CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. And find more great buys on the CNET Deals page.
You remember Republic Wireless, right? It's that Sprint-based MVNO that relies on Wi-Fi calling to give you a lower monthly bill -- but only if you buy one of a couple compatible phones.
Nah, nah, nah. That was the old Republic Wireless. The company now lets you bring your own phone, supports about 18 different models and has a GSM partner. (I'm not allowed to say what it is, or that it rhymes with Whee-Skoble.)
OK, but, yeah, that whole Wi-Fi calling thing -- big hassle, yeah? Not anymore. In fact, Republic is now so damn sure you'll like Republic, you can sign up for a new line of bring-your-own-phone (BYOP) service and get six months free.
Buy one, get six
It works like this: You'll need an unlocked, Republic-compatible GSM phone (see the list on the BYOP page). Then, between now and May 22, order a SIM card for $5. (That cost drops to zero when you check out, but shipping will run you $4.) When it arrives, pop it into your phone and activate it prior to June 6.
Bam! You just qualified for six months of Republic's middle-tier plan, which includes unlimited calls, text messages and Wi-Fi data, plus 2GB of 4G LTE cellular data. Regular price: $30 a month. There's no contract, and when it's over you're free to do whatever.
But! There's one small catch here, and I think it's totally fair: You do need to pay for the first month (again, $30). So technically it's months two to seven you're getting for free. Also, you're on the hook for any applicable taxes and fees (usually $2-$4) for all seven months.
What happens if you go over 2GB? Republic doesn't do the whole throttling thing, so you can purchase additional gigabytes for $10 each, or temporarily upgrade to a higher-tier plan and pay the prorated difference. The $40 plan, for example, comes with 4GB of data; you'd get billed for $10. (Basically, Republic is covering the first $30 of whatever plan you choose.)
What's the deal with Wi-Fi calling?
Republic's claim to fame has always been Wi-Fi: Whenever possible, it leverages Wi-Fi networks for calls. If there's no hotspot available, it hits up cell towers, same as any other carrier.
This can be a huge benefit if you typically get poor cell coverage in your home or office, as Wi-Fi is better able to reach inside buildings, basements and so on. On the other hand, Wi-Fi call quality doesn't always compare favorably to that of cellular.
That's the beauty of this offer: For the price of one month, you get seven months to see if Republic is a better option for you.
The last time I tested the carrier was probably two or three years ago, when it worked only with Sprint and a select few phones. Honestly, the experience wasn't great. But Republic has made major advancements, not the least of which is a "call bonding" technology designed for super seamless handoffs if you move between Wi-Fi and cellular networks while on a call.
Another consideration: Not all stock messaging apps work with Republic. On a, for example, I had no choice but to install Google's own Android Messages app and set it as the default. (Of course, you can definitely use third-party messaging tools such as WhatsApp.)
I was able to do a couple quick phone tests on the aforementioned S7, and calls all sounded great. Your mileage may vary, of course, but right away I noticed a huge improvement over the last phone I tested on Republic's network.
So there you go! If you've wondered about this carrier and whether it might be a good fit, this is a great opportunity to give it a try. Of course, if you're already a customer, hit the comments and share your experiences.
Bonus deal: In the past I've shared deals on smart electrical outlets; now how about one that's appliance-specific?
For a limited time, and while supplies last, Beeebo-us (via Amazon) has the Koogeek smart light-bulb adapter for $29.99 when you apply promo code Z3QMW5UE at checkout. Regular price: $39.99.
In case it's not abundantly clear, this screws into a light-bulb socket, then pairs with your phone for smarty-lamp goodness.
You can set timers, remotely turn the light on or off, and so on. I got to fiddle with one briefly; it works as advertised, so it's a good way to bring a lamp into your smart-home mix. Any better than a smart outlet, which is more versatile? That's debatable.