Free wifi? What an awesome concept! I’ll gladly sit in here and order food and invite my friends to come join me!
I was so excited about this “new concept” that I wrote a post about it (on my now defunct blog Social Dialect). Reading it now, it would probably seem like a very dated article. Of course hangout spots like Starbucks and Panera and McDonald’s are going to have wifi. And we’ve gone one step further. Many departments stores don’t just have free wifi – they promote it and incentivize you to use it! Because data is king and what you provide them while you’re in their store is gold.
Now that’s brilliant.
But I need wifi in other parts of my life and I do mean need. As someone who works from home, wifi is a necessity. And as someone that doesn’t have set business hours or even a business location, I need it almost anytime and anywhere if I want to keep up with my many jobs.
If you’re like me, you may have found the solution by increasing the data plan on your phone and using it as a wifi hotspot when needed. That’s what we did. And it’s come in handy for the most part. But it doesn’t solve all my needs.
When I was asked to review the AT&T Unite Express by Netgear Mobile Hotspot just before I went to BlogHer, I had mixed emotions. I had been wanting one ever since I learned about them a year or so ago (yes, I can be a late adopter of technology). But since I had been using my phone as a hotspot, I wasn’t sure if I needed it.
After several weeks of using it, I can tell you exactly why I need it and why you might too.
1. A hotspot on my phone doesn’t solve all my problems.
Yep, me too. That’s fine if you have enough data on your plan. And you use that data regularly. For me, I mainly use it when I’m traveling which isn’t every month. This explains why at the end of every month my husband encourages me to use ALL THE WIFI AND BIG GBs. (Bonus points for you if you get that reference).
I selected the AT&T Unite Express that has no annual contract. I simply buy a prepaid data card so I can use data when I need it and not pay when I don’t.
2. Verizon is great, but not always.
My iPhone is under contract through Verizon, mainly because it was the only service that would work in my home in the middle of a rural-ish suburban area. And don’t get me wrong. I’m happy with Verizon but in some places, their data coverage isn’t as good. In those times, like riding on the Amtrak up and down the East Coast corridor, AT&T rocks it. The AT&T Unite Express is a 4G LTE/4G device where available. And apparently, it was available in the places I was traveling.
3. Don’t compete for bandwidth.
Sure, Amtrak offers free wifi on the train. It’s great, except when it’s not, which is most of the trip. Some of that is due to a sporadic signal in areas in which the train is traveling but it’s also because I’m competing with several hundred other people on the train also using the wifi.
And if you went to BlogHer in NYC a few weeks ago, you might have noticed that sometimes the “free hotel wifi” was screaming and other times, you couldn’t get on. In that case, you might have been competing with thousands of other people to get on to the wifi. Not me. I brought my own with me. And you can share your wifi with your friends, but only the ones you really like.
4. Periscope needs a strong signal.
If you’ve dabbled with Periscope, you’ve probably learned two lessons that I learned the hard way. Unless you’re on wifi, you’re going to have poor, intermittent broadcast quality. Even worse, you’re going to blow through your data plan pretty quickly.
So if there isn’t free wifi available where you want to broadcast (like, say, the top of the Empire State Building at 12:30am), it might help to have your mobile hotspot ready for your phone. Because your phone can’t be a hotspot for itself!
5. Bring wifi to a whole ‘nother level.
Yes, it’s great to unplug. I love to unplug. But in this business, content creation happens all the time and sometimes you want to be able to bring it to your audience. Like, in the middle of a nature hike. Or while you’re at the park. Or on top of the Empire State Building. When you have the ability to take people to places they might not otherwise go, it steps up your game.
6. Work anywhere.
Literally, you can bring your work anywhere. Want to go to your mother-in-law’s for a week but can’t fathom it because she still has dial-up? (This was a true story up until just a few short years ago. We used to go to the edge of her house and try to jump on the neighbor’s wifi). Wherever you’re traveling and there’s an AT&T signal, you’ll have your wifi.
7. The kids, of course.
Who knew how quickly our kids would pick up terms like “wifi” and “hotspot”? I know mine has because he asks for a hotspot every time we get into the car. Sometimes we give it to him and sometimes he has to live in a world without wifi (QUELLE HORREUR!). But at least we know it won’t drain our precious phone batteries.
8. It’s better than the alternatives.
Remember two sentences ago when I mentioned it draining our precious phone batteries? The AT&T Unite Express offers up to 10 hours when fully charged vs. 3 hours with a phone. And it’s secure so you don’t have to worry about accessing your private information (seriously, you can pick up strange things on those “free” wifi networks).
Now, the final verdict on this is how much data did I really use. Here are the results (easily checked at www.att.com/gophone):
In about three weeks time, I used 1.2 GB of data. That includes data usage nonstop for six hours on my roundtrip train ride, at least 4 Periscope broadcasts, and wifi the entire time I attended nonstop blogging events. And if I’m traveling regularly? I can simply refill online or set up an auto refill.
If you’re interested in checking out the AT&T Unite Express by NETGEAR, they’re available in stores for around $79.99 with no annual contract, no credit check, and no monthly commitment. Availability through Amazon, Target, Walmart or Best Buy stores. If you’re still not totally clear, this should explain it all.
This review is part of my participation in a sponsored campaign for the AT&T Unite Express by NETGEAR. While I have been compensated, this review is my honest opinion of the device.