PROS / You can earn credit toward your next bill every time someone else connects to and uses your hotspot.
CONS / Karma leases access to Sprint’s network, which means slow speeds and the potential for dropped connections.
VERDICT / With an interesting rewards model and well-priced plans, Karma lives up to its name. It may not operate on the fastest or most reliable network, but its personality engenders loyalty.
Karma is a young, hip company with big ideas – ideas that may well have been a bit too big for it in the past. The organization sells a single mobile hotspot – the Karma Go – that’s designed to give both you and the people around you broadband internet wherever you go. It’s a slick, simplified pitch with a promise of rewards if you keep the device on while you’re out and about. Were it not for its ties to the Sprint network, it would fall even higher on our lineup.
The mobile broadband plans Karma offers have changed a lot over the years. There was once, for example, a Neverstop plan that let you use unlimited data all month long – something no other provider offers for their hotspots, and for good reason, since it’s easy for tablets and laptops to burn through data day and night. Today, Karma offers two plans: a pay-as-you-go option where you recharge data whenever you want and never worry about it expiring, and a monthly auto-recharge option that’s comparable to what other providers offer.
There are three options for what Karma calls its Pulse plans: $40 per month for 5GB, $75 per month for 10GB, and $140 per month for 20GB. These are actually comparable to what the competition offers, and in most cases are significantly cheaper, though they don’t drop as low as T-Mobile’s rock-bottom prices. There are no activation, restocking or overage fees, nor is there contract pricing for the Karma Go hotspot – it’s $149 up-front, take it or leave it.
Once you have a Karma Go in hand, the device puts out a generic Wi-Fi signal that anyone who wants mobile internet can connect to. Whose data gets used is dependent on whose account you sign into, as your monthly allocation is tied to your account. If a random member of the public tries connecting, the can sign up for a new Karma account and get 100MB for free to try it out – and you, as the owner of the device, get a $1 credit toward your next monthly bill (or 100MB of additional data, if you’re on a pay-as-you-go plan). Their usage counts toward their data cap, not yours.
Karma’s reasonable pricing and friendly structure make it easy to love, if only because so much of the competition charge high fees and have complex structures designed to keep you locked into service. The Karma Go may be a bit more expensive than the cheap hotspots you can buy from many internet providers, but it’s highly portable and unabashedly hip. Plus, you can earn extra dollars toward your monthly bill just by leaving your Karma Go on as you wander the city.