Republic Wireless, the $19/month unlimited mobile service that I first covered over a month ago has sweetened the deal considerably for its Beta users.
Republic aims to shift as much traffic as possible to WIFi. The service is based around a modified LG Optimus S Android phone that sells for $199 and uses WiFi, if available, for all calls, messaging and data. Up to now only WiFi usage was unlimited. Cellular usage was restricted to about 550 minutes, 150 texts, and 300 megabytes of data per month by a "Cellular Usage Index" (CUI) counter that tracked your usage of the mobile network.
In a blog post this week the company announced that it was eliminating its fair use policy, which had restricted use of the cellular network. Now, at least for the duration of the Beta, usage is truly unlimited with no risk of losing service for overuse.
The catch is that the service is that the Beta is currently closed to new users. You can sign up to be notified when the Beta re-opens, but there is no indication when that will be. General availability is supposed to be in early to mid-2012.
Early reviews by a Beta users on HowardForums and YouTube and in the tech press (CNET, PCMag) have been mixed. Most reviewers found WiFi call quality just OK. Also, WiFi calls drop rather than switching to the cell network when moving out of range. Republic stresses that the service is in Beta and promises that improvements are coming. Still for $19/month (actually nearly $25 with taxes) Republic is an unbeatable deal for an unlimited smartphone plan.
I'm sure Republic is losing money offering unlimited cellular service for $25/month. They say they are working on improving the WiFi aspects of the service and won't end the Beta until they "...either achieve economic sustainability or become convinced that doing so is impossible." They are also promising Beta users that they can return their phones for a full refund if the service is abandoned or made less than unlimited - so if you manage to get into the Beta you really can't lose.