I realized it was probably time for a MyFi. Then realized I didn't even know how to spell that, let alone what it meant.
May 6, 2011 1:16 PM   Subscribe

I think I'm ready to pull the trigger on a mobile hotspot. So...which one?

I have a macbook. And an Ipad 2. And an iphone 4. I'm an idiot and I do whatever Steve Jobs tells me to do. But all that said, I think I'd like to get a mobile hotspot at this point. And probably the service that goes with it (unless these things work a different way that I'm not thinking of).

My basics: I email. I facebook. I travel to major cities. I watch netflix. I don't think I need the kind of download service that involves transferring Jack Bauer level building schematics in seconds flat. But at the same time, if possible, I'd like a little better than ATT 3G.

So which way should I go here? And since I'm very unversed in this area, feel free to add an explanations you think might be necessary.
posted by rileyray3000 to Technology (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is there any reason why you don't just subscribe to tethering on your iPhone 4? I think it's like $20/month extra and then it can be a mobile hotspot for your iPad and Macbook.
posted by AaRdVarK at 1:43 PM on May 6, 2011

A device that uses a cellphone network for data from the major carriers will cost about $60+ a month plus the cost of the MyFi or other wifi device on a 2 year contract.

If you can live within a 4GB bandwidth allocation a month, you may wish to enable wifi tethering on your iPhone for $20 more a month as a trial. That would make your iPhone the mobile hotspot where you can use the internet on your MacBook or iPad. If you're burning through data too fast or realize you didn't actually need the hotspot feature you can cancel it at any time. I'd start there.

If you do decide you need a dedicated hotspot device and live/travel to places with LTE, consider the offering from Verizon. In cities where Sprint/Clear has 4G WiMax consider that offering (both the Verizon and Sprint offerings will fall back to their 3G network if you're in areas without 4G coverage). ATT and T-Mobile's "4G" is faster than the 3G you're getting now on AT&T is interesting. AT&T is still building out their coverage so you may get the same speeds as if you tethered your iPhone. T-Mobile has it in more places, but because their 3G/4G future is sort of in flux since they're in the process of being bought by AT&T. If you buy a T-Mobile wifi hotspot device today, you'll probably be safe for the next 18-24 months, but AT&T will eventually turn over those towers to AT&T's 3G network frequencies and you'll be stuck with 2G speeds until you buy a new device. At that point, AT&T's mothership may offer an LTE solution similar to Verizon's offering. There's also wifi solutions from prepaid guys like Virgin and Cricket. You pay more for the device, pay around what the big guys charge, but can walk away if you realize you don't need it anymore or something better comes along.
posted by birdherder at 1:54 PM on May 6, 2011

I don't really have extensive experience with the mobile hotspot devices but one comment:

4GB is really not going to be enough for someone who watches Netflix on any regular basis. It also would depend on (a) how much email you deal with and especially if you get attachments on a regular basis, (b) how much you like downloading and testing apps and games on your iphone/ipad. Those add up rather quickly for me personally.

Verizon's 4G is probably your best bet. They charge a $50 monthly access fee for 5 GB of data or $80 per month for 10 GB and you pay for the mobile hotspot device ($99 with 2 year commitment I believe).
posted by tuxster at 2:20 PM on May 6, 2011

I agree 4GB is not a lot. However, I thought rileyray3000 was getting a hotspot to augment other internet access, not replace it. If I'm sitting at home, I'll watch a movie on Netflix on the home wifi. If the hotel I'm staying in has good wifi, I'll use that. But if I'm somewhere w/o a good broadband connection, I use the mobile network. The nice thing about just using the iPhone to tether on occasion can be turned off and you stop being billed. Before running out and signing up for a 2 year commitment, I think it might be better to test the waters for $20. If that is too slow to too little, get a VZW or Sprint 4G myfi.
posted by birdherder at 2:36 PM on May 6, 2011

I have a virgin mobile mifi. It's no contract, $40 / month (which may have changed) for unlimited data, with bandwidth limited over 5 GB. I picked up the mifi from walmart for something like $150.

netflix doesn't work very well over the device -- it's connected to Sprint's 3G network I believe. webpages are fine, although images are occasionally slow to load.

the service itself is occasionally flakey, I have to reset the mifi every 2 months or so via it's web interface.

It's probably the cheapest way to go if you get a new device, but not as cheap as turning on tethering with your iphone. Also, if you already know you're happy with ATT's network, no reason to work to discover if Sprint's network is capable in your area.
posted by garlic at 2:48 PM on May 6, 2011

It's been discontinued, but if you find the hardware (i.e. eBay), you can still activate Clearwire's iSpot wireless hotspot service ("unlimited," 4G only) for $25/mo.

The hardware allows only Apple mobile devices (iPod Touch / iPad), and at one time allowed MacBooks. I believe an update locked out MacBook MAC addresses, but I have seen hacks out there that re-enable the feature if you are so inclined.
posted by Perplexer at 4:03 PM on May 6, 2011

Perplexer: "The hardware allows only Apple mobile devices (iPod Touch / iPad), and at one time allowed MacBooks. I believe an update locked out MacBook MAC addresses, but I have seen hacks out there that re-enable the feature if you are so inclined"

I got a great deal on one of these about six months ago, and there is a hack that enables you to hook up anything to it, and blow out that Mac-only jive; if anyone is interested, let me know, or of course just search on it online.

It's fast, it's really inexpensive per month, it's got coverage in many areas, and more all the time. I have cut off the cable here, so it actually more than pays for itself each month. I'm real happy with it, as I'm sure you can tell, given what I've written here.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:51 PM on May 6, 2011

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