Republic Wireless, a pre-paid cellular network backed by T-Mobile and Sprint, has today announced a new product called Relay. This cellular-powered walkie-talkie is designed for kids as an easy way to stay in contact with parents while away from home. Along with access to Google Assistant and integrated GPS, Relay also offers music storage all wrapped in a puck-size device that delivers smartphone capabilities to just about anyone.
From the most basic viewpoint, Relay is a screen-less walkie-talkie that’s wrapped in a water-resistant shell. Its primary function is a speakerphone but there is a 3.5mm headphone jack included if privacy is an issue. Kids simply press the center button to begin speaking to Google Assistant or a pre-defined list of contacts.
Relay operates over Republic Wireless’ virtual network, which means that it defaults to Wi-Fi where available and then depends on T-Mobile/Sprint if Wi-Fi coverage is weak. A companion iOS and Android app allows parents to set up contacts and manage other features such as music.
Republic Wireless will require a monthly plan for access to its cellular networks. At $7 per month, it’s a fairly affordable recurring expense for a device that delivers quite a few features. Relay will be solid in pairs starting next year for $149 or $199 for three.
Along with the announcement of Relay today, Republic is also unveiling the Anywhere HQ, a voice-activated speakerphone that can last days on a single charge. Much like Relay, it is managed through a companion iOS and Android app. Its unique design is highlighted by a pop-off base that reveals a full keypad for calls.
Anywhere HQ is an extension of Republic’s Anywhere service that brings Wi-Fi texting and calling to a number of devices, including Macs. One advantage that this new release has over similar Wi-Fi-based phones is its ability to call 911, which some competitors are not able to leverage.
Final pricing has yet to be unveiled on the Anywhere HQ but it is expected to be available in 2018 following its beta period.
WiFi calling innovator Republic Wireless today announced two new screenless devices – Relay and Anywhere HQ – created to simplify communications for families. The solution is the culmination of a multi-year investment that leverages Republic’s software, cloud service and extensive WiFi-cellular integration know how to help families to manage their increasingly complex communications life and stay connected on their terms.
Relay – Relay is a screenless mobile device built to give families a safe and fun way to stay connected with each other and close friends, but without the risk associated with open access to the Internet. This smart “walkie talkie” connects instantly over both 4G LTE and WiFi networks so it works in the back yard, down the street or even across the country. Relay also gives parents the ability to locate their children via a companion app for both Android and iOS devices. Relay is durable, water-resistant and includes Google Assistant, music, and games providing fun and learning for kids.
Anywhere HQ – Part of Republic’s Anywhere product-line, HQ is a voice-activated smart speaker phone designed for communications first. Enabled with Google Assistant, HQ also allows you to make and receive phone calls, dial 9-1-1 and seamlessly extends your mobile phone number into a speaker that keeps you connected but not tethered to your smartphone. Unlike other smart speakers, HQ is mobile – lift off the dock and it works like a phone and allows private conversations. It has 4G LTE connectivity and several day battery life, allowing you to go beyond WiFi while staying connected.
“When we launched Republic in 2011, we were on a mission to use a WiFi first approach to end the domination of the smartphone on a family’s budget. Since then, we’ve saved our members hundreds of millions of dollars off their cell phone bills. Now, we’ve set our sights on attacking the smartphone’s domination of family time and attention, and specifically the impact this is having on our children,” said Chris Chuang, chief executive officer of Republic Wireless.
“Digital distraction – it’s real, and it’s become a massive problem in today’s society. Study after study shows the adverse effects of too much screen time. It’s the dirty secret no one in the telecom industry wants to talk about. It might sound crazy, but you could say I am the one wireless company CEO who actually wants his customers to use their phones less – not more – so they can get their eyes back up to enjoying the real world around them.”
“I am a father of four young children. Many of our employees are also parents to young children, and while we are eager to be able to locate and communicate with our kids, we also don’t want them to be exposed to the dangers and distractions of unfettered access to the Internet. Republic is in a unique position to enable a solution to this problem with our years of learnings, patents, and competencies across software, hardware, and networks,” Chuang said.
“So in 2018, our focus is on a true need in the marketplace that isn’t being addressed, and we will be launching a series of new products with voice-first interfaces designed to eliminate the unnecessary distractions of screens while keeping people truly connected with the people who matter most.”
Most parents want their kids to have fun, play, and explore outside, while also knowing that they are safe and reachable. Today, parents are solving this problem by giving their children older and/or cheaper smartphones. However, we also know that smartphones expose kids to social media, screen addiction, and open access to the Internet ― all big risks, especially for younger children. Most other solutions on the market are built for the parents exclusively, and aren’t much fun for kids – which means they are unlikely to want to wear or carry these products for long. Republic built Relay to give families freedom and independence, without these smartphone risks.
Relay is a smart, portable, nationwide “walkie-talkie” device built to keep families connected. Relay allows kids to have fun and stay in touch. With it, they can communicate with friends, play music and games, use Google Assistant – all on a simple, screenless device. Relay gives parents the peace of mind they need with the ability to locate their children with GPS, and instantly communicate with a touch of a button.
“There are 25 million kids between the ages of 6-11 in the United States, most with a desire to communicate with each other and their parents. About a third of these 25 million kids have some form of smartphone, leaving two thirds with no means of communicating beyond physical proximity. Of the third that do have smartphones, 66% of surveyed parents say their kids suffer from screen addiction, and 33% of parents say they have daily conflicts with their children over screen time. When it comes to younger kids and connectivity, smartphones introduce more problems than they solve, however, there really hasn’t been a compelling alternative until Relay,” said Chuang.
Launching in early 2018, Relay units will be offered in packs of two for $149 and three at $199. Service will be offered at $6.99 per month per device. Relay does not require a Republic Wireless smartphone subscription.
While many cut the cord on the home phone, the need to communicate at home and to reach emergency services has not disappeared. Anywhere HQ is a smart, high definition speaker phone designed for both home and the office. An extension of the Republic Anywhere service, which allows people to text and call from iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows PC applications in addition to their phones, HQ allows for hands-free, voice-activated calling synced to your mobile phone number and contacts. When placing a call on HQ it also syncs to other devices enabled with the Anywhere app. Unlike other smart speakers on the market, HQ is a fully functioning phone first. When HQ is lifted off its dock a full keypad appears to dial numbers in private mode. A feature unique to HQ is the ability to reach emergency personnel via 9-1-1. HQ also intelligently screens calls to minimize annoying disruptions from robo callers and spammers. With LTE, Anywhere HQ can still work even when your ISP is down, and the battery enables it to work for several days while the power is out.
Republic Anywhere HQ will enter the Republic Labs program in January 2018 – where the company refines products with the participation of customers.
About Republic Wireless
Headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina and recognized as an industry innovator and disruptor, Republic Wireless pioneered the concept of WiFi calling. Republic leverages the power of both WiFi and LTE cellular networks to offer both nationwide smartphone service as well as new screenless devices designed to help people simply and affordably connect. The company has been recognized as a top carrier choice by Consumer Reports; best basic plan by Money magazine and for excellence in customer service by PC Magazine.