Just like subscribers to any other phone service provider, advanced users of the hybrid 3G/WiFi mobile virtual network Republic Wireless are eager to customize and modify their phones - probably more so, in fact. That's why we posted a rooting guide for the only Republic phone available, the Motorola Defy XT.  But in a message to the Republic subscriber base, an employee clarified the company's position on rooting, custom ROMs and other modifications to the Android hardware it provides to its customers. In a nutshell, Republic will not look kindly upon root or modification of any kind.

We've seen a flurry of questions and comments recently, and we wanted to provide some answers and a bit of context. The burning question these days is whether or not it's ok to root your phone. The short answer is no. You agreed to the Terms of Service when you joined republic, and if you don't follow the Terms, we can terminate your service at any time.

The post goes on to explain the reasoning behind this hard stance against root and other modifications. One of their arguments is that they need to be able to provide reliable service to all their customers, and they can't do that if some are operating devices with capabilities beyond their original intended use. Since Republic is still technically in "beta", they're paying extra-close attention to any abnormalities in service or usage. Another is that modified phones are harder, if not impossible, to provide reliable support for - stop me if you've heard this before, Android power users.

But the third point that they make might just hold water.

Lastly, when you modify your phone or service, you're missing the point of what we're trying to do. We’ve worked hard to protect the idea that we all work together and that we can share responsibility here. It means doing the right thing for everyone involved--not just what you want to do. We’ve developed this model carefully to make sure it works correctly to provide service for hundreds of thousands of customers. We built Hybrid Calling because we believed you should be getting more and paying less. But if it were cost effective and easy to bring $19 unlimited wireless via cellular only, someone would have done that already.

Rooting for free tethering on Verizon or AT&T is hard to object to, since these companies have been gradually forcing customers to pay more for less for the last decade. I don't want to go into a rant here, but the big cell service providers are only interested in providing the minimum amount of actual service to you while getting you to pay as much as possible for it.  Republic Wireless provides truly unlimited 3G talk, text and data service for $19 dollars a a month, something that no other carrier - MVNO or otherwise - is even close to matching. The company seems genuinely dedicated to pleasing its customers; remember that originally, data use on the Sprint 3G network had a vague limit, but they listened to the feedback and switched to the current unlimited model. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now.


Republic notes that there's no way for them to stop users from rooting their phones, and they've never gone on record stating that they'll automatically kick rooted users off, but that they reserve the right to terminate service if they do so. You'll find similar clauses for just about every carrier out there, but Republic is being surprisingly candid about it. We contacted Republic Wireless for some clarification on this point: would they kick rooted users off as soon as they detect them, or would only those whose actions actually endangered the integrity of the network (tethering, illegal downloads, etc.) be punished? A Republic representative had this to say:

We reserve the right to enforce the Terms of Service.  We nonetheless anticipate that we only would take action to the extent that we experienced adverse consequences due to the rooted device.

In other words, root if you must, so long as your modifications only affect you. And once you do so, you're on your own.

Republic Wireless - Rooting and user mods

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • http://twitter.com/OpenIntro Eric Vaughan

    then they don't get it. there are a LOT more reasons to root, other than free tethering. they can do what they want, but they are going to isolate a large part of the android community by doing so.

    • Derek Duncan

      they need to modify this and say, you cannot TETHER FOR FREE on a ROOTED PHONE

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/MZLNEFWUXKAAGHVZ7EQC5DGEGE Skippy

        Wrong, what you use the data for and how you use it is none of their business. If they think you are using too much, regardless of how you are doing that, they can take the needed actions of either throttling you or terminating you.

        But to tell you what you can do and how you can do it, is them overstepping their bounds.

        • http://twitter.com/havens1515 Randroid

          Still wrong.

          If my plan says unlimited, it means unlimited. They should not be able to throttle me or terminate me for tethering. Unlimited should mean just that. I can use UNLIMITED amounts of data for ANYTHING I want to use it for. That includes tethering.

          • Phillip Sugg

            That is incredibly inaccurate (I know this is a year later).

            Unlimited does *not* mean unlimited, it means unlimited to use it according to their terms of service. If you actually read your agreement with them, that means using it with the system they've designed and implemented, and you modifying your phone to abuse their system is a violation and they have *every legal right* to kick your ass off their network. You're not paying for unlimited data, you're paying for the unlimited package they are offering you, two very different animals.

