Best way to add wifi during car trips with a dongle/hotspot
October 13, 2016 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Looking for the simplest device/way to set up a mobile hotspot in the car that ideally doesn't involve tethering to another phone. Google research is making it tough to figure out what I need exactly.

It seems like I'll have to get a dedicated device and then sign up for a data plan with some company (I have verizon but would prefer not to change my plan since it's family owned). What do people recommend for wifi dongles or hotspots?

-would like to provide relatively high speed service while in the car
-ok if it can only provide wifi to one device
-prefer not to tether to a smartphone (sounds like this generally leads to slower speeds?) I do have an ipad 2 available for this function but it isn't connected to any cell/data plan, so not sure if usable
-looking to spend <$100 for product alone not counting data (but hoping this is somewhere in the $15-20 a month range)
-in Chicago if that helps with anything.

posted by andruwjones26 to Technology (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (also curious if anyone has any experience with Freedompop. Mixed reviews and appears like it might be spammy, but some of the devices are intriguing.)
posted by andruwjones26 at 12:50 PM on October 13, 2016

You should be able to add one of these to your family plan for something like $10/month plus the data it uses.

My personal experience is that using a phone as an access point is fine speed-wise. I've done it on Verizon and Fi without a problem. Does Verizon still charge a fee to do so?
posted by Candleman at 1:21 PM on October 13, 2016

Following up on Candleman's answer: The Jetpack seems to be a favorite of RV owners.
posted by davcoo at 1:44 PM on October 13, 2016

Best answer: Straighttalk has a hotspot device for less than $100. Can buy data as needed - 1G starts with $15, etc. This works for email and the like but would not be enough for video. No need to commit to any kind of contract. The website is abominable but the service works.
posted by RoadScholar at 1:50 PM on October 13, 2016

I have a Jetpack and find it to be super flaky and slow, but could be because of my coverage area. I get way better performance by tethering to my AT&T phone. I had a Karma for a while and found it to be quite usable and the price was right.
posted by homesickness at 2:15 PM on October 13, 2016

I have a FreedomPop hotspot. Never had any problems with the free plan, but if you switch to a paid plan, watch their billing like a hawk—I had it continue for three months after I canceled the paid plan, though once I called them they were happy to refund me.

It's a little like having a credit card—their business model is such that they make money when people use it the wrong way, or don't realize they're using it, and you'll always feel a little gross dealing with them as a result. But there's room to use them in a way that benefits you more than it does them.
posted by Polycarp at 2:17 PM on October 13, 2016

Best answer: Wal*Mart, StraightTalk, the ZTE 288 C model (which is an MVNO for Verizon, which has the best coverage in the Western states):

Best of both worlds - awesome coverage and pay only in the months you use it.

Note: inside Walmart they may call it the "288L" model and there are two other models which roam on ATT and TMobile - double check before you buy.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 5:31 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies! Soylent, with your endorsemenet I'm gonna check out the straighttalk; great price point and pay as use ability it looks like
posted by andruwjones26 at 7:31 AM on October 15, 2016

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