Mobile hotspots allow you to take your Wi-Fi connection with you wherever you go. Popular amongst individuals who travel, these mobile hotspots allow you to enjoy a reliable internet connection anywhere you may be.
While the original mobile Wi-Fi solution was a USB-like stick, these mobile hotspots allow you to tether your Wi-Fi to multiple devices, meaning a family with several internet-capable laptops, mobile phones and tablets can use a single Wi-Fi solution to connect to all of their devices.
Today, nearly every cell phone carrier has several different mobile hotspot plans and solutions available. In order to take advantage of one of these plans, you need to purchase both a hotspot device and pay for a monthly coverage plan.
It is also important to be clear with the carrier about the extras features, such as GPS/location and storage, that tend to come with these hotspots. Sometimes these services are simply included with the device’s allotted data, while other times they can come with an extra price tag.
Mobile Hotspot: What to Look For
The right mobile hotspot can help you access the internet wherever you go. However, not all mobile hotspots are the same; they tend to differ in terms of features and capabilities. Paying close attention to the speed, battery life and the plan that backs each mobile hotspot you consider is essential to finding the right device to fit your needs.
Speed is one of the most important features in a mobile hotspot. When these hotspots operate on a 4G network, typically you enjoy fast transfer data speeds similar to those experienced with traditional Wi-Fi. Models that allow you to use wired tethering typically perform even faster.
When comparing the speed of each mobile hotspot, make certain to look at download speeds in terms of MB/second as well as upload capacities.
The battery life of a mobile hotspot is one of the most important features of these devices. The longer the battery can last, the longer you can use your Wi-Fi on the go. Most of the devices on our lineup can last between five and 20 hours of usage. The good news is there are some mobile hotspots that will work while charging over a USB connected to a laptop, meaning you don’t need to be tied to an outlet while using this device.
Mobile hotspot plans differ not only because of the device but also because of the carrier that backs these devices. The monthly plan, contract, fees and coverage area provided by the carrier all come into play when it comes to differentiating between different mobile hotspot plans.
Ultimately as the consumer, you want to find a mobile hotspot that comes with the features you need but that is also backed by a reliable mobile carrier through an affordable monthly plan. While every mobile hotspot is different, one that emphasizes speed, a long battery life and a reliable carrier can help you get on-the-go Wi-Fi access.
The Unite Mobile No-Contract 4G Wi-Fi Hotspot is AT&T's second mobile hotspot product, behind its MiFi Liberate Wi-Fi, which offers faster speeds and higher Wi-Fi range. However, this portable mobile hotspot can still help you connect to the AT&T network on-the-go while providing a powerful battery needed for long-term use.
The Unite Mobile can be used on AT&T’s pre-paid no contract data plan, meaning if you don’t want to invest in the carrier’s monthly data solutions, you can choose to only pay for the data you are planning on using. You will need to pay more upfront to purchase the device off-contract. The prepaid plans come in increments of 100 MB, 300 MB or 1 GB. The plans are active for either 30 days or until your data is used.
You can still use the AT&T monthly DataConnect plan, similar to that used with the Liberate, if you want to. These plans range from 1 GB per month to 50 GB per month. Up to ten different devices can connect to this hotspot at a time.
This mobile hotspot features an LCD touch screen on the front of the device, where you can manage your messages, settings, signal strength, status and battery life. This is also where you can check to see how much of your data has been used or how many dates remain in your plan. This is particularly important if you use one of the AT&T pre-paid data plans. Once you have connected to a Wi-Fi network from your phone or tablet, you can access the web settings home page and customize your service and settings even more.
The Unite has a limited Wi-Fi range, and most devices will need to be within 25 feet of the mobile hotspot in order to connect. There is a “Boost Range” feature under the settings menu that you can use, but it uses more battery. Overall, the battery life is quite strong for this device and can last for up to nine hours.
Overall, if you are looking for a no-contract Wi-Fi hotspot, then this AT&T Unite Hotspot is worth considering. With standard Wi-Fi hotspot service in a budget-friendly package, this Hotspot is a more economical service for AT&T customers who don’t need a lot of additional features. Customers who are between AT&T’s two options and want to use a pre-paid plan, or spend less on a device, should consider this mobile hotspot.
Internet on the Go Review
Internet on the Go is a mobile hotspot solution from Walmart, through the company’s partnership with TruConnect Mobile. This compact, handheld mobile hotspot features a different approach to mobile wireless solutions, offering its Wi-Fi in a pay-as-you-go setup instead of paying preemptively for a monthly service.
This pocket-sized mobile hotspot can support up to five devices at once, which is less than many competing devices. Due to its size, the device can only support a small battery, which has about four hours of battery life before it needs to be plugged in. However, you can purchase different accessories with this device, such as a car charger or an external battery pack to help make up for the short battery life.
