Republic Wireless’s innovative, inexpensive smartphone plan is shifting from a one-size-fits-all strategy to offering consumers more choices.
Although the growing popularity of its $19 a month plan for unlimited talk, text and data has triggered a hiring binge at the Raleigh-based company, it has decided that providing more alternatives is the path to greater success.
The company on Wednesday unveiled a new plan with lower upfront costs but a higher monthly fee.
“It’s your choice to save more now or save more later,” said Noreen Allen, the company’s chief marketing officer.
Republic isn’t disclosing how many customers it has attracted since it officially launched its service in December following an extended beta testing period, but says it is pleased with the results so far.
The initial service plan requires a $249 buy-in – the price of the Motorola Defy XT smartphone designed especially for Republic’s service. Republic’s hybrid service uses Wi-Fi as its primary network with cellular service provided by Sprint as a backup.
The feedback the company got from consumers is that some felt that the price of the phone “is just too high for them,” Allen said.
The new plan offers the Defy XT for $99, but the service plan costs $10 a month more – $29. Neither phone comes with a contract, so you can cancel at any time.
Next up for the company is three new phones that it plans to introduce late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter of this year, including a high-end phone running the latest version of Android and running on fast 4G LTE networks, Allen said.
The Defy XT hasn’t fared particularly well with reviewers.
The Wall Street Journal’s influential tech reviewer, Walter Mossberg, carped in a review Wednesday that it’s “a chunky device with a lower-resolution screen” than the current generation of devices and only runs on slow 3G networks.
USA Today’s review, which also appeared Wednesday, declared the phone was “for sure not the sexiest or most feature-rich device you can buy today, but a fully capable midtier Android handset just the same.”
USA Today’s review concluded: “Republic Wireless isn’t suitable for every consumer, of course, especially those who want to employ the latest devices and fastest networks. But it’s awfully hard to quarrel with $19 a month.”
And Mossberg, after pointing out a few other drawbacks, conceded that “if you can live with these limitations, Republic Wireless can save you a lot of money.”
One of the drawbacks Mossberg highlighted is that there’s an “annoying delay” when calls switch from Wi-Fi to cellular service.
Allen said the new phones the company plans to introduce later this year are being designed to dramatically improve the user experience in this regard.
Republic’s corporate parent, privately held Bandwidth, has added 65 workers since October, giving it a total of 325. Both businesses operate out of offices on N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus, where most of their employees are based.
That expansion, said Allen, has been fueled by the success of Republic Wireless and the growth of Bandwidth’s iNetwork business.
INetwork provides voice-over-Internet phone service to thousands of small businesses across the country and is the nation’s sixth-largest telephone network – measured by phone numbers – used by customers such as Google Voice, Vonage and Skype. Inetwork also provides the backbone of Republic’s service.
The company is seeking to fill 33 open positions and expects to add a total of 50 new hires by the end of June, Allen said.