I’ll admit that when I first heard about 3UK’s MiFi offering and similar devices from other mobile networks, I didn’t really see the appeal.
The tiny gadget – about the size of a typical candy bar phone – uses its own built-in 3G modem to create a mobile broadband-powered WiFi hotspot, which, optionally, several devices can connect to. In my experience, however, mobile broadband isn’t the quickest (not helped by the fact that I sit in front of a fiber-optic connected laptop most of the day), so it’s not something that I’d instinctively want to share. But…
Now that I’ve actually used the MiFi, I totally get it.
It’s not just about sharing a single 3G connection with others – though at times this could be a life saver – but the flexibility the MiFi offers through the ability to add mobile broadband to devices that aren’t compatible with a USB 3G dongle but that do have support for WiFi.
Apple’s iPod touch is a great example of one such device. It’s even referenced in the included instructions (see below). Other examples include the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and Nintendo DS Lite or Sony’s latest WiFi-enabled Walkman.
As more and more non-PC devices add support for WiFi – eBook readers, media players, MIDs etc. – a device like the MiFi will become infinitely more appealing than a single purpose 3G dongle.
Generally, the MiFi is dead easy to use and the accompanying instruction cards do a good job of walking you through the set-up. The only real complaint or shortcomings are the overly minimalist LED indicator lights, which don’t give you any idea of 3G signal strength and battery level, aside from telling you when you’re nearly out of juice. And battery life itself. The MiFi packs a 1500mAh battery, large for a cellphone but could be larger still for the job in hand. It should give you about 5 hours max of 3G to WiFi goodness, although you can also power the MiFi over USB or using a mains adapter.