Mi-Fi router / prepaid mobile data in Philadelphia
September 2, 2012 5:10 PM   Subscribe

Upcoming trip to the US; smartphone and pre-existing 2G US number. Does it make sense to get a pre-paid Mi-Fi router?

I've got a T-Mobile number on my parents' plan, but it's 2G only and doesn't come with any data. I left the US before the advent of mobile internet access, and have only been back for short stretches since. My wife and I will be visiting the US for her first trip in late September. Mostly this will be a fun, time-away-from-the-internet deal, but it sucks not to have access to Google Maps or any other online services when I'm carrying around my amazing sweet-ass smartphone.

I don't get back to the US often enough to make it worth the hassle to change my mobile subscription plan, and my phone isn't compatible with T-Mobile's data network anyway. Right now I'm looking into the possibility of getting some kind of prepaid mobile data plan and a Mi-Fi router, and just carrying those with us on day trips.
Does this make sense? I will be fine with spending $50 to $100 to get access to Google Maps and restaurant listings and that sort of thing for the duration of our three-week trip, especially if I'll be able to pop the SIM card out of the router and take it back to China with us. Does anybody have any recommendations for services (Clear/Verizon/whoever) that offer good coverage in Philadelphia and NYC? Speed is not even a huge consideration here, though naturally it'd be nice.
posted by bokane to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
I wouldn't: Mi-Fi routers batteries don't last very long. Better to put your USA sim card in your phone and use that phone for Internet access. If you occasionally need Internet access from other devices, enable the portable HotSpot on your phone.
posted by devnull at 1:36 AM on September 3, 2012

Sorry, was probably unclear in the question -- my phone's 3G-capable, but my US SIM card/plan are 2G and don't have any data, so as far as I can tell there's no way to get data on the phone without getting a separate plan from my parents', which isn't worth it considering how little time I spend in the US.

My usual provider is China Unicom, which supposedly has roaming agreements with US carriers, but I've never gotten my Chinese SIM to work in the States.
posted by bokane at 2:08 AM on September 3, 2012

Probably the simplest way to do this is to buy a StraightTalk SIM ($15) and a month of data/airtime ($45) for your smartphone. That's right. $60. And the SIM card and phone number they give will be dead the next time you visit the US unless you continue to pay $45/month. But hey, you're online without a contract in the most dysfunctional mobile phone market in the world, so quit your moaning. You can either get the SIM posted to your host/hotel in the US by StraightTalk, or there are resellers on eBay who will ship it overseas.

Alternatively, if your main concern is map access, just get MapsWithMe and enjoy a few weeks offline.
posted by caek at 6:12 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

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