Date: July 13, 2012
By Sascha Segan, PC Magazine
Republic Wireless is back! The low-key, Wi-Fi-centric cell-phone carrier with a killer $19 per month service plan on Sprint’s network announced today that it has paired up with DeviceScape to make its phones automatically attach to Wi-Fi hotspots around the world. That’s key to Republic’s strategy, which is to keep its subscribers on Wi-Fi and off 3G as much as possible.
DeviceScape is best known for a client that used to be called Easy Wi-Fi and is now DataSaver; we have a review in the works. It has a huge database of free Wi-Fi hotspots, and a neat trick of auto-negotiating those annoying “captive portal” pages so you don’t actually have to sign into the hotspots. DeviceScape says it has 8 million hotspots worldwide.
I’ve been wandering around the city today testing DeviceScape’s network with various phones running DataSaver, and it’s not exactly ubiquitous. Wandering into a Hilton, Starbucks, McDonald’s and a food court with free Wi-Fi, my phone locked in and logged on without a sweat. But a few other hotels rebuffed the app’s connection.
Dave Fraser, DeviceScape’s CEO, said the app actually learns from those failures. Portal pages get sent to DeviceScape’s servers, where an automated routine tries to figure out how to solve them. If they can’t be solved automatically, they’re handed over to humans. The solution then gets added to the company’s database, and pow, Republic Wireless owners will have access to another hotspot.
This is important because Republic’s service plans assume you’ll be spending as much time on Wi-Fi as possible. They come with relatively little cellular access, and a seamless VoIP calling and messaging system to make life on Wi-Fi networks look just like you’re on cellular.
Republic’s implementation of DeviceScape’s tech has a few key differences from the app you can download to other phones. It only hooks up to hotspots with a proven quality of service, so Republic’s VoIP calls will sound clear. And it’ll all run invisibly, without needing to launch an app. You’ll just be online wherever you can get online.
While most people spend most of their time at their homes and offices with Wi-Fi, I’m curious to see how well Republic’s Wi-Fi-centric strategy works when folks are out on the town. I definitely got DeviceScape Wi-Fi connections occasionally when I was wandering around Manhattan, but it was just occasional.
Republic Wireless says it will be accepting more subscribers “soon.” You can get DeviceScape’s technology on any Android phone by downloading DataSaver from Google Play.
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