Monday, October 04, 2010

Instant Wifi Hotspots

Mobile phones keep getting better and better. Those of us with smart phones (iPhone, Droid, Pre, etc.) have the choice of thousands of applications that can run on our phones. Some are pretty lame and a waste of the time it took for some computer engineer to develop. Do I really need my smart phone to sound like an air horn? There are however some really useful applications that are time and money savers.

Among the myriad of these worthwhile applications now being offered by some smart phone manufactures and carriers is the wifi hotspot feature. I am not referring to the fact that you can access the internet from your phone using wifi hotspots at coffee shops, libraries and other public places. That feature has been around for years. This new application allows your phone to actually create a wifi hot spot. Here is how it works.

Turning on the wifi hotspot program makes your phone a wifi router. If you or a friend has a laptop computer with wifi, the laptop can wirelessly connect with your phone and use the phone’s 3G or 4G Internet connection. In essence, you are almost always able to connect to the Internet even if there is no traditional wifi or hard wired connection available.

This feature does not take the place of a lap top with wireless modem. Many road warriors have a 3G or 4G card built into their laptop since they are often away from the office and beyond traditional wifi range. Since they use it a lot, it is better to have it built in. The smart phone wifi hotspot application is for people who occasionally find the need to connect the laptop to the Internet but don’t want to spend the money for the fairly high monthly fee for the laptop modem.

When I first got my current phone from Verizon, the wifi feature was an extra $40 over and above my data and phone plan. Only a few months later Verizon began to offer the feature for free. I have used it several times and it works great.

You have to check with your carrier to see if they offer the service and you must have a phone that is capable as well. The Palm Pre Plus and the Droid models can run the application. It is interesting to note that the much heralded iPhone does not.

There are a couple things to keep in mind if you do decide to add this application to your phone. Make sure that you know what your plan covers. Some carriers give you a certain amount of data free and then begin to charge if you go over your allotment. If you have a few friends all connected to the Internet through your phone, you will use a lot of bits and bytes very quickly.

Also, the circuitry in the phone that allows this feature is very power hungry. My phone can only operate in this mode for about 1.5 hours. You can, of course, keep it plugged into your car or charger and use it without running down the battery.

So the next time you are on vacation at the beach or in a cabin in the woods, you can still stay connected. But again, you can also choose to turn it off.

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Anonymous Jamala said...

Nice post! It's so interesting to see cell phone offerings expand and expand. I'm excited to see what will come next! I know that internet tethering eats up the battery on those phones, so for people who want an alternative or for those who don't have the hotspot capability on their phone yet, I wanted to bring up a product which was just launched called the Rover Puck 4G. It is its own hotspot and can connect to up to 8 WiFi-enabled smart phones, netbooks, laptops, iPads ;-) etc. It's worth checking out since it's pay-as-you go, too, with no data caps! Rumor has it that 4G will be in Cincinnati by the end of 2010! Hope that's helpful,

Jamala at

8:25 PM  

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