I am traveling down Interstate 91 South in New Hampshire, returning from my 20th Dartmouth Reunion, enjoying pretty decent data access on my iPhone 3G, even though there is zero ATT service on this stretch of the road. I am getting a few hundred kilobits/second.
Ok, there is one small detail I a left out. I am using a MiFi 2200 Wi-Fi hotspot in the car. This little device, smaller than a deck of cards, connects to the Verizon data network, establishes and EvDO connection, and puts up Wi-Fi cloud around itself.
Using the MiFi, my iPhone is essentially a Verizon iPhone. I use data more than voice, so this really does bring the better Verizon coverage to my iPhone. The device is battery operated, although you can plug it in or attach it via USB to a charging source, such as the 12-volt adapter in the car.
No doubt, this is an expensive solution. The Verizon EvDO card is over $60/month. But, truth-be-told, I have had EvDO service for over 4 years now since I find it useful when traveling. The sad truth is that while the ATT 3G network is faster than the Verizon data network when it is available, it is often not available.
When we hike out west I like having the security of a cell phone when we are on the trail. This is the first summer in 11 years where I don’t own a Verizon cell phone, and it will be nice to have the security of the Verizon network while using my iPhone.
The Mi-Fi is not perfect. I found that after being idle for several hours, it turns off the Wi-Fi network and hence essentially needs to be rebooted before you can use connected devices again. But given that it is close at hand, this is not too much of an inconvenience.
As an added bonus, the Mi-Fi supports up to 5 devices (a limitation probably imposed by Verizon) and so my laptop and my old iPhone, which is now the family iPod Touch, can also be on the network.
Carrying your own personal Wi-Fi cloud has never been easier. You could do it using a variety of devices for the past few years, but they were big and clunky and required multiple pieces of hardware. The Mi-Fi gives you a very convenient form-factor and built in battery that makes the concept significantly more useful. And by letting you share the expensive EvDo connection, it also makes Verizon’s EvDo service more economical.