          • hatedeceiptful


  • needa

    spreading the word.... samsung.com is running a 50% off sale on all accessories. paste in this coupon code. maybe one of the fab 5 can make a quick post about it. rE156940u

  • GazaIan

    Ironically, Republic Wireless sold phones that ran Cyanogenmod out of the box.


    • TylerChappell

      Ah, I love a good dose of hypocrisy! :D

      • Terrence

        Get $20 off your order by doing the following :
        1. Add a new Moto X or G to your shopping cart.
        2. Copy and paste the following into your address bar:
        http://tinyURL.com/MotoG20off and press "enter".
        3. Your discount has applied to your cart.
        Now complete your purchase and check your order confirmation online. There will be a line on the receipt that states "Credit $20" to reflect the discount. It applies ONLY to your monthly service plan.
        Enjoy your new phone!!

  • randyfromreno


  • dark

    The problem with that is that the library of congress says we are perfectly legal to do with the phones as we see. just like verizon cannot charge people for tethering as long as they dont use the verizon app, these people cannot terminate a contract based on the fact they made something wrong under their contract but the law says we are legal to do. i would get a contract with them, root my phone to get kicked off their service and then bring them to court. see what they think about that one.

    • Matthew Fry

      Remember that these guys are the healthy competition for the big 4. While I whole heartedly agree that this restriction wouldn't hold up in court, they are just trying to stay afloat while providing a cheap service. Rooting has tons of benefits and only one of them happens to be unrestricted tethering and they need to understand that. As @google-7305a763873fe9c114bdd3b46ab05519:disqus pointed out, the contract terms should be modified to state something to the effect of "circumventing security in place to restrict tethering is a breach of contract and kind of a dick thing to do when we are giving you cheap Internet access."

      • DCMAKER

        two things add to quote "we are giving you cheap ass Internet access" ^^

        second i 100% agree with you on the whole thing. It may be legal to do that but it doesn't mean it is the morally right or best thing to do for everyone. I really respect on how they have come out and said it. I really respect the honesty.

    • needa

      i just read up on the laws a bit. the three year update to the law just happend back in october. in a nutshell you can install unapproved applications to any phone. but any phone purchased in January and on cannot be used to switch carriers without the carriers permission.

      unapproved applications can no longer be put on tablets at all.

      here is the pdf on it. https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2012-26308.pdf

      • Phillip Sugg

        Right, but they have the right to terminate your service without being sued for it. For one you'd have to have quantifiable damages. In fact, such a case could result in a counter-suit where they could provide justifiable damages against you via abnormal bandwidth lease charges they have to pay to compensate for a user root+tethering and then consuming 300GB of cellular network data. Would be a folly to try to push the legal issue if you broke the ToS and then got axed off their network for being a troll.

    • nuschler222

      You are confused. Yes, you can do what you want with your device, however, the company doesn't have to provide you service if you break the TOS. For instance, it is legal for me to wear shorts, but if a restaurant has a dress code and won't let me in I can't sue them.

  • Joseph Cascio

    Long story short, root but be responsible. Complaining about issues to your service provider after you root is unfair to the business. That's like complaining to Cyanogenmod about issues when you're running a different alpha kernel...Don't do it!

  • http://twitter.com/KingPinX KingPin

    I want to try them out, I really do.... but I don't want to buy a $250 paper weight.... I have a galaxy SII now, and moving backwards to the defy.... I just cant do it....

    • chadashcroft

      I am in the same exact boat. Just get sick of the 100 bill on verizon every month and something like this is perfect - the crappy 2 year old phone. Just bought an s3 a few months ago off control and will most likely be stuck on it for a while :(

      Does anybody know of a prepaid or another (cheaper) carry that I could use my verizon s3 on?

      • Cuvis

        You might check with Metro PCS, they can re-provision some Verizon phones.

        • http://twitter.com/KingPinX KingPin

          yepp just get the metro PCS PRL's flashed by any local metro PCS store, i had issues with one place saying they wont do it but two others I checked with had no problems.

          • TheUltimateG

            They didn't want to do it because they rather sucker you into buying one of their phones.

