Republic Wireless's sales pitch has a curious lack of asterisks: $19 a month for unlimited voice, text and data service, with no contract required.
(Yes, it has an acceptable usage policy that bans conduct that "harms" or "interferes" with its network, but so does every Internet provider, even the ones selling unlimited gigabit fiber connections.)
This Raleigh, N.C., company can do that because, more than other carriers, it lets Wi-Fi do cellular bandwidth's job. Whenever one of its phones is on Wi-Fi, everything - not just Internet data, but voice calling and text messaging - is switched to that wireless connection from the Sprint service Republic resells.
PHOTOS: Twisty-Bendy Smartphones, Tablets on the Horizon
And to judge from my on and off testing of a loaner phone over the past few months, it pretty much just works. You pick up the phone, you call or text a number with no discernible difference in sound quality. The fact that you're calling via the Internet only becomes obvious when you exit your own wireless network's coverage. That's when my calls dropped – the single ugliest part of the Republic Wireless experience and one - and the Republic phone automatically redialed over Sprint's signal.