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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: mandydean on July 09, 2015, 09:07:30 AM

Title: Cell Service / MVNO advice - switching from Republic
Post by: mandydean on July 09, 2015, 09:07:30 AM
I've browsed the other posts, I've read the big "comm guide", and I'm still just plain overwhelmed.

I'm a long-time RW user, since Januaryish of last year. For the most part, I've been super-happy with the $10 plan (mine is just $12 after taxes). I like knowing that my bill will be the same each month and I don't have to think about it. However, it would be nice to have SOME data available when I'm out, for looking up addresses/locations/an important email when I need it. Also, my phone is getting close to end-of-life (battery is almost dead on it), and I'm not wanting to invest in another locked-down phone. The biggest kicker, for me, is that MMS messaging, esp with iPhone users, has never worked properly for me, and Republic's customer service in this matter has been non-existent. I kept holding out thinking eventually they'd fix this issue - surely it's a priority problem for them, right? - but a year and a half later, they haven't even really addressed it. I'm tired of rebooting my phone every time someone sends an MMS, and then still usually having to ask them to email it to me instead.

SO - I'm looking to switch, but I'm overwhelmed by the options out there, and the network choices, phone choices, pay-as-you-go, etc. Wondering if y'all could help narrow the list down for me.

My priorities: Camera quality (I'd love to bring an iPhone into the plan), monthly cost as low as possible, Reliability (I don't want something where I'm having to tweak settings all the time, would rather not delve into Voip, unless you can promise it's really that easy :) ), port my # from RW.

My usage: It's hard to say for sure since Republic doesn't give me a good talk/text report, but I talk very little, text and MMS pretty often, and can use mostly Wi-Fi - if I'm doing pay-as-you-go, I'd really want to be able to put a cap on data so I don't accidentally update an operating system over cellular. I'd like to have a couple hundred MB of cell data available.

Coverage isn't a huge deal since I don't travel a lot. T-Mobile can be a little spotty in surrounding rural areas here, so given the choice, I'd choose a bigger network over T-M if I could.

Your collective thoughts? :)
Title: Re: Cell Service / MVNO advice - switching from Republic
Post by: Lady Fordragon on July 09, 2015, 09:31:32 AM
My husband and I have had Ting for almost 2 years now.  We've been very happy with the coverage and the customer service.  You can bring over most Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile phones.  You would just want to check  ( see if the phone is eligible.  Now something to remember about Ting is that it's a pay for what you use type of plan so your bill could fluctuate depending on your usage for the month.  Also, the data costs could get up there if you use a lot off of Wi-Fi, but if you only need to use it every so often then it should be fine.  I hope this helps!
Title: Re: Cell Service / MVNO advice - switching from Republic
Post by: Daley on July 09, 2015, 11:30:09 AM
Mandy, the key is to not let the information overwhelm you but to give you options that lead you in the direction you need to go based on what you actually need. You understand the options, right? Let's narrow them down with a laser-like focus to what you actually need by eliminating what you don't want. You start by focusing on what carrier best fits your needs before you decide on a handset... and focus on the idea of paying for what you need.

Before we get going though, I'll just point something out: if you don't use the phone much to talk, there's not much point to leveraging and employing VoIP to keep costs low.

First, who was your mobile carrier before you switched to Republic, and were you happy with their service coverage when you were with them?

Second, if you're certain that the T-Mobile network isn't a good choice due to regional coverage issues for where you are, you simply need to eliminate those options. That means no P'tel, no Liberty Wireless, no BYO Wireless GSM, and no Ting GSM - even if they do have limited partner roaming agreements.

(See how easy this is so far?)

Third, if you were happy with your previous carrier's coverage or if you would prefer another network that you know for a fact provides the best coverage in your area, focus your MVNO choices to only that network. If AT&T, focus on Airvoice Wireless, H2O Wireless, RedPocket, Puretalk USA, Consumer Cellular, and Truphone. If Verizon, then Selectel, Puppy Wireless, and BYO Wireless CDMA. If Sprint (theoretically - though you are asking for a bigger network), then Ecomobile, Kajeet, and Ting CDMA. If it's a choice between only AT&T or Verizon, you'll find cheaper prices on the AT&T end.

Now, you said you're a heavy texter and light caller. It may take a little math effort, but it'll be worth taking the time diving into your account's call history logs online and adding things up on the talk and text end. One way to ease this process is to copy/paste the tables from your call and text records off the website into a spreadsheet. There's also another option for call records (which doesn't do much for the texting end), but you could also potentially check the total call duration timer/call logs on the phone (if it exists) and divide the total call duration time by the number of months you've had the handset. Once you have a good ballpark idea of what those talk and text needs are, you can comparison shop between the remaining options based on who gives the best deal for the money. Since each provider brings their own pricing strengths, the stand-out choice will probably reveal itself quickly to you.

(Also, don't be afraid to consider a smaller data allotment than 250MB. There's plenty of tricks to kneecap smartphone data use down really low. I can get a stock Moto E down to under 100MB a month without even expending any effort or applying other data saving tricks like using the Opera or Dolphin browser with images turned off, using offline GPS maps like Sygic, alternate e-mail clients like K-9 Mail, deliberately turning off background data, etc., etc.)

