The one real problem with Republic Wireless

Before you pull the trigger on the company's appealing Moto X deal, make sure you're aware of this important limitation.

mobile-boarding-pass.jpg
Sorry, Republic Wireless users: You can't yet receive short-code text messages like this one. Southwest Airlines
Republic Wireless has attracted a lot of attention in recent months by offering one of the most attractive smartphone deals ever: a $299 Motorola Moto X and no-contract service for as little as $5 monthly.

I've been using the phone and service for over a month now, and just a couple weeks ago I professed that despite a few little quirks, I had no qualms about recommending both.

I now have a qualm.

Republic doesn't currently support short codes, which is something you've probably never heard of and therefore don't consider a big deal. That was true for me on both counts, until I learned the hard way why it's quite a big deal.

Short codes are what many companies use to send text messages. For example, want to get an airline boarding pass via text? Short code. Want to use two-factor verification for, say, Google or Evernote? Short code. Planning to sign up for car service Uber? The company shoots you a short-code text to verify your phone.

My Moto X flat-out cannot receive short-code messages. I discovered this a couple weeks ago when I tried to get a boarding pass from Delta and it never arrived. Texts from friends and family were coming through just fine, so I chalked it up to a glitch at Delta's end. Or maybe some lingering issue resulting from porting my number from AT&T to Republic.

Nope. The short-code issue has been around since Republic's early days, and in fact there's a lengthy thread in the company's ThinkTank user forum that dates back to April 2013. Unfortunately, although Republic's FAQ page mentions newly added support for MMS, there's no mention of the lack of support for short codes.

I'll admit I wouldn't have even known to look for that, but the reality is I wish I'd known before signing up for service -- and buying a phone I can't use elsewhere.

Now for the good news: short-code support is coming. I spoke with Republic Wireless CEO David Morken, who said the feature was due to be added within 90 days.

In the meantime, there's a short-code workaround that will allow you to receive messages, but not respond to them. So you can get your boarding passes, but you can't tell your local pizza joint to 'STOP' spamming you with text-message offers. Alternately, you could port your number to Google Voice, which does support sending and receiving short-code text messages.

What are your thoughts on this? Is the lack of short-code support a deal breaker in your decision to buy (or keep) a Republic Wireless phone? Now that you know the feature is coming, are you content to wait it out?

 

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