Republic Wireless, a startup that launched in 2011 with unlimited cellphone service for $19 a month, is growing up. The carrier is overhauling its plans, introducing LTE data service, and, most importantly, offering its customers a true, quality smartphone that isn't an embarrassment to carry around. That phone is the Moto X, and it will soon be available for $299 without a contract.

You can see why that's an appealing offer just by doing the math, but despite today's changes, the very basis of Republic Wireless — and its cut-rate prices — hasn't changed. First of all, you can't bring the Moto X to any other carrier. But the main trick is that Republic primarily routes calls, texts, and data over Wi-Fi. When you're outside range of a Wi-Fi hotspot, your phone will use cellular data provided by Sprint. This makes Republic what's known as an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), since it doesn't run a wireless network, but the carrier's focus on VoIP calls is what makes it fairly unique. The company is from Bandwidth.com, which specializes in VoIP service and provides some services for Google Voice and Skype.

No more embarrassing phones for Republic Wireless

In our testing last year, voice quality wasn't up to par with those services, but that was partly due to the awful hardware Republic forced its customers to use (it launched with the LG Optimus S, and later offered the Motorola Defy XT). And the company says the Moto X will offer better VoIP quality, according to PhoneScoop, and it can now execute seamless handoffs between Wi-Fi and cellular so you won't drop your call when you go out of range.

To go alongside the new hardware, the carrier is offering new plans as well. All offer unlimited talk, text, and data over Wi-Fi (though there's no proper MMS support). The most expensive plan, at $40 per month, lets you use Sprint's nascent LTE network when Wi-Fi isn't available, and a $25 plan uses Sprint's 3G CDMA service instead in those situations. A $10 plan doesn't let you use data if you're outside range of Wi-Fi hotspots (but still lets you make calls and send texts when traveling). Lastly, a $5 plan only works when you're on Wi-Fi. Republic hasn't revealed when the Moto X and its new service plans will be available, but it should be soon.

Update: Republic Wireless has published an FAQ on its plan to offer the Moto X. It says the device will be available in November after the carrier's version of the device gets certified on Sprint's network, and it'll only be sold in black or white. For current Republic Wireless customers, the carrier is offering a lifetime ten percent discount on their phone service if you upgrade to the Moto X, and you can get a $100 discount on the device itself.