A week with the Verizon MiFi personal hotspot (Verdict: The best 3G device yet)

verizon_mifi_2200.jpg

Just a couple of days after getting the Verizon MiFi in the mail, my home internet service died. No matter—let’s just hit the button on this little box and…hrm. Into the instruction manual, then.

Oh, you have to authorize it first, using the software that’s installed on its internal flash memory. But why doesn’t it show up on my Mac as a drive?

Into the Windows box. Aaannnd there we go, that familiar and annoying Verizon Access Manager software. Connect to Verizon’s 3G network. Log into the MiFi’s Wi-Fi network using the SSID and password that’s on the sticker on the back.

And done. Real broadband internet, or at least as close as 3G ever gets.

I’m not actually sure why I bothered to relate the setup process, because once it was done, getting the MiFi back online is as simple as hitting a button. (And activating it on a Mac that already had internet would be easy, since you could download the Verizon software.)

A battery inside the MiFi sets up a personal hotspot for around four hours. I never actually tried to run it all the way down, though, instead keeping it charged up by plugging it into the USB port on my computer. (It has a MicroUSB connection, though a cable is included.)

It’s about two-thirds the size of an iPhone, but much lighter; it disappears in a pocket.

Up to five devices can connect to the MiFi’s Wi-Fi network, sharing the 3G connection at once.

The biggest bummer is the price—$150 (before a $50 rebate) with a 2-year, $60-a-month contract for 5GB of data a month; or a $15-a-day rate if you pay the full $270 price up front. That’s completely in line with 3G service from every other carrier, skimpy as it may be, and the MiFi is undoubtedly the most convienent, pleasant 3G experience I’ve ever had.

The MiFi doesn’t just obsolete outrigger 3G cards and USB sticks—it actually makes me realize I don’t ever want to buy a device with embedded 3G service for which I’ll have to pay a monthly fee. The future of mobile 3G is personal Wi-Fi hotspots, for sure—and until the carriers start letting mobile phones do that duty, the MiFi is as good as it gets.

I’m not alone in thinking the MiFi is a winner:

Andy Ihnatko: “If I should ever give up and cave in, I would want a device exactly like the MiFi.”
Chris Ziegler: “Put simply, our hats go off to Novatel and Verizon on this one.”
James Kendrick: ” I’ve only had the Verizon MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot for a day, but I can state emphatically it is everything I thought it would be and more.”
Brian Lam: “I guess I belong to part of the population that doesn’t worry so much about portable WiFi on a separate piece of gear, no matter how nice the hardware is. But I’d take this thing.”
Sal Cangeloso: “Overall, the MiFi 2200 is a step forward in mobile broadband connectivity.”
Greg Kumparak: “It does everything right, and is the simplest and most rock solid solution we’ve seen so far.”
The Pogue: “He was floored when I pulled the MiFi from my pocket, its power light glowing evilly.”

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9 Responses to A week with the Verizon MiFi personal hotspot (Verdict: The best 3G device yet)

  1. Blue says:

    What is it with all these 3G 24-month contracts? In half that time something better is going to come along – why would anyone want to lock themselves into ageing technology?

  2. potcherboy says:

    @ Chris S: come on though, 5gb for $60/month? That’s on TOP of your phone plan! And just because one feels the price is too high doesn’t mean the item can’t be afforded.

    It is great that the MiFi can support up to 5 devices, but that quickly becomes 1gb per user–do you only use 10 days of voice minutes per month?

  3. jitrobug says:

    I haven’t messed with tethering, but assuming you have an unlocked iphone and you set up tethering – would this device work better in some way?

    is the performance better, or is it just that the setup is easy and you’re not breaking the rules?

  4. dculberson says:

    So, this does sound amazing, but just how close to broadband is “as close as 3G ever gets?” Have you run any speed test or anything?

  5. caldrax says:

    My coworker was just at the house of someone who has one of these, apparently. He said it seemed really cool. However, a 5 gb limit for 60 dollars a month is just absurd.

  6. strider_mt2k says:

    I’ve been using my Samsung i910 Omnia in this manner for a few months now.

    http://www.modaco.com/content/i9x0-omnia-http-omnia-modaco-com/276545/fixed-12-5-08-tethering-on-the-i910-verizon-omnia/

    I’m using a combination of programs to turn my phone into my personal wifi access point.

    It warms the phone up a little, and of course thrashes the battery, but I purchased an external Lithium pack that’ll stretch it out a ways.
    (Dunno if it’s 4 hours, honestly.)

    Coolest part is that it still work as a phone, even with a headset, since bluetooth isn’t used for this method.

    I really just use it at work, but it has come in handy elsewhere.

  7. Anonymous says:

    There is always JoikuSpot,
    this is simple piece of SW which turns your mobile into a WiFi hotspot, quite a many phone models supported. Check it out
    http://www.joikushop.com/

  8. zuzu says:

    Why isn’t any phone that has both 3G and Wi-Fi able to act as an access point in this manner?

    Why is tethering only available via Bluetooth? Why do we need an additional separate product for something our phones already have the hardware to perform? Why isn’t it as simple as Apple OSX’s Internet Sharing option in System Preferences?

    p.s. Any data capping on any data service is ridiculous. Do they really expect us to go back to AOL hours bullshit?

  9. Chris S says:

    @5:Why isn’t any phone that has both 3G and Wi-Fi able to act as an access point in this manner?

    The *phone* probably could. But you need the network to cooperate, and you can’t buy the network, you can only rent a little slice. And so, the *carrier* (because no end consumer actually buys a phone from the manufacturer!) sets the device up so that you can’t swamp their network.

    @6:p.s. Any data capping on any data service is ridiculous.

    For wireless? No, no, it’s not ridiculous. Fact is, there is no wire connecting you to your carrier that carries exclusively “your” data. No matter what cellular technology you use, as your data usage goes up, the ability of the carrier to handle more calls (or more data) goes down. And – unlike wired – they can’t just add capacity at the cell site the way they can at a central office. Cellular spectrum can’t be added just by adding data capacity to the tower.

    You’ll have to take your choice on this one – either you pay a la carte with a decent rate per data unit, or you pay handsomely for a high limit.

    Yes, I am aware that users don’t like the uncertainty of a per-unit data plan. If you want certainty, then you’ll have to pay for it. That said, there is still such a thing as an exhorbitant rate. But 5 GB is equivalent to over 50 *days* of voice minutes. Most of us can only use about 30 days of minutes per month. So – it’s not an outrageous deal, particularly for a device that will support up to 5 computers, where there is a reasonable chance that you’ll actually use the data.

    @article: it actually makes me realize I don’t ever want to buy a device with embedded 3G service for which I’ll have to pay a monthly fee

    … which makes this a *very* good thing indeed! If more carriers offer a device like this, then you can switch in the blink of an eye, without changing anything except a few settings on your computer … just like wired internet. That will do the most to ensure that the price you pay not jacked up unreasonably.

    But be warned – just because you can’t afford something you want doesn’t mean the price is in some overall sense “too high”.

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