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Republic Wireless adding Moto X, tweaking monthly prices

Customers of Republic Wireless' dirt-cheap cellular service will finally be able to opt for a top-of-the-line phone. But the cost of service is going to increase as a result.

In November, Republic will begin offering Motorola's Moto X smartphone in white or black--no Moto Maker customizations, sadly--for $300 with no contract required. While that's $100 more expensive than the on-contract price through larger carriers, Republic's cellular service is much cheaper, starting at $10 per month for voice and text.

Republic says it achieves those lower rates by routing voice calls and text messages over Wi-Fi when available, using Sprint's network as a backup. The idea is that users will only rely on cellular service when they're outside the house.

Currently, Republic offers just one phone, Motorola's Defy XT, a decidedly low-end phone by today's standards. The Moto X is a drastic improvement, with Android 4.2, a zippy dual-core processor, 10-megapixel camera and some useful software features such as hands-free voice activation. With the addition of a modern smartphone, Republic becomes a lot more interesting cellular option.

Now for the bad news: If you still want Republic's $19 per month service with unlimited voice, text and data, the Defy XT will be your only option. Republic is retooling its service plans around the Moto X, and while there are a couple ways to save money, complete coverage will cost extra.

With the Moto X, the cheapest plan is $5 per month with no cellular coverage. All you get is a way to make calls and send text messages over Wi-Fi. A $10 per month plan adds the ability to make calls and send text messages over Sprint's network.

For a plan with cellular data, the price jumps to $25 per month for unlimited 3G coverage. To take full advantage of Sprint's 4G LTE network, you must pay $40 per month. Those are still some cheap options compared to major wireless carriers, but not as cheap as Republic used to be.

Republic Wireless has recently been challenged by TextNow, which also uses Wi-Fi based calling and charges as little as $19 per month for cellular service. But compared to TextNow's Nexus S and Galaxy S II--phones that are both more than two years old--Republic can now boast a vastly superior device. It's proof that even among cheap wireless providers, competition is good.

Republic hasn't announced a specific release date for the Moto X, but the provider has a sign-up page to get notified. Once it's available, Defy XT users can get a $100 rebate by trading in their phone to Motorola, and users of Republic's original LG Optimus can get an automatic $100 credit when upgrading.

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