NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Smartphones are a miracles of 21st century technology, but even basic service does not come cheap. The major carriers charge between $60 and $80 a month for unlimited talk and text and a gigabyte or two of data, which can add up to $1,000 a year with taxes. That leaves a large opening for discount carriers.

One of the most appealing of the upstarts is Republic Wireless, which streamlines the majors' Byzantine pricing and device options. Raleigh, N.C.-based Republic offers compelling pricing by featuring only two Android phones rather than a bevy of devices and trying to run as much voice, text and data traffic as possible over WiFi networks, which are much cheaper to use than cellular.

Image placeholder title

That disparity is reflected in Republic's four monthly plans. The company offers a WiFi-only plan at $5 per month and a plan at $10 a month that provides unlimited talk, text and data over WiFi and unlimited talk and text, but no data, over cellular. Both plans are ideal for college students who live on WiFi-enabled campuses. Republic's most popular plan at $25 a month features unlimited talk,text and data on WiFi plus access to Sprint's 3G cellular network. Data junkies can get 4G coverage instead for $40 a month.

Republic offers two phones, the Moto X at $299 and the Moto G at $149. The Motorola devices are specially configured to optimize the use of WiFi networks and, if necessary, switch over to a cellular network. The handoff could reputedly be problematic when the company initiated the service in 2012, but those issues have been addressed. The phone itself - I tested a Moto X for a few weeks this summer - is a solid device, with impressive voice quality and ease of use.

--Written by David Marcus for MainStreet