The actual mobile hotspot is approximately the size of a credit card and features a single power button on the front. You can press the button to turn the device on or off, but the device features no other screen or portal to manage settings or features. You can access the TruConnect Internet website to manage your hotspot as well.
TruConnect Mobile is an MVNO on Sprint’s 3G network. Since launching, the company has promised 4G service in the future. However, with top download speeds of 600 Kbs to 1.4 Mbps, and a 3G service, you shouldn’t expect too much in terms of HD streaming. However, the internet speed is efficient enough to help you check email or browse the internet.
This mobile hotspot is backed by TruConnect’s coverage area, which is not as large as some of the major wireless company’s coverage areas. If you want to learn more about the coverage options, Walmart’s website has detailed information about the coverage map.
The pay-as-you-go service means there are no monthly fees associated with this product. You can buy plans and refill your card in increments of 500 MB, 1.5 GB or 4 GB at a time. These purchases never expire as long as you use them within a calendar year. The company also has a Go Bigger 30 Day plan that offers discounts on GB plans as long as you use them within 30 days of purchase.
If you are looking for a simple, affordable and portable mobile hotspot and aren’t concerned about streaming or connecting more than five devices, then this compact pay-as-you-go solution is worth considering.
Karma Mobility’s Karma Hotspot has a "get what you give" approach to mobile hotspots with its mobile hotspot solution. The company encourages all of its customers to leave their hotspot open at all times to other users, and the more you share your access, the more data you will earn from the company.
While its approach to mobile hotspots may be unconventional, the actual plan does have some standard features that customers come to expect from mobile hotspot solutions. The device is simple and straightforward. There is no touchscreen to monitor settings; there is only a power button and indicator lights to let you know if the device is on, connected to Wi-Fi or on 4G. If you want to manage any of the settings or check your data usage, you will need to connect the device to a computer to use the Karma Mobile online interface.
The mobile hotspot operates on Clear’s 4G wiMAX network, which offers speeds faster than 3G networks but not as fast as larger mobile carriers. Plus, the company’s coverage map only covers about 1/3 of the country, so you will want to check on coverage areas before signing up with a new plan.
Signing up for a new Karma Hotspot requires an initial data plan. The company offers 2GB, 5GB and 20GB plans, and the data never expires, so you do not have to worry about recurring monthly costs. You can also add additional GB of data as needed after purchasing your original plan. These add-ons can be purchased in 1 GB, 5 GB or 10 GB. The company also offers 500 MB of free data every month.
Of course, these plans also come with the company’s data-sharing concept, or its “social bandwidth.” Every Karma hotspot broadcasts a completely open Wi-Fi network, meaning anyone around you can access a network from your hotspot. If someone is in your device’s reach, he or she can log on, make an account and use up to 100 MB of data for free from the company. If someone joins your hotspot, you also get 100 MB of data for free. Plus, there is no limit to how much data you can earn. Up to eight users can access a single hotspot at a time.
While the “share more earn more” model can help you earn free data, it also comes with some potential security risks. Overall, if you are open to the idea of mobile sharing and are within the Karma coverage map, this mobile hotspot is a budget-friendly solution to consider.
Netgear’s Zing Mobile Hotspot for Sprint comes with features such as a third-party antenna, long-lasting removable battery and global roaming capabilities. With its front-facing touchscreen, you can easily adjust settings and features on this roaming device to fit your specific needs.
The Netgear Zing, also known as the AirCard 771S, comes in a sleek and portable grey package. However, the mobile hotspot also has a port for a third-party antenna that can help you pick up a stronger signal. While this hotspot is bigger than some competing devices, it does come with a 2.4-inch LCD screen that lets you filter through the different features and settings that come with this device. The screen displays battery percentage, monthly data usage and signal strength.
If you want even more management options, you can plug the device into your computer and access the Netgear online-management console. This portable hotspot also comes with its own Android and iOS app known as the AirCard Watcher, which lets you mange most of the settings through a user-friendly interface.
On this screen, you can also access an on-screen keyboard and set up guest Wi-Fi networks for other users to connect to. The hotspot can actually connect up to ten devices at a time as well as an 11th device plugged in through the device’s USB port.
The Netgear Zing was made for use on the Sprint mobile network. Sprint’s unlimited plans do not extend to any of their mobile hotspots, so you will need to choose from one of the three available plans. Mobile hotspot users can choose from a 3GB, 6GB or 12GB monthly plan.
The Netgear Zing comes with a removable 2500 mAh battery that the company claims can deliver up to eight hours of uninterrupted Wi-Fi service. The Zing does operate on the Sprint network, which does not have as much coverage as some other wireless networks, so if you have trouble with Sprint’s coverage, you should consider another hotspot or investing in the antenna add-on. However, if you are planning on traveling internationally, the Zing works on foreign HSPA+ networks.
