It feels like everyone out there has a smart phone, a laptop, perhaps a netbook and an iPad. Every Internet Hotspot with free wifi is occupied by people on their devices surfing the net and maybe – just maybe – doing something productive.
I’m one of those people. I carry wifi devices everywhere I go. I always have my phone, and most of the time I have a laptop with me. My world revolves around my email accounts. It’s how I communicate with my customers and my family; manage my calendar and maintain notes on the rest of my life.
Unfortunately, a lot of the productive time I have doesn’t include access to wifi or the ability to connect with a cable, so over time I have tried several new devices to create connections to the Internet.
When I first started working wirelessly, I was on the Sprint network and used my phone as a modem. When I moved to T-Mobile to get the new Google Droid, I purchased their rocket USB device that I could use on my computer. Both these devices worked, and I was able to compose and send detailed email and surf the web doing basic research – as long as I didn’t mind the slow speed. It was kind of a pain to get the devices to work correctly with each of the computers I owned and working with my iPad and the USB device was just not possible.
Then I went to a vendor’s lunch with several people I work with and saw a new device in use for the first time. Introducing the AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G made by Sierra Wireless. I discussed it with my friend and tried one for myself, and discovered some obvious advantages over my prior setups in addition to portability:
Ease of use: Hit the power button and watch the Hotspot boot up. In a few seconds you have a small screen that tells you the device name and the password. Enter this information into your other devices’ wifi settings and you are off and running – your computer or phone will even remember the settings.
Speed: I work at a normal speed on my MacBook Pro, and as long as I don’t need to download large files, the speed of website loading and mail sending and receiving is very comparable with the speed I am used to through my home or office connection. Do I want to use it to download 200MB files, or upload my photography session to the web? No, and that’s not what I bought it for.
Convenience: The Hotspot fully charges in a couple of hours from your computer or from the included wall charger and runs for up to five hours of use. The Hotspot is about the size of a deck of cards, and is durable looking and feeling with three hard rubber sides and the fourth clear plastic for the screen. While I haven’t dropped mine (yet), it appears that this kind of abuse is survivable.
The data plan for the device is 5GB for $50. Even with this higher cost for data, I think the Sierra-made AT&T Mobile Hotspot is a great deal if you need the ability to get online from anywhere.