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Get 6 months of Republic Wireless phone service for free

Thinking you might want to change carriers? Republic is willing to put its money where its Wi-Fi is. Plus: You've seen smart outlets; now here's a smart light-bulb socket!

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Republic's $30-a-month plan is free for six months after the first month.

Republic Wireless

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 Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, 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.

Koogeek

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.