      • Joe Mast

        hi there, you could check on eBay for someone who flashes your phone to straight talk on Verizon towers for under 100 dollars I'm using a Verizon HTC incredible 2 that I got flashed , works!

  • http://www.facebook.com/dontsh00tmesanta Daniel Quintero

    I'm guessing cuz of the custom stuff needed to get the wifi stuff working


    i think that is very fair and really cool on how they are going about it. I got to give them credit.

  • cosine83

    They're all about freedom yet use CDMA. If they were about freedom, they'd use GSM and allow you to use any unlocked phone.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

      I don't recall any corporate statement about freedom being their top priority, but maybe I've forgotten something. I think you mean to say that they are all about being cheap (as in, low cost). Fact is, among the 4 largest carriers, Sprint is willing to license network access at substantially lower prices than anybody else, which is the only thing making it possible to get down to the $19/month price point. Given that Sprint still uses CDMA, RW can't really switch away.

  • Forcemaker

    well, in Germany I am shaking my head on these subjects ... here many people just buy the cellphone in a store (e.g. Mediamarkt) and choose their provider (e.g. T-Mobile, Vodaphone, ...). They almost cannot tell us what software to (not) install. It's none of their business. (They do forbid VoIP e.g. Skype in the contracts, often, but that's a bit different... I don't know if they even enforce this.

    If they are talking about "mobile internet flats", it is usually that you pay e.g. 20 € (~17$) per month for 5 GB UMTS/HSPA speed access and after the 5 GB you get your downstream limited to about 56-64KBit.

    I am reading AP for some months on a very regular basis and it IS really interesting to get your troublesome stories to know. It is just sooo different than here.

    • phanmo

      And here in France, my cell phone bill goes down in price for more services once or twice a year, mainly thanks to the healthy competition from Free, who offers unlimited calls to a hundred or so different countries, unlimited sms, and unlimited internet for about $20. You guys are getting screwed.

  • DroidBricker

    Wow, not only does their name sound like a communist dictatorship their TOS sounds like it was written by Fidel himself!

    • harumph

      You do realize that republic is a word predating communism by about two millenia and is the standing form of goverment in most countries in the world, do you?

    • UniBroW

      "....and for the REPUBLIC for which it stands, one nation..." herp derp

  • Dave Weinstein

    These guys don't seem to understand their customers.

    Their customer don't want to cheat them for service, they just don't want the truely shitty device that they are offering, nor do they want the out of date version of android.

    Anyone rooting their device is doing it to enhance their phone, but these fools want to sing kum-by-ya instead of building a proper installable package for jellybean that could be installed on ANY standard Sprint compatible phone.

    Republic Wireless has turned out to be a huge disappointment.

    • http://www.dailyplacebo.com/ jeadly

      Yup, I was patiently waiting for my wave to arrive even though I was disappointed in the device they picked. When I read that rooting is prohibited and the Republic wifi calling utility wouldn't be available for use in other ROMS I abandoned all hope and jumped onto Ting's bandwagon. They're just shooting for a different demographic of users I guess.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Navalynt Michael Lane

    The bottom line is that Republic Wireless has to maintain a delicate balance between cellular and wifi for usage or they won't survive at those rates. With that model in mind, CDMA is the logical way to go so users must have equipment they have programmed and tested in-house. Modifications to the software or upgrading the OS has the potential to be disastrous for them.

    If you read the warranty for just about all cellular phones it specifically tells you that tampering with the hardware or software voids the warranty. Why should any carrier provide you support on a voided phone?

    I'm sorry, but most users really don't care about the OS version on their phone so long as their phone works. This is an Android forum so obviously most of US care, but WE are not the ones being targeted by Republic Wireless.

    If you want a phone you can modify, update, and do with as you please then buy a factory unlocked model on GSM and pay $45/month for StraightTalkSim.com.

  • Cuvis

    Now I'm glad I didn't switch to them. I don't feel a phone is truly mine until I've rooted it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667020551 Jose Torres

    "...you're missing the point of what we're trying to do. We’ve worked hard to protect the idea that we all work together and that we can share responsibility here. It means doing the right thing for everyone involved--not just what you want to do."

    Was it Karl Marx or Vladmir Lenin who said something like this?

    • harumph

      What's up with the communist references around here... That is an asinine analogy.

      Their business model is vulnerable to abuse that would make it unsustainable, so they are asking their customers not to do it.

