News Column

Verizon Wireless' MiFi Changes the Game

July 13, 2009


verizon mifi, mobile hotspot, device review

Verizon Wireless' MiFi 2200, manufactured by Novatel, is branded as an "intelligent mobile hotspot." In other words, wherever you take the MiFi, you can bring the Internet with you, accessible via any Wi-Fi-enabled device

Sounds ridiculously easy, right? What's the catch?

Well, in terms of functionality, there really isn't a catch. Okay, there's about a 10-12 minute set-up process. You plug the MiFi, a glossy, black plastic little thing about the size of a compact mirror, via USB cable into a computer, which will install a program that, in turn, activates the device. But that's not much of a catch. After that's done, you've got wireless broadband access from Verizon with the touch of a button, for up to five wireless-enabled devices in range. You also need to input a password code, handily printed on a sticker attached to the bottom of the MiFi, to the devices seeking to access that wireless signal.

But, after that, you just turn it on when you want the net. It's really that easy. Just remember to charge the batteryand you should get about 4 hours of use.

I found it to be easy and convenient -- enough so that when staying in a hotel, I used the MiFi to get my netbook online, rather than call the front desk to ask for the password to the hotel's own free wireless service. Things like email, light document downloading and editing, and even some online, flash-based games worked as well as if I'd been on my home PC.

The only drawback is the pricing -- it's not outlandish, but it's certainly not the kind of service a casual user would find much value in. Road warriors will find the pricing scheme fair, or at least market level, though. Verizon charges $39.99 for 250 megabytes per month, with an overage charge of 10 cents per megabyte. Power users would probably want to go for the pricier 5 gigabyte/month plan, which runs $59.99 with five cent overage charges. The device itself is $99 with a two-year contract.

In a perfect world, Verizon would offer a way to converge a client's mobile Internet use, perhaps having a device like the MiFi be an add-on charge to your monthly smartphone bill, since you're undoubtedly paying for unlimited mobile Internet on that device anyway. In any case, in and of itself, the MiFi's monthly charges are very much in line with the industry standard for mobile Internet on your computer, and it can power a whole range of devices for several people at once. Add in the ease of use, especially after initial setup, and it's easy to see the MiFI's appeal.

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