If you are an AT&T customer, there are certain Zing hotspot models that can be unlocked through the SIM card slot, so you can use the device on the AT&T HSPA+ international network. However, you need to use the device for 90 days with Sprint first before you can make the switch.
Overall, this mobile hotspot comes with a number of features, an easy-to-use touch screen interface and a long battery life, making it a solid option for those who want a portable mobile hotspot that can go with them on both their domestic and international trips.
The Novatel Liberate MiFi operates on the AT&T network, delivering portable wireless internet access and a long battery life. You can even control all of the settings and features on this device with the over-sized LCD touch screen.
This device is designed to stand up on its own in an effort to make it easier to use the included touch-screen. However, this handheld mobile hotspot’s primary offering is its library of features. The Novatel device has messaging features, media streaming capabilities and a built-in GPS system. The GPS system instantly works on any connected device, meaning you can turn any mobile technology without this capability into a GPS-ready product.
While you can receive text messages, you cannot send them as the program’s software does not have a keyboard feature, but it can be convenient for those who want notifications from their carrier or to know if their phone is receiving alerts. All of these features can be managed from the large LCD touchscreen. This is also where you can manage the different settings, review data usage and battery life, and look into more specific information regarding connection details.
The Novatel Liberate MiFi comes with a flap covering the microSD slot, which is designed to handle media cards as large as 32 GB. This feature allows you to download your favorite media onto a card and to access that media from the browser on any connected device.
This mobile hotspot also has its own 2,900 mAh lithium battery, designed to deliver more than 11 hours of wireless connectivity and a battery that will stay on for more than 24 hours. The device can work with up to ten devices at once.
This device is the more powerful of the two mobile hotspots offered by AT&T and comes with one of the network’s five monthly plans. The product is locked, meaning you can’t switch carriers if you do not like the service offered by AT&T. You can choose from a 4GB, 6GB, 8GB, 10GB or 12GB monthly plan based on consumption. You will need to pay an initial product fee and sign up for a two-year contract with AT&T to use this mobile hotspot.
Overall, this mobile hotspot solution from Novatel is a solid choice if you prefer the AT&T network and want a fast-acting mobile wireless solution that comes with a long battery life.
The T-Mobile Z915 provides Wi-Fi connectivity wherever T-Mobile service is available. T-Mobile offers nationwide coverage, and its Simple Choice North America mobile hotspot plan comes with up to 11GB of data. Data can be used in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
T-Mobile offers a discount if you also have a voice plan. You can rollover unused data, and T-Mobile gives you 10GB of free 4G LTE data to start for your rollover plan. You can stream music from several music streaming services with this plan without it counting against your data allowance. This device has international roaming capability for use with compatible data networks worldwide. The Z915 is easy to use and has a long battery life.
The Z915 connects with up to 10 Wi-Fi enabled devices. You can tether your laptop to the device via USB connection. You are required to purchase a $15 starter kit, which includes your SIM card and tips for using your hotspot. T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network is fast and is available nationwide in most areas.
You can use the Z915 mobile hotspot during international travel wherever there are compatible data networks. T-Mobile has roaming agreements with many countries worldwide. Mobile Hotspots are useful for keeping in touch with family or the office when you are abroad. Data used to be very expensive when traveling, but with T-Mobile, you have unlimited data when overseas. This is very important when you are at a hotel or location with unreliable internet access and you need to be online.
The Z915 is small, making it easy to carry wherever you go. It is 4.25 x 2.68 x .65 inches and weighs just 4.23 ounces. It is 4G and 4G LTE compatible. It uses GSM networks when traveling internationally. It comes with a USB cable and charger.
You can order this mobile Wi-Fi device online through the T-Mobile website. With good credit, you can pay for the device monthly for 24 months at 0% interest.
When looking for mobile hotspot services, T-Mobile is worth considering. The T-Mobile Z915 is a compact mobile hotspot device that is good for travel. The Simple Choice North America plan provides mobile data coverage in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Additional features, such as free music streaming, unlimited international data and the data rollover plan, make this option a good value.
TEP Wireless Pocket Wi-Fi is a UK-based mobile hotspot that works in the United States and several countries across Asia, Mexico and Europe. This hotspot device comes with a prepaid mailer so you can order the hotspot specifically for a trip and send it back when you return.
The TEP Wireless Pocket Wi-Fi package comes with the hotspot, USB cable and plug adapters so you can charge this device in the United States and in countries across the globe.
There is no screen on the TEP Wireless Pocket Wi-Fi device, so you will need to use a web portal to get information on your usage. This can be difficult if you want to check on your data consumption as you will need to ask TEP about your data usage through email or online chat.
