&T Go Phone pre-paid hotspot that had 2 GB of data for $25/month. We couldn’t use our phones as hot spots, so the pre-paid one was great when we traveled. I used it all the time to grade papers (I was teaching online) and communicate with my students. We also always had data “on the go”. Our plan worked great and made sense for us – but with our family and job changes, it doesn’t make sense anymore.
As we made plans to get new phones, we also knew we were going to be considering new carriers. We wanted to make sure our new phones would be compatible with a variety of networks. We specifically chose the Nexus 6 because it could be used on both Republic Wireless (RW) and Project FI. The Nexus 6 can also be used on AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and almost every MNVO imaginable! It is a very versatile phone.
My new carrier is a Google MNVO called Project FI. From what I understand, Project FI uses three different carriers (U.S. Cellular , T-Mobile or Sprint) depending on which has the best signal where you are at the moment. It also seamlessly uses Wi-Fi whenever possible. The coverage map looked good for most places we’ll be in the next 6 months and that helped me make the decision to give FI a try!
My Project FI plan charges $20/month for unlimited talk/text, unlimited international texting and $10/GB of data. You estimate your monthly data usage and you are credited for data you don’t use. Extra data is charged the same $10/GB if you need it. You can also use your phone as a Wi-FI hotspot, call and text across devices, and you can order a free data-only Sim card for other devices. Group (or family) plans are also available at a discount. The plan also works automatically on international trips. It works in 135 countries and still charges the same $10/GB (texting is free, calling is .20/min).
I haven’t used a full month of service yet, so this is just the beginning of the experiment! The free Sim card took about 10 days to arrive (during the Christmas mail rush) and I didn’t activate it until late January. Porting my number was very easy and took less than 12 hours. I was not without service at all during the port-over. As a light data user (I use Wi-Fi the majority of the time), I am excited about Project FI. If you are in the market for a new phone (or if you have one of the few phones that can be used on FI), check out Project FI. If you decide to give FI a try and use this link, you and I will both receive a $20 statement credit.
I’m very happy with FI so far. The website is simple to use and the one time I needed customer service, I was able to do an online chat with no waiting. There is also a great community of FI’ers ready to support any questions you might have! I don’t have any contract with FI, so if I have problems – I can make a quick move back to Airvoice or try a new carrier!
My husband’s new carrier is Republic Wireless! RW uses hybrid calling as well – a blend of Wi-Fi and cellular service. From what I understand, RW focuses on using wifi as the primary connection. But the connection will be cellular through Sprint (with Verizon/text voice roaming) or the TMobile (with AT&T voice/text roaming) network if Wi-Fi is not available.The coverage map also looked good for most places we’ll be in the next 6 months – so we’re giving RW a try too!
You can bring some phones to RW – and the Nexus 6 is one of them (yes, we knew that before we ordered our Nexus phones!) We ordered a Sim card for $5 and it arrived two days later. My husband is on the Clear Choice $20 plan which includes unlimited talk, text, and wifi data + 1 GB of cell data. His plan is $10 cheaper than mine, but mine will credit the unused data. RW used to do that, but that isn’t the case now from what I can tell. RW can still be an amazing deal – if the coverage works for you and you are not an iPhone user!
His RW phone can also be used as a hotspot! Porting took about 24 hours and he had full service through the port as well. He also got texts updating him on the progress and when the port was complete. We are hoping that he will have great reception at our rental property so he can use his phone there. Airvoice coverage was very spotty. We should know more about that in the next few weeks. He will also be to call and text over WiFi (only) for free if we are traveling internationally.
He is very happy with RW so far too! The website has been easy to use, but we haven’t needed customer service -which we’ve heard can be a real challenge. We do know that RW has a very helpful community too! If you are interested in checking out RW and use this link, you’ll help support our site too 😉
Since we are just getting started, we’ll do an update on our phones and plans in a few months (or sooner if we run into problems!) Since we both have the same phone, we’ve limited one of the variables in the experiment. We hope to learn more about these lower-cost cellular service providers and share what we have learned with you! Changing cell phones and plans may seem very complicated, but when you look at the savings (time and money) – it might be a really smart decision!
So we bought discontinued phones… Should we be concerned about losing the ability to update to the latest Android sugar-based OS (we’re running 7.0 Nougat right now)?? Does anyone else have one of these crazy big phones (and have you learned to love it?) Any FI or RW customers out there? Do you have questions about low cost carriers? Feel free to share the good, the bad, or the ugly about either service too!
Update – we ended the experiment, 4 months in. Read more here!