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Republic Wireless’s Wi-Fi+ app is essential for its future

For all of the good in Republic Wireless’s plan, there are a few practical hitches. Yes, they can afford to charge customers only $20 per month for smartphone service, because they utilize WiFi to a greater degree than your average smartphone. But smartphone owners, particularly Android users, understand the hitches that exist with connecting to a WiFi network. Many of them are locked. Many others require authentication. So while your phone might appear connected to a WiFi network, you still have to take action before you’re actually online. That certainly presents troubles to a provider that relies on frequent connections to WiFi networks.

Yesterday Republic introduced a potential solution to its WiFi connection problem. The WiF+ app performs a number of crucial functions for Republic users. Most importantly, it automatically detects available networks and authenticates. So when you pass by, say, a Starbucks, it will detect the network, connect, and automatically authenticate. As long as you’re within range you will use WiFi for all major phone functions.

(The downside is that Republic doesn’t yet have a handoff system, so if you are in the range of that Starbucks while on the phone, you’ll drop the call once you’re out of range.)

Republic’s other aim with the app is to let people know the proportion of their data they’re consuming over WiFi. With unlimited 3G usage available, many customers won’t care about this feature. Then again, WiFi is typically far faster than any Sprint 3G connection in the US, so customers will likely have a more enjoyable experience if they’re connected to WiFi more often. Whether they understand this and take advantage remains to be seen.

While the app will certainly help — autentication is not an issue that will go away — Republic still has some hurdles to clear before people consider it a serious option. The ability to seamlessly transition between WiFi and 3G is chief among them, followed closely by handset selection. If they can solve those problems, perhaps they’ll have a solution that other MVNOs can emulate.

You can get Republic’s WiFi+ app at Google Play.

Via Phone Scoop.