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."