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I Hate My Phone {Republic Wireless Review}

Can you Use your Republic W Ireless phone with the wifi off

Dumb move, Katie.

I had 30 days to test out my Republic Wireless phone and make sure I liked it, and I didn’t switch over my number until day 24 or so. I figured I’d just test it out, make sure it worked fine, and no problem. Hopefully I wouldn’t need to return the phone.

In hindsight, had I used the phone the full 30 days, I probably would have cut my plan short, returned the phone and done something different for cell service and data plan.

Here’s the deal:

The problem is that Republic actually runs calls and texts through wireless connections when available and only uses cell towers when on the go. I was hoping, because of my skepticism about wireless and EMFs, that I could still use the phone in a basic fashion with the wireless and data off. All I need to be “permanently connected” are calls and texts; I’ve never been one who cared about email or social media notifications on her phone.

The plan is awesome because you don’t pay for anything that goes over WiFi, so if you’re home a lot (I feel like I never leave the house!), it’s incredibly inexpensive. Which I wanted! But I didn’t want to increase my risk of cancer because I had to have WiFi and EMFs in my pocket all day long…so I started digging.

RELATED: How to Sanitize Your Cell Phone

So Will Republic Wireless Still Receive Calls or Texts When off WiFi?

Can you Use your Republic W Ireless phone with the wifi off

From what I could understand reading their online materials, I thought I should be able to have the wireless off and just hit a cell tower for texts at least, and if a call came in, I could answer and just pay a few cents in data for short calls, or turn my WiFi on and call someone back (my Mom!) for longer calls. I’m a pretty simple gal, and that didn’t seem like too much of an inconvenience.

Before we jumped in with Republic, I attempted to get my question answered via their online forums (in place to cut costs on customer support, which they pass to consumers, lowering our bills). Nobody answered.

I went to regular customer support, understanding that the wait time would be at least a few days (didn’t care), and emailed this:

I’m wary of EMFs – I prefer to keep my phone’s wireless off unless I actually need it. Would I still be able to receive calls and texts? I could turn it on to make a call.

Their answer:

You mentioned that you like to keep your wireless off when you are not using it and that is completely up to you. With the plans that we offer, you are welcome to use your device while over WiFi or over a cellular network.

And then there was a rather long copy-and-paste stock answer about their plan, how the data is billed and measured, etc.

I interpreted this (incorrectly) to mean that with my WiFi off, the phone would act like a regular cell phone without data. A “cellular network” to me meant cell towers, for calls.

RELATED: Great customer service and no social media? See my kids’ review of Troomi phones.

No Dice, Wary Lady – The Cell Data is Required with Republic

As it turns out, the phone itself thwarted my plans.

I can turn off the WiFi no problem, which is good for when I’m out and unable to connect with a free Hot Spot. Then my phone isn’t constantly searching, which both slows everything down and likely drains the battery faster.

However, when I try to turn off the “cellular data” it immediately goes right back on, like this:

My Republic Wireless phone when Wi Fi is off cell data always stays on

If I go deeper into the settings, there’s no override. I get this message:

Mobile data disabled


Turning the Android mobile data setting to Off can cause problems with your Republic service such as delayed SMS, MMS messages, and voicemail. Further, your calling experience will be degraded. The Data Saver feature within the Republic application is available to prevent applications from using cellular data.

I press “ok” and the cellular data comes back on. No override. Even if I leave wireless ON, I can’t turn cellular data off, so there are always 2 pieces pulsing and connecting afar.

The only way for me to avoid the EMFs being right in my pocket is to go full airplane mode, which turns everything off but then I also can’t send or receive texts or calls at all. That kind of defeats the purpose of having a phone. Sad smile

I do still use airplane mode, especially when it’s not important to me to be reached by phone, like when I’m working and at a computer where people who matter could contact me in other ways…but then when I finally remember to turn the WiFi back on, any texts I missed come in with that timestamp, not the time they were sent, so I never know quite how late I am in replying. I’m a pretty annoying friend, I bet!

My Republic Wireless phone on airplane mode it cannot receive calls or texts like this

Since I only had a few days to figure this out, I didn’t. I didn’t get it and hadn’t taken the time to dig in. I hadn’t even made any calls while on the move (they often drop, FYI).