This hotspot can connect up to five devices at once, which isn’t as many as some competing devices, but it is still convenient for those who are traveling in groups. The hotspot has a relatively strong battery life, or you can also pay extra per day for an extended battery pack if you are planning on traveling to places where you won’t be able to access an outlet.
This device can deliver fast upload and download speeds, with the max upload speeds of up to 1 Mbps, which is not the fastest speed for those who are interested in HD streaming, but it is fast enough for those who want to use Skype, check emails or surf the internet.
The pricing breakdown can be rather complicated, and it starts on data plans that begin with 250 MB with several different available increases and add-ons. While the data pricing breakdown can be complex, there is an online calculator on the company website that can help you figure out how much the data you want will be. You can also take advantage of the company’s unlimited data plan, which gives you 300 MB per day if you rent in Europe or 400 MB if you rent in other countries.
The TEP Wireless Pocket Wi-Fi is different from some of the other competing products in the market, as you rent the product instead of buying it. However, if you are looking for a rental or a short-term mobile hotspot that works internationally instead of investing in a permanent mobile hotspot, this solution is worth considering.
Verizon Wireless’ primary mobile hotspot solution, known as the Jetpack MiFi, is designed with extended battery life in mind to help those on-the-go to access a strong internet signal anywhere within the Verizon network. This compact mobile hotspot can also double as a juice pack, for those who need extra battery power for their devices.
This hotspot is one of the few unlocked options available, and while it is meant to be used with Verizon’s network, users do have the option to switch carriers if they like. The main feature of this device, however, is the 4,000 mAh LI-Ion battery, which can last for 20 hours of internet time and is more than twice as powerful as the iPhone 6’s battery.
This mobile hotspot plan operates on Verizon’s 4G LTE network and can support up to 15 different devices on the Wi-Fi. The actual design of this mobile hotspot is very compact, making it an ideal solution for those who need a small, travel-friendly solution. The device is slightly larger than a credit card and features a USB B-female port on one side for charging and a USB A-female port on the other, if you want to use the device to power another electronic; you can only use one of these ports at a time.
On the front of the Jetpack, you will find an LCD screen and navigation buttons that allow you to change your settings and access different features. This screen also allows you to view the status of your hotspot, view battery life, find the password for client hookups and access the device’s GPS features.
You can buy the Verizon Wireless Jetpack either independently or for a discounted price when you sign up for a two-year contract with Verizon Wireless. The wireless giant offers a number of different plans, starting with 4GB per month and going all the way up to 100GB per month. However, if you are planning on using this device quite frequently, then you will want to keep in mind that there are no unlimited plans available for this device. This is something that most providers today come with, and Verizon has yet to include the mobile hotspot in their More Everything plan that covers traditional cell phone service.
While the lack of unlimited monthly service can make this mobile hotspot plan more expensive than some competing offers, overall Verizon’s mobile hotspot comes with a number of useful features. It also comes with one of the most powerful batteries on the market, making this a smart solution for those who want a mobile hotspot that will last for hours.
The XCom Global International MiFi Hotspot is a rental-only compact wireless solution that works throughout the globe. With a straightforward design and daily pricing breakdown, this mobile hotspot can help you stay connected to the internet while you travel the globe. The XCom Global MiFi works in 44 different countries, offering wide range of coverage in most of the countries that it serves.
If you order the XCom MiFi at least three business days before traveling abroad, the company will send you a complete package for your trip. This package includes the carrying case, MiFi device, manual, power adapter, plugs that work in all of the plan’s covered countries and an extra battery. The device can connect up to five different devices at a time.
The XCom Global MiFi does not perform strongly in terms of battery life, particularly for those who want to be truly mobile with their Wi-Fi hotspot. Even with the second optional battery, this device can only deliver six to eight hours of battery life at most. The device’s original battery and back up battery each deliver between three and four hours of internet connectivity.
The internet speeds are fast enough to handle Skype, or you can use the T-Mobile Wi-Fi calling service through this portable device. The XCom Global program offers an inclusive package that comes at a flat daily rate. There are also specialty European travel packages that guarantee service across the continent, a monthly package for long-term travelers and a corporate plan. Since the device is meant for travelers, you will have to connect to the network for a local carrier, meaning your experience, signal strength and connectivity will likely vary by location.
The device itself is compact and straightforward design with a single power button on the front. Since there is no touch screen on the front, in order to check status, battery life and usage, you will need to connect the MiFi to a device and access the company’s web interface. In addition to having a Micro-USB port for charging, the device also has a microSD card slot, so you can add cards of up to 16GB to the hotspot.
If you are looking for a personal mobile hotspot to use all of the time, then this rental option may not be the best choice for you. However, if you simply need a mobile hotspot for an upcoming international trip, then this solution is more budget friendly than using your cell phone’s roaming. With plenty of features to keep you connected on-the-go and service in many countries, this is a smart solution for those who only temporarily need a mobile hotspot.