      • Moshe Brevda

        In this day and age its laughable when a company tries to impose ridiculous (and legally questionable) limits on an item the customer legally acquired and now OWNES.

        Additionally, the whole spirit of RW is to be a "cool", forward looking, newage type of company. Telling users what they can and cant do to a device they own is definitely not cool...

        • UniBroW

          You're right, the better thing for them to do would just not say anything and then surprise everyone when they boot you off their network for abusing the system. Because THAT would go over so very well with everyone...

          • Moshe Brevda

            Personally, I don't see how rooting your phone abuses their system. Key words: YOUR phone. THEIR system.

          • UniBroW

            I'm not saying it does, I think they need to clarify but from their stance if you're going to mess with your phone so it doesn't work on their system and or you're rooting to abuse the system with wifi tether then I think it stands to be reasonable for them to dump you off their network and to be honest if you read everything they said it's not all that unreasonable.
            Sent from my Asus Infinity

          • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

            Most people who are commenting seem to be misunderstanding the same thing you are, so this isn't directed just at you. There is another technical issue involved here and it is very relevant to modifying your phone. This isn't just about Wi-Fi tethering (or any tethering, wired or bluetooth included); it's also that they've made some custom modifications to the Android OS to use VoIP over WiFi for making calls (when possible). It means that anybody who flashes a custom ROM will automatically make calls over Sprint's network instead of using WiFi, and that's something Republic Wireless ultimately has to pay extra for.

            I haven't read their terms of service, but I expect that they probably include a bit about the device using Wi-Fi for data and calling when available. If the device has been compromised, then the device violates the terms of service...not because it has custom software, but because the custom software isn't capable of meeting the terms of service.

            To be clear, the danger (as far as I know) is in flashing a custom ROM, root alone should not cause the problem. Further, they could mostly resolve this problem if they shared their modifications for custom ROM makers to implement. So, they could handle this statement better by being more clear and by helping the hacking community, but there are more complicated issues that might not make that reasonable.

            Everybody is whining that it's their device, which is true, and anybody paying attention will see that Republic Wireless never said otherwise. But the reason for saying you shouldn't modify the device is valid and reasonable. Without redirecting data and calling through WiFi, Republic Wireless can't maintain the current pricing scheme.

          • Moshe Brevda

            "but because the custom software isn't capable of meeting the terms of service". There is zero technical reason that a rooted phone shouldn't operate just as well as a none rooted one.

            If anything, RW is afraid that ppl will have access to otherwise "secure" areas, and be able to, say, see their sip credentials and reuse them elsewhere. To which I say, the people that want to "steal" (assuming that the ToS are legal and that reusing sip credentials is, indeed, stealing) will do so regardless. And if it's forbidden by the ToS, then rooting isn't the issue - reusing the sip credentials is. Punishing the masses because of the _posible_ sisds of a few, and treating all equally because of that, that is where some commenters pulled a simili to Communism (which seeks to "create a classless, moneyless and stateless social order").

            I'm not calling a public entity Communism, but I am calling BS on their claims (if any) of not being able to provide the same level of service to rooted phones.

            It sounds like their trying to hide something...

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667020551 Jose Torres

          "Telling users what they can and cant do to a device they own is definitely not cool..."

          My point exactly, thank you very much.

    • Mario

      yes, we better keep an eye on these people, they may just take over and force us into communism.
      I hope you and @DroidBricker:disqus realize how ridiculous you sound.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667020551 Jose Torres

        Hey, stop bricking your Droid and learn a bit of sarcasm. It's not our fault that you can't learn to root and not know the advantages of what Android can really do.

    • John O’Connor

      Wouldn't this be the opposite of "republic"?? cue: class action tort lawyers

  • Will Gordon

    I wanted to quickly point at that Republic Wireless is actually NOT in beta anymore. They opened up just recently actually!

  • fred

    i love that they have all these rules and their only phone is the Defy.
    also i will always root every phone i ever have and if you don't like it, tough.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MZLNEFWUXKAAGHVZ7EQC5DGEGE Skippy

    That is all fine and dandy and how it should be whether you are rooted or not. If you cause adverse effects to their network and other consumers they should be able to throttle/remove you at their discretion. However, they have no right to say you can't modify your phone as you see fit.