And when I DO want to use Instagram or Facebook on my phone when I’m away from home, I have to fiddle with cellular data settings before I can do it – it’s smart to leave those apps off on data most of the time, just to make sure the apps aren’t constantly communicating with your phone and running up your data plan. But when I want to use them, it takes forever to get the settings right to do it.

My Republic Wireless phone on airplane mode it is useless like this except as a clock no cal

So I’m stuck with the phone, which I hate. It was my choice, and I’ll have to live with that for a while, but I am extremely disappointed that (a) it was so hard to find the answer I was looking for and (b) that the phone has more control than I do over what signals it’s sending out.

I left this review on the phone itself and was notified that it was not allowed to be published. So I’m publishing it. (And yes, that feels quite good.) Winking smile

I’m one who is concerned about the impact of EMFs and have always carried a cell with the wireless off until I was actively using it. I wondered if Republic would be able to do this, and it can – but it forces the phone to have the “cellular data” on unless you put it on airplane mode, which blocks everything. I’d rather be in control of what I turn on and off. Either way, with both cell data and wireless off, the phone cannot receive calls or texts, which isn’t very helpful. This was difficult to determine with the initial Republic information and even after a few interactions with support.

Republic Wireless Saves Cash…but at What Cost?

I can’t lie and say that I don’t grin when I see the bills for my husband’s and my cell/data plans – we spend less than $15/month each and make as many calls, texts and data stuff as we want.

We’re home a lot, which helps – but it can’t be denied that it’s an insane deal.

My husband would probably never turn his WiFi off with any plan, so it was an easy decision to go with Republic for him. For me, I’m sure I’m exposed to more EMFs this way than with my old SmartPhone.

Will EMFs hurt me? I am not positive, but I am concerned. I’d rather be safe than sorry, so now I’m left looking into the myriad of products that claim to protect humans from EMF radiation or the effects.

Any recommendations for me to block EMFs on a cell phone?

If you do think Republic Wireless is the right choice for your family – like I said, I love how frugal it is – please visit my friend Tiffany’s post to learn more and use her link to give her commission!

See more about how technology is affecting you (and your kids!) Yikes!

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33 thoughts on “I Hate My Phone {Republic Wireless Review}”

  1. You could always cancel your phone service with Republic and sell the phone on eBay — they’re a pretty hot item. And then try another low cost carrier like Ting.

  2. I didn’t love Republic Wireless, either. I wanted to, I really did. The email-only customer service drove me nuts, but the cost savings was insane. I went from paying $75+ a month to $15! However, it just wasn’t reliable when I needed it to be. At home there were rarely any issues, but I have zero patience when I’m in a car and either can’t connect a call or can’t connect to a gps app. But mostly, I switched carriers because I could join a family plans with att for not much more than i was paying at Republic and have control over my phone again (and a much better phone too!). I stayed with them just long enough to make it worth the money I spent on my phone, and then I sold my phone. Win-win!

  3. So I saw this bumper sticker that other day: My Cell Phone is Smarter than you Honor Student! And, in a sense it is true! I do agree that we live in an age where we can’t live with out them but then again we can’t live with them ’cause they are killing us! My solution…I don’t ever wear/carry my phone on me. So it is usually left on my bedroom table or kitchen counter when not in the car with me. Never touches any part of my body other than my hands. Interesting to note is that my cousin died at the age of 39. The tumor started on his thigh where he ALWAYS carried his cell phone in his pocket. Scary stuff! Keep up the research, Katie, as I agree with you, but just don’t have the time to put into figuring it all out. Thanks for being a beacon of light Katie!

  4. Im having a hard time making sense of this review. Republic is no different than other major carriers, other than it has the ability to use Wifi for voice/text.

    If you don’t want calls or data to use Wifi – turn off the WiFi on your phone. If you don’t want data, don’t get a smartphone.

    Problem solved 🙂

    Singling out republic doesn’t make much sense since carriers are pretty much the same… And use the same phones… And the same towers…

    1. That’s just the thing, Beth, it’s totally different. On a regular smart phone, I can turn off wireless and cellular/mobile data (it’s called different things on different phones) and then the phone isn’t constantly searching for a data-driven signal, and it can still receive calls and texts. But with Republic, I can’t turn the cell data off, ever, or if I do, no calls and texts. Totally different.

      1. I just shut off “cellular data” and wifi and couldn’t send or receive texts (Verizon iPhone). I could make a call. At least when I came back online my texts had correct timestamps on them.

