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Four months ago, I shared a post discussing how we chose our new Nexus 6 phones and the beginning of our experiment between Project Fi and Republic Wireless. We chose the type of phone we wanted before considering cell service providers. We knew that an unlocked Nexus phone with the features we wanted could be moved to a variety of low-cost GSM or CDMA carriers (or MNVO’s – mobile virtual network operators.)
We gave up the big name cell carriers about six years ago – the same time we cut out cable TV and found our “tribe” in the personal finance community.
Before I go on to the results of the experiment, I just wanted to share some feedback on the phones we chose. My husband and I got the same (new) phone – the Nexus 6 for $219 each at Overstock.com (currently selling for $329 on Amazon!) We love our new phones and our aging eyes appreciate those 6 inch screens! We haven’t found them to be that difficult to carry or hold and the trade off on the viewing experience has been totally worth it.
They are discontinued models though and I wrote that I thought we’d be fine with this model in the original post. And I think we are…but there is a chance it may have impacted our MNVO experiment – so on to the results!
Before we started the experiment, we were both using Airvoice Wireless (an AT&T MNVO) and we were happy with their service and our cell coverage. We were using very little data on our phones, so we were able to use their $20 plan (including taxes/fees). We also had a hotspot with 2GB of data so we could use that with our phones, and I could use my laptop in the car when we traveled. But since I went back to work full-time again last summer – (that one more year syndrome), we decided to drop the hotspot since our travel plans changed.
After dropping the hotspot, we decided that we could probably switch carriers and get more data at a cheaper price for the new phones we wanted. We’ve changed carriers before and even though it is a bit of a hassle, it isn’t hard to do (and we were always able to keep our phone numbers.) This is when we decided to give two different carriers a try to see which one we preferred. I chose to go with Google’s Project Fi and we set my husband up with Republic Wireless.
My Project Fi Plan and the Results from 1/22 – 5/22/17
Monthly Fi Plan:
- $20/month for unlimited calls, unlimited texts, 24/7 tech support
- $10/month for 1 GB data (credit issued for unused data)
- $5.11/month in TAXES & FEES!
|Date||Data Credit = $ Refund||Bill|
|1/22/17||Full Data (1 GB) = $0||$35.11*|
|2/22/17||.491 GB = $4.91||$10.20**|
|3/22/17||.293 GB = $2.93||$32.18|
|4/22/17||.330 GB = $3.30||$31.86|
|5/22/17||.485 GB = $4.85||$30.31|
* This is a pre-paid service, then you get a refund for data not used
** Referral credit applied ($20 to referrer and $20 to me) in addition to data refund $
Total = $139.66 (average $27.93 w/referral credit, $31.93 w/out $20 referral credit)
Positives of My Fi Experience: free SIM card, easy porting process, credit for unused data, ability to use phone as hotspot, easy to use website, online chat feature, community forum, no contract, data alerts, clear calls over wi-fi, spam call alerts
Features of Fi Not Used Yet: international use, extra purchase of $10/GB data, adding family members at a lower rate
I’ve only had two negative experiences in the four months I’ve been using Project Fi. The first is having data on at all times in order to be able to get calls. On the other MNVO’s I’ve used, I could turn the data off and still get calls. This hasn’t been a big issue though. The other issue was my inability to get calls at work because of a poor cell signal and a weak wi-fi signal. I requested a call from a Fi representative and they stayed on the phone with me until the problem was resolved. (They ended up switching the network my calls were being routed to.)
I am still with Project Fi at this point. I have been happy with their service and I think there are a number of benefits to using this MNVO. The ability to use my phone as a hotspot is still important to me and good customer service is even more important. I am not thrilled with the price though, specifically the taxes. For now, I think Fi is a reasonable cell service to consider – especially if their features meet many of your needs.
My Husband’s Republic Wireless Plan and the Results from 1/22 – 5/22/17
Monthly RW Plan – Clear Choice Talk and Text w/ 1GB Data:
- $20/month for unlimited calls & unlimited texts, 1 GB data
- $4.59/month in TAXES & FEES!
TOTAL = $24.59 per/month (no refunds for unused data)
Total = $122.95 (same monthly bill of $24.95)
Positives of His RW Experience: easy porting process, easy to use RW app, community forum, no contract, data alerts, clear calls over wi-fi, spam call alerts, low cost
He only had one negative experience in the four months he used Republic Wireless. But it was a big enough negative that he dropped RW service in May. Everything had been going really well until one day when his phone wouldn’t make outgoing calls. He could text and get calls, but he couldn’t make calls unless he was on wi-fi. And a day later, he couldn’t make calls at all.
In my original post for this experiment, I made the comment, “we haven’t needed RW customer service -which we’ve heard can be a real challenge.” And that became the big problem…the lack of quality (and timely) customer service.
We understand that when you use MNVO’s you pay less than the big carriers and may experience some issues. RW has a strong and helpful community forum and customer service via email – but you can’t call and talk to anyone when you are having a big problem. (Of course he would have had to borrow a phone to call them if it was an option because his phone couldn’t make calls!)
I posted the problem in the community forum for him and we tried everything that was suggested. I put in a help ticket too. And it took overnight to get a response. We did what the email support suggested and wrote them back because the phone still didn’t work. And then we didn’t hear anything again for 6 or 7 hours. Another email with suggestions and we emailed them right back when they didn’t work. After a delayed response again, another day went by.
After not having a functional phone for 3 days (when we were on the road traveling), we decided that RW’s days were likely numbered. We got another email that said that we would need to do a hard reset of his phone to see if that would solve the problem. And that was the final straw. He wasn’t going to lose everything on his phone (or try to back it all up) to stick with RW. We had an extra AirVoice Wireless SIM and started the porting process back to AirVoice.
We are not sure what the problem was with RW. I used RW back in 2014 and I was very happy with the service. My husband was very happy up until mid-May too. I am wondering if this had something to do with our discontinued phone model and some kind of update, but RW support didn’t mention that was the problem either. We are too busy with our properties right now for my husband to have a phone that isn’t functioning properly.
What’s really interesting is that I had just ordered an RW SIM card myself. I had decided to switch from Project Fi to Republic Wireless based on how the experiment was going and to save more money!
When I finish work next Friday (one more week!!), I am going to re-visit some other options and I’ll keep you updated if I change cell carriers again. It’s great to have the freedom to shop around! I think that Republic Wireless and Project Fi are good options based on your needs and the features that are offered. Just know that customer service can be an issue at RW, even though they do have support options. They are very reasonably priced, but this is a trade-off you need to keep in mind.
After reviewing the AirVoice website again, I think it could be a top contender but I couldn’t use my phone as a hotspot then ☹ That is the only real negative. AirVoice runs on AT&T towers which have very good coverage here. We are also looking at this Sprint option (that ends June 30th.) We have phones that meet the criteria and to get a (mostly) free year of unlimited everything with no contract would be awesome! Prices would go up in year two if we chose to stay with them. But if Sprint meets our needs (including other family members), switching again might be a really smart decision!
Have you tried an MNVO and been unhappy? Is there an MNVO that you love? Anyone else going to look into that Sprint special? Our kids are using Straight Talk (using the Verizon towers). They have some really negative reviews but we haven’t had any trouble at all in the last 5 years! It’s all about what you need, your expectations, and your wallet! Thanks for reading!