    EULA and TOS are not the do all be all companies claim they are. They are mainly a deterrent for the uneducated as they will take it as gospel. Are there parts in there they can enforce and the courts will uphold, sure? But just because they put something in there, it does not mean they have the courts on their side to enforce it. Rooting, has been deemed legal thus they have no ground to stand on EXCEPT abuse of their network which is why they wont proactively go after you as they typically can detect if a phone is rooted.

  • thisphuckinguy

    I gave my dad one of the first phones from these guys as a birthday gift. Paying 20 bucks is fantastic but service is buggy. He misses calls often. I also believe he can't receive or send mms messages.

  • RWcustomer

    Here is some more info / update on the issue ... its better than it sounded originally ....


  • Tony Fyffe

    The goal and intent of RW is for its users to preferentially use services (voice and data) over wifi, then use Sprint's network as a backup. If all users do that, they get to continue their agreements with Sprint, and pass on huge savings to us. If people take advantage of their setup by using the cheap network access to broadcast their own wifi from the network, or tether their phone to their computer (which implies you're on the network, not on a wifi, because why wouldn't you just connect your computer to wifi), then their business model won't work. Think about it: How could RW say to Sprint, "Hey, Sprint. Our customers will barely use your network because of preferring wifi first, so give us a huge deal," if people bypass their custom ROM to use the network in ways that are not their intent, resulting in huge amounts of data in contrast to the low amounts that are expected? If you need to make your own wifi, get a hotspot or a plan that includes it. Those plans dont cost $25. They are double that at the low end. 4GB on Verizon or AT&T are about $110. VZW data only hotspot plan is $50. T-Mo 5GB HSPA+ data & 100minutes =$30, plus $15 to tether. Figure out what services you need, then purchase those services from the carriers that offerr them. RW is offering service that is MOSTLY provided over wifi with the benefit of using Sprint when you're on the go. Yes, it's your phone, and you can do what you want with it. But, it's their service, and they don't have to provide it to people who violate the terms they agree to abide by. Feel free to root it, hack it, crack it, and use it as a paperweight. people expect to get a deal on the phone and do things that arent intended. I've even seen someone planning to buy it, term the contract, and use the phone with T-Mo. I was kind enough to educate him about the difference between CDMA and GSM. I sometimes feel it would have served him nicely to let him waste his money.

  • Steve Crouse

    Hi. I switched to Republic Wireless a few months back from
    Verizon. They were killing me with the monthly charges. Around $120 a month.
    Verizon does have the best 4G coverage. I won’t deny that. I got the Republic
    plan for $25 a month. Unlimited calls, text and data with 3G. I dont have the
    4G on my plan. It takes a few seconds longer for the internet to load compared
    to Verizon. But for $100 a month savings its well worth it. If you get the 4G
    with Republic remember you might not have use of it except in large cities. Im
    completely happy with the plan I have. I have no dropped calls. The switch from
    wifi to Sprint 3G is seamless. Those commercials for Verizon that show the map
    show the 4G map coverage only and 3G is pretty much everywhere so their ads are
    really misleading. It works great. Get the Moto X phone and not the Defy (it
    sucks). The Moto X rocks. Yes, you will have to pay $299 for the phone upfront
    but it pays for itself in a few months. Do the math and figure out your yearly
    cost compared with your current plan. Even if you have to pay an early
    termination fee it will save you money over the next year or two. I have a link
    that you can use to save $19 for the first month. Yes, it helps me with my bill
    too when you do. I won’t lie. For Christmas bonus my boss decided to let most
    of us go and I am unemployed. If you don’t like Republic, there is no contract.
    Just switch back. It is a great company.

    Here is the link. Cut and paste if it needed. Thanks!!


  • Steve

    Earn a $25 Republic Wireless credit at checkout with the purchase of your new phone using this discount coupon code link: http://rwshar.es/OFc8

  • Tom V

    Get $20 off your order by doing the following :

    1. Copy and paste the following into your address bar: http://rwshar.es/TkhX and press "enter".

    2. Add a new Moto X or G to your shopping cart.

    3. Your discount has applied to your cart.

    Now complete your purchase and check your order confirmation online. There will be a line on the receipt that states "Credit $20" to reflect the discount. It applies ONLY to your monthly service plan.

    Enjoy your new phone!