  5. Hi Katie –
    There is a bug on the RW phones that it won’t let you turn off data from the quick settings screen – annoying, I know.

    However, you can do it to an extent. I use my phone regularly with both wifi and data turned off.

    Step 1: Go in to the Republic Wireless App. (Green box with white arc). I keep a shortcut to this app on my home screen for easy access.
    2. Tap the cell data tab (middle option at the top — looks like cell phone bars.
    3. Tap the Cell Data Used bar at the bottom of the screen to bring up the cell data usage bar chart screen.
    4. Tap the on/off slider at the top right corner of the cell data usage screen to turn the data off. Slider should now be in the left position. Done.

    However, there are a couple apps that are always set to be able to access data (although it doesn’t count at data against your account). It would be up to someone to research if RW phones are the only phones that have apps that are always allowed to access data (even without a data plan). I doubt RW is unique in that.

    But turning off the data via the method I mentioned above will drastically reduce data transmission and your calls and texts will still work. Hope that helps!:)

    P.S. Thankfully, you’re not on a contract if you decide that RW is not right for you. And my family has bought and sold RW phones on if you want to pass on your phone too.

    1. Interesting, Melinda! You’re right that I’m not stuck in a plan, I just figured I was stuck with paying for the phone and had to stick it out for a while to make that worth it. 🙂 Cool to know about!

      I tried the work-around you described, and the icon at the top for cell data didn’t change. I think what that “off” slider does is simply block all those apps from accessing cell data – but I would think it’s still pinging towers, and therefore emitting EMFs? It would be really interesting to get a Cornet meter and test the phone in all these scenarios (which I’m considering!!). Now I’m wondering about other phones and if they also ping cell towers with data requests even when the mobile data is off. ??? Good question!! 🙂 Katie

  6. We have Republic Wireless and are overall super happy with them.

    It sounds to me like you need to get yourself on the $10/month plan. On this plan (which we do have), when WiFi is off, it works just like a basic flip phone. Sprint cell towers provide talk/text and no data. When we want to use the internet, we flip WiFi on and it connects to whatever wireless is available. On the $10/month plan, you can still turn “data” on for weekend trips away or whenever you may want to use data on the go (for us, this is probably only 1-2 times a year)!

    I’ve never had my WiFi turn back on automatically, and thanks to your posts about EMFs, I keep my phone’s WiFi off by default and only turn it on sporadically. I also leave the phone in WiFi off/airplane mode overnight. [I do need to keep it in my bedroom for now because it’s my only alarm clock!]

    1. That’s an interesting idea, Lisa! I’d have to think about the data-on-the-go part – using it for maps is something I do want to have, although I probably only would need it once a month or less. Hmmmmm…something to think about!! Thanks! Katie

  7. Background: when I quit my job some years ago to be a full-time caregiver to my mother-in-law who lived with us, I had to d/c my existing cell service for financial reasons. I use Page Plus and pay $80 for 2000 minutes that don’t expire for a year. (You can go as low as $10 for 100 minutes with a 120 day expiration.) Like Katie, I primarily use my phone for calls & texts, although the used iPhone I bought on ebay is great for quick photos and calendar reminders and other things like that. Anyway, I discovered that iPhones default to iMessage in Settings so my texts were only going through when I was in WiFi. So now my settings are Data off, iMessage off, WiFi off and I still have calls & texting. And like Amelia, I never carry it on my person.

  8. Check out . I use their body shield necklace and my husband uses their body shield wrist band. When we first got them I did an experiment. I wore mine for 2 weeks even to sleep-only took it off to shower) and then took it off. The very first day I had it off I felt terrible! Fatigued, nauseated, headache, just awful. This lasted for almost a week. I put the necklace back on and have kept it on ever since (a couple of years, now). My theory is that during the first 2 weeks of wearing the necklace, I began to feel better but only realized how much better I was when I took the necklace off. All of a sudden I was being hit with all the EMFs again and it made me very sick…until I got used to being sick again. When I want to wear a different necklace, I just put the charm (the actual EMF blocker) in my pocket or bra. Anyway, the company also offers EMF shields for laptops/tablets, cell phones, children’s body shields, home blocker (block the EMFs from all the electrical items in your home), and even smart meter shields. I have all those things on my wishlist! By the way, I have no affiliation with this company. I’m just a highly satisfied customer!