Now that you know what carrier will give you your best service and price for your needs, then you can shop for a phone. Try looking for a good handset using the Phone Scoop Phone Finder (, and consider getting something with a user replaceable battery to avoid running into the same situation you're in currently down the road. Select the primary network carrier your MVNO is going to use, choose the phone OS and features you're after, and given you really want a good camera, consider selecting one that can do at least 720p HD video capture instead of only selecting by megapixel. If the sensors can do HD video, then the optics and sensors are probably high enough end to give you decent photos as well, no matter how many megapixels it claims the image size is, as megapixels aren't a reliable metric for camera and image quality. Just remember, phone cameras can only take okay pictures as they're mostly point and shoot with a fixed focus lens and terrible flash fill. If you want great photos, buy an SLR camera instead.

You follow these steps, you should be able to cut through the choices quickly and easily, and I reckon you probably shouldn't need to pay more than $20/month at screaming most without knowing the details and fudging on the heavy usage side. If you still want a little help, I'll be glad to steer you.

One last thing before closing this post, though. Be prepared to lose your phone number leaving Republic. Hopefully you'll be able to keep it and a number port back out will be successful, but I know that some people have unfortunately had issues porting their number back out of Republic when they shouldn't have. If you do lose your number, please be sure to file a complaint with the FCC (

Anything else, let me know!
Title: Re: Cell Service / MVNO advice - switching from Republic
Post by: mandydean on July 09, 2015, 02:50:09 PM
Thank you for such a thorough reply to help me process this!

Before switching to Republic, I tried a handful of prepaid and MVNOs that I was not happy with (I remember using GoSmart, T-Mobile, and StraightTalk). I don't remember the specifics of why I left each, but I did make note of the spottier service with T-mobile and the poor customer service with GoSmart (which may not even exist anymore). I also was having technical trouble with my iPhone 5, but was stubbornly attached to keeping the device. Prior to that, I was on AT&T and happy with coverage.

From what I know. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint all have good coverage in my area. I would be content with any of these networks.

Thanks so much for the tips on estimating usage. Looks like I use around 1500 - 1700 sms messages per month. If I can trust my third-party app on phone usage, I use more minutes than I would have guessed, averaging 350 over the last few months. So it looks like I am leaning more heavily on usage than I realized.

I'll be flipping through the suggestions and plugging in my numbers to see what comes out! I am still hoping to find something that works with an iPhone, but will also consider your advice on judging camera quality in other phones - I do have a wonderful DSLR, but between my three kids and a huge diaper bag, the camera bag never seems to find an arm to carry it out the door.
Title: Re: Cell Service / MVNO advice - switching from Republic
Post by: Daley on July 09, 2015, 11:03:38 PM
Thank you for such a thorough reply to help me process this!

Not a problem! From the sounds of things, if you're wanting to go AT&T again, you should probably expect to spend around $25/month ballpark.

This said, you mentioned a) you want something like an iPhone for photo usage, b) you had an iPhone in the past, and c) it sounds like a lot of the text messages sent to you are from other people on iPhones. Personally, I'm not a fan of the devices, and I tend to single them out as a colossal waste of money. This said, one of the biggest money sinks you're facing is the texting level. If most of the people you're swapping messages with are using iPhones as well, that's going to put a hefty dent in how many actual SMS messages you're actually sending and using as opposed to just data. You'd basically have a built in SMS replacement app that you wouldn't have to convince others to switch to to reduce your own usage. If a switch like that knocks out 2/3rds of your billable SMS usage levels or higher, that starts to open up some interesting $20 or less options and might make a used iPhone more attractive even with the price premium... especially on the Sprint end if you're open to a provider like RingPlus (Sprint only, no Verizon roaming - I'm not over the moon about their privacy and advertising policies, but they're no worse than Republic's and they're a reasonably solid provider).

Given an iPhone looks promising, do keep in mind that iOS can be a bear to configure for full data and MMS with most AT&T MVNOs (excuse Consumer Cellular), but you have Apple to blame for that. Given the Sprint option is on the table, and the recent GSM carrier unlocking policy on the Sprint end, it might be worth trying to pick up a domestic GSM carrier unlocked Sprint iPhone of some variety. This way you can start out with a Sprint MVNO to see how it handles, and if reception or the MVNO options just don't work for you, you can still switch over to an AT&T provider.

Lastly as a thought, if you're home a lot making calls, you definitely can bring VoIP into the mix to reduce your minute overhead further for long outgoing calls (that is, if you're not using RingPlus - they provide their own merged WiFi VoIP options). LocalPhone has a 250 minute outbound US calling package for 75 a month, and you can set the outbound Caller ID to your cellphone number. They even have their own iPhone app, so the only thing you have to enter and "configure" is your username and password, and select WiFi calling only for outbound calls made. It won't reduce minute usage for inbound, but it can for outbound when you're at home (or if you use a bit of social engineering and either don't answer calls at home or answer and tell them you'll call back, but do so on the VoIP line instead - they won't know the difference with the CID spoofing).

Just a bit more to chew on with some gentle option suggesting.