Views from Phanfare CEO and Co-founder Andrew Erlichson

Link Droid X is a Poor Replacement for Verizon MiFi

One of the reasons I got a Droid X is that I thought it could replace my Verizon MiFi hotspot when I travel. The cost of carrying the Droid X and the cost of carrying the MiFi are within $20/month of each other.

Last weekend I traveled to Durango, CO with my family and tried to use the Droid X as I would have used the MiFi: To create a WiFi hotspot that connects to Verizon’s CDMA data network so that my iPhone and laptop could get data.

As expected, my AT&T iPhone showed “No Service” nearly the entire time I was in Durango (we were in the woods). My Droid X showed service nearly all the time, although the service was spotty.

Unfortunately, the Hot Spot feature of the Droid X is nearly useless compared to the MiFi. First, it times out deliberately after ten minutes of inactivity even if the Droid X is plugged in. This makes zero sense. Hence, you can’t just plug the Droid X in and provide data for a period of days in a foreign location. Instead, whenever you want to use your laptop, you need to go to the phone, navigate to the hotspot app and turn it on.

But that is not the worst of it. Even if you are continually using the device that is connected to the Droid X, the hotspot randomly turns off periodically. In my experience I got about 5 minutes of work before it would fail. Utterly useless.

There is some chatter on the Moto forums that the Droid X brings the hotspot down when it loses the CDMA uplink. Ok, it was a pretty spotty in Durango. I tried the hotspot again in Princeton, NJ when I returned. Same thing.

I had better luck using Bluetooth to attach the laptop. To do that, I paired the laptop (Macbook) with the Droid X over Bluetooth and then used the built-in networking on the Mac to establish a data connection over Bluetooth. I just had to Google for what username and password to use on the modem configuration screen (not sure the values mattered; what probably mattered is that my Droid X was provisioned for tethering). That link, once established, worked very well.

That said, I found that because I had the Droid X, I needed the MiFi a lot less because the Droid X is a perfectly fine email and web device and did work reliably over Verizon’s network. The big thing I missed: My iPhone takes great photos and I can email a downsampled version of a photo. The Droid X takes mediocre photos and as far as I can tell, you can’t downsample a photo when you email it via Gmail. Maybe that’s solved in Froyo.

If you have a MiFi and love it, don’t trade it in for a Droid X. You will be disappointed.

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  • rblon

    I have Froyo and I am also disappointed in the hotspot functionality. I have to admit I haven't tried to figure out what the problem is, but probably 7 out of 10 times I tried to use it, it didn't work.

    The MiFi solution I have works great (Huawei E585, cost only GBP 40). It is especially useful in continental Europe, where data roaming charges are excessive and plugging in a local pay-as-you-go card with data-plan is a cheap alternative.

    In that case using the phone as hotspot isn't an good solution anyway (even if it would work), as it means changing sim card and not being reachable on my mobile number.

  • erlichson

    I tried the hotspot yesterday and it worked for about 40 minutes and then

    shutdown without explanation while 3 people were actively using it. It's not

    a robust solution. The MiFi is better, although it's not without its

    challenges, the main one being that it's yet-another-device-that-needs-to-be

    charged, and unlike the Droid X, it is fairly likely that it's not charged

    at any given moment.

    I have had better success using Bluetooth tethering from my Droid X to my

    laptop. In fact, as we speed along I-95 right now in VA, that is how I am

    sending this.

    Cellular just needs to be built into devices. Everything else is a tweener.

    Our iPads have ATT 3G and it's very nice, high recurring monthly charges not

    withstanding. Of course, in the US, anything but Verizon 3G is going to be a

    somewhat limited solution because of coverage issues, but in the NY metro

    area, ATT is fine.

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