Save Money With a WiFi Phone

Category: Mobile , Wireless

Would you give up cellular phone service if you could still get unlimited voice, text, and data? How about if it costs $20 to $50 a month less than “unlimited everything” plans from major cellular carriers? Read on to learn how…

What's a Wifi Phone?

Free or cheap mobile calling with WiFi? Yes, it’s possible right now, but it’s not for everyone. The trick is to use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and ambient WiFi connectivity instead of cellular networks. Before your eyes glaze over, let me translate that: As long as your smartphone can connect to a WiFi network, you really don’t need AT&T, Verizon, T-mobile, or any other mobile service provider.

Ah, there’s the rub: WiFi isn’t available everywhere, yet. But many people have WiFi at home and at work, where they spend most of their time. Public WiFi hotspots are common in urban settings; just check out OpenWiFiSpots to see how common they are.

So a WiFi-only smartphone is a practical tool for most day-to-day circumstances, so long as you keep in mind that you will only be able to make or receive phone calls when you're within range of a WiFi network.
Wifi Phone Service

Cablevision thinks the WiFi phone market is big enough for a cable TV and Internet services provider like itself. It also thinks $29.95 a month is a reasonable price for its new Freewheel WiFi-only mobile service. ($9.95 if you’re already a Cablevision Optimum Online customer.) After all, unlimited talk, text, and data costs $50 on T-mobile and $60 on Sprint. AT&T and Verizon don’t even offer unlimited plans.

Except that Republic Wireless charges only $5/month for the same thing: WiFi-only unlimited talk, text, and data. Republic also has plans, ranging from $10 to $40 per month, that provide Sprint cellular connectivity when WiFi isn’t available.

The catch is that you must buy a phone from Republic; other phones don’t contain the special circuitry that makes this WiFi/cellular magic possible. Cablevision’s WiFi-only service will work with any WiFi-capable phone.

WiFi-Only or Hybrid Mobile?

I’ve written about Republic and other hybrid phone services twice in the past two years. Apparently, the entrenched service providers are subscribing to my newsletter.

I am betting that Cablevision is not the only major player who will enter the WiFi phone market. CenturyLink/Xfinity and Comcast are establishing networks of public WiFi hotspots throughout their territories. CenturyLink/Xfinity seems to be paying local businesses to host its public hotspots. Comcast is doing it by the controversial method of using customers’ routers to carry public traffic on separate circuitry in the router. Supposedly, there is no degradation of the customer’s Internet experience nor any way public hotspot hackers can access a customer’s private WiFi network.

Telcos and cable companies are taking to the streets in pursuit of ever more mobile customers. If you subscribe to Cablevision Internet at home, you can get it downtown too via Optimum Online’s WiFi hotspot network. WiFi phone service is just another enticement to use Cablevision.

But to achieve the kind of backup cellular service that Republic Wireless and other small players are offering, cable companies and local phone companies will have to partner with major cellular networks. I wonder if such enormous egos can play nicely together.

For now, if you live, work and play within range of WiFi hotspots, a WiFi-only phone makes sense. For those times when you can't connect to WiFi, voicemail will handle your incoming calls, but you won't be able to make outbound calls. If you need "always-on" phone service, it's not a good choice.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Save Money With a WiFi Phone"

Posted by:

02 Apr 2015

I have an old DroidX that I sometimes play with. Its not active on any cell network so there is nothing to pay. Its great for playing music, angry birds or reading a book. In installed skype on it and low and behold you can make a call from any McDonnalds. Of course you need a skype account, but it worked just fine. $0/mo.

Posted by:

02 Apr 2015

I just bought into the Republic Wireless (RW) concept using only Motorola phones (got the 2nd gen of Moto X with an upgrade to 32Gb of memory). A friend showed me his phone and stated what a great system to save money.

Ironically, I decided on the phone system I wanted first and not what type of phone I wanted to use, unlike most people. The phone didn't really matter to me. I just wanted something that wouldn't cost me an arm and a leg with a 2 year commitment plan, but one that used a smartphone. And I'm happy to say I won't be paying upward of $50-$100 a month as so many do for phone & data service, or $2400 over a 2-yr plan.

I just got my phone yesterday and signed up just for the $5 mo. plan right now since I will be leaving for Europe soon and don't need more than that. I hope to use WiFi for my calls within Europe and back to the U.S. and I won't have any surprising big bill roaming charges that shock most people.

When I get back, I will go to the $25 plan with RW that includes a 3G network on Sprint for unlimited talk, text, and data. Two changes per month for the plan you want for free. WiFi will continue to be the primary means that I will get my phone calls, text, and data. But I have the 3G cellular network as a backup for when I'm not in WiFi coverage.

This hybrid system will also help me when I'm in a hotel room and can't get a strong enough signal to receive or make calls. Instead of getting up and going outside as I have done in the past to make a call, I will be using the phone with the hotel's WiFi while in my room. Voila!

BTW Bob, I been using VoIP with Ooma (VoIP) for my home phone system and Google Voice with it for additional features for a couple of years now. Couldn't be happier since I cut that Verizon cord and $35+ monthly bills. Ooma is great too for a low monthly charge for the taxes (less than $4 for my area) after one buys the base station with phone.

Posted by:

02 Apr 2015

This looks interesting. Will it work for international calls or international subscriptions?

Posted by:

02 Apr 2015

Have enjoyed Republic Wireless for about a year,thanks to Bob's writings. Use the $10 plan but have not needed the cell service for the last 4 months. Wi-Fi is everywhere. Doc. office, grocery store, gym and free hot spots thousands of places. Good smart phones and service. Don't understand why other people want to spend so much money for nothing more.

Posted by:

03 Apr 2015

I use my old Galaxy 2 phone with Wi-Fi only. It works fine with my Google Voice for phone calls within the US.

I also have the Kindle app, an audiobook reader app, and some games on it, for when I just need to keep occupied.

Just need to keep it charged and carry it with me.

Posted by:

03 Apr 2015

I signed up for Google voice and have been using the hangouts app to make and receive calls on my iPad. I use this as my "Home" phone.

Posted by:

05 Apr 2015

I was under the impression that Xfinity is a Service Mark for Comcast and NOT a separate Company. At least in this area (Washington DC/Northern VA) that is the case.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2015

I use prepaid cell and when I start a call while in range of WiFi it asks me whether I want to call with Tracfone or Google Voice (free).

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