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Motorola Moto E headed to Republic Wireless for $99

The popular entry-level Android phone will be available next month for under $100, with no-contract plans starting at $5.

Republic Wireless

Think you can't afford a smartphone? Think again.

Next month, Republic Wireless will begin selling the Android-powered Motorola Moto E for $99 without a contract. And as with the carrier's other phones, monthly service plans start at $5.

The Moto E is a decidedly entry-level model, with a 4.3-inch screen, 4GB of storage (expandable, thankfully), a 5-megapixel camera, and 3G data. Needless to say, it's not for power users, but rather those with very modest needs -- a student getting his first phone, for example, or someone finally ready to upgrade her flip-phone.

At $99, Republic's Moto E is actually priced $30 less than the same phone purchased directly from Motorola. That version is unlocked, though, and able to be used with any GSM carrier. With Republic's, you're stuck with Republic, which operates on Sprint's network.

Some of the time, anyway -- Republic's claim to fame is Wi-Fi, meaning calls, text messages, and data are, by default, routed over any available Wi-Fi network. Only when there isn't one does the phone switch over to Sprint's network.

In fact, the $5 monthly plan restricts you to Wi-Fi everything, meaning you can't really use the phone when you're out and about. At $10 per month, you get cellular phone service and texting, but data still requires Wi-Fi. The $25 plan affords unlimited everything.

If you like that pricing model, the Moto E may indeed prove attractive at just $99. However, as noted in CNET's review from last May , the bigger, faster, more capable Moto G is probably the better buy -- and Republic offers the 8GB model for $149 (or 16GB for $179).

In any case, take note that as of this writing, Republic still doesn't support short-code messaging, though a recent blog post indicates the feature is very soon to roll out -- perhaps in time for next month's Moto E launch.