From tough love to warm embrace – that’s the saga of Walt Mossberg and Republic Wireless.

In a new review posted Tuesday night of Raleigh-based Republic, which blends Wi-Fi and cellular technology to make calls, the Wall Street Journal’s tech guru gushes with praise. That contrasts sharply from a more somber review back in February.

The headlines show the differences:

  • New: ”Smartphone With Wi-Fi Smarts - Republic Wireless’s Moto X Shows Wi-Fi Calls Can Be as Good as Cellular Ones”
  • Old: ”For $19, An Unlimited Phone Plan, Some Flaws”

The new column:

“What if you could get a top-tier, current-model smartphone with all the bells and whistles, and pay between $5 and $40 a month for unlimited voice, text and data? And there’s no contract required.

“Well, you can if you sign up with an innovative carrier called Republic Wireless. Republic’s secret is it modifies brand-name phones so they place voice calls and send texts over Wi-Fi instead of more expensive cellular networks. That lets the company charge less per month and forgo contracts. And now it offers a top-tier phone, the Moto X from Motorola.”

The old column (which WRALTechWire highlighted::

“So what’s the catch? Well, Republic is using an unusual technology approach that’s smart and may even represent the future. 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.”

Republic just recently launched its new smartphone – the Moto X – and Mossberg likes it far better than the original Defy XT.

But just as importantly, Mossberg also praises the W-Fi/cellular service for its call quality and ease of “handover” between networks. 

“There are still a couple of drawbacks, but I can recommend it as an option for people who want to save on monthly bills and don’t mind being limited to a choice of a single modern Android phone.”

Mossberg likes several other features, from price to being able to change plans on the fly. But he does express some concern about customer support quality.

But the Republic crew has to be pleased with Mossberg’s close:

“Overall, however, Republic is offering a clever, modern service on a good smartphone, and is showing that Wi-Fi calls can be as good as cellular ones.”

Mossberg’s full review plus a video can be found online.