Any technology startup or a company launching a new gadget or service longs to receive the attention of Walt Mossberg, the dean of America’s technology reporters.
But they all know to be careful in what they wish for – and must be ready to accept good or bad.
Like any respected reviewer, especially in New York where reviews can make or break Broadway shows, Mossberg can slice and dice with the best.
Which brings us to Wednesday’s Mossberg review of Raleigh-based Republic Wireless’ fledgling service.
Launched with a lot of media hype in January with attention focused primarily on its cheap $19-a-month price, Republic received a decidedly mixed review Mossberg.
Will this help? Hurt? Probably a bit of both.
After all, the Republic will embrace and tout the positive. Within moments of Mossberg’s review, The Skinny received an email heads-up about it from Noreen Allen, chief marketing officer at Republic parent Bandwidth.
Plus, Republic’s website quickly touted Mossberg’s review as well as a review from USA Today.
Both reviews were published as Republic launched a new pricing option (lower upfront cost for the Motorola smartphone it offers in exchange for a higher monthly fee).
Mossberg’s review begins with – from Republic’s perspective – a sobering headline:
“For $19, An Unlimited Phone Plan, Some Flaws”
Egad. Flaws? As cited by Mossberg?
Must be serious.
Mossberg quickly praises the price, noting people can save a great deal of money.
But he questions the quality of the service and especially the Motorola Defy XT phone itself.
“So what’s the catch? Well, Republic is using an unusual technology approach that’s smart and may even represent the future,” Mossberg wrote. “But today, it doesn’t deliver the best voice quality and it requires a specially equipped phone. The sole phone that works with the system now is mediocre.”
If Republic is smart, it will embrace Mossberg’s criticisms and tackle problems. In fact, Republic says it already is moving to deal with some of the technical concerns he raises.
Mossberg rips the phone, calling it “a chunky device with a lower-resolution screen than any current iPhone or leading Android model.”
He also questions Republic’s links to 3G rather than faster 4G LTE speeds, but Republic already is planning on 4G and more phones.
“Republic says it plans to roll out a feature this summer that will cut the handoff to seconds and make it nearly seamless,” Mossberg notes.
Then he questions “call quality.”
Next, he wonders if Republic has made the right decision to not offer live customer service. Instead, Republic relies on “community” feedback in forums.
” You can get help from an employee through these forums, but that’s not typical,” Mossberg writes.
But if your bottom line is price, Mossberg says go for Republic.
“If you can live with these limitations,” he concludes, “Republic Wireless can save you a lot of money.”
If this was a “starred review,” Mossberg is probably giving Republic a 2 1/2 out of 4.
But that’s a heck of a lot better than being panned. And The Skinny’s bet is the Republic crew is smart enough to make changes that will entice Mossberg to revisit its service in a few months with the hopes of getting at least a 3 1/2.