Wi-Fi Phones?

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 12:02pm

New phone company offers unlimited talk, text and web for less than $20, but there's a catch.

A new phone company is offering talk, text and web for just $19 a month, but there is a twist.

Republic Wireless is combining Wi-Fi with traditional cell phones to help you control costs.

"The way it works is when you are in a Wi-Fi hotspot all of your calls and data are going to go over the Wi-Fi network instead of over a carrier cellular network," explains CNET's Maggie Reardon. "But since that is not available everywhere they also have a contract with Sprint so that calls can still be made over Sprint's 3G network so you can also access data and that as well."

Sarah Welch, a college student who spends most of her time near Wi-Fi, says the service works well for her.

"The price is just a huge selling point for me on the Republic Wireless. It's really nice. The wireless networks give you clear calls," she says.

There are some drawbacks.

For example the phone drops calls when switching from a Wi-Fi signal to the cell network.

"A lot of times I will be driving away from the house and it will drop the call and I will have to call back on the cell," Welch admits.

It may not suit tech savvy consumers as the company only offers one phone.

"It's the Defy XT," Reardon explains. "It's kind of a bulkier, clunkier Android smartphone, the memory is pretty limited. Doesn't have a terrific camera, it's just a basic smartphone.

Republic CEO David Morken says the company will start offering several new phone models later this summer which address both of these issues.

The new phones will seamlessly handoff between Wi-Fi and cell signals, meaning no more dropped calls.

Tech experts say this new way of offering low cost wireless phone service could be a game changer.

Officials at Republic Wireless won't say how many subscribers they have, but will say most of their customers have come from either AT&T or Verizon.

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