  9. Amelia @ One Catholic Mama

    I have Republic Wireless and love it.

    First of all, if you are worried about the cell data turning on , you can just not buy cell data at all. The most basic plan is WiFi data and Cell calls/texts. That is what I have, and I only buy data on an as-needed basis (like if we are going on a trip and I will be away from Wifi for a length of time). Then you don’t have to worry about cell data turning on or whatever, if you don’t have it.

    In my experience with Republic, the call/text works just fine with the WiFi off. In fact, a lot of times I HAVE to turn WiFi off to get a good signal if I am in a place that has a weak WiFi signal, because the phone tries to use that signal, but it doesn’t work.

    Second, I don’t really understand why you think WiFi is more dangerous than the cell tower signals? I assume you have WiFi in your house, right? I would think the safest thing is to just not carry the phone on your person at all. Then you don’t have to worry about the WiFi or the cell signals and the wifi is really no different from what you already have in your house. I keep my phone on a counter or in my purse at all times. I never carry it in my pocket or on my person. I only am touching it if I am actually using it. Yes, I am a bit more likely to miss calls/texts that way, but it’s not a big deal and no one should expect an immediate answer to calls/texts IMO anyway.

    1. Hey Amelia,
      Thanks for sharing that option! I didn’t even get that it existed. I don’t actually think wifi is more dangerous than cell tower signals – at least the data driven signals. When the data plan is on, the phone is constantly “talking” to the towers, whereas if I had a non-smart phone with just cell service, as far as I understand at least, the phone only pings the tower when it’s getting or sending a call or text. So there’s less EMF activity than wifi OR cell data, which I would put on the same playing field. Does that make sense? I want to be able to have both off, or at least one of them if I can. You are right (according to what I read) to leave the phone in the purse or counter! 🙂 Katie

  10. I’ve never had any of these issues with Ting ( ($25 credit if you use that link!)). I pay about $20/month for my phone, and you can use more data/texts/minutes if you pay a bit more. I keep data off much of the time, and turned wifi off for all of Lent, and it had no impact on my ability to call or text.

  11. We use Republic wireless for our family and I’ve been happy with them. They take some getting used to, but they are very reasonable and I get unlimited texts! I am home a lot and I don’t carry my phone everywhere. I just leave it on the table and answer/text if necessary.

    Then again, I’m not as concerned about exposure to EMFs as you are. I just try to be conservative!

  12. We have Republic Wireless, and I have the master switch for cell data turned off all the time. I do not have a problem with it continuing to switch itself on when I turn it off. I have also never seen the mobile data disabled message. Did you know they have an online chat to service representatives? I have used it before and very quickly got my question answered. I would investigate a little more before completely giving up.

    1. I also have Republic Wireless and frequently turn off my wifi at home because of bad connectivity. I have never had an issue, nor have I gotten that message before.

      1. I have the Moto x and I’ve had my data turned off all month and can still text and make phone calls no problem.

  13. So, I’m trying to make sure I understand. You’re saying that cell data and the regular cell signal are two different signals, and you wish you could turn them off separately?

    1. As far as I understand Melanie – on my previous phone, I would turn off “mobile network” – so you can’t use the data plan, the Internet – but it can still ping a cell tower for calls if necessary. I haven’t found any particular info on this though and never tested with a Cornet meter myself, so I may have connected the dots wrong. ?? –Katie

  14. Yes, that is the unfortunate things about any smart phone I have had. You cannot shut of “data” and just have “calling and text” service. So frustrating! Would you be better served with a house phone for your use and a minute based emergency non-smart cell phone that you kept off unless you were out and about? I am considering this because I am at home so much. It seems silly for me to be locked into a two year contract on a high-powered smartphone when the only time I am away from home is to go to the grocery, visit family, etc. My understanding of cell phones comes from my husband being in the field of knowing how they work. The constant communication of your cell phone with the towers is basically the same level of radiation exposure as being connected to Wi-Fi. Obviously my idea limits your ability to have text messaging, but perhaps going back to a wired connection is the best solution to your problem.

    1. Jeannie,
      thank you! I would love it if you could ask your husband if the “cellular” or “mobile” data network (the ability to be online with a smart phone) is any different than the ability to make a call or text with a phone. I used to turn off “mobile data” and the calls would still work. I guess I assumed it was less radiation because it wasn’t constantly communicating with the towers…but I could be totally wrong! Thanks!! Katie

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