May 17, 2011

636 words 3 mins read

MiFi vs Device Independent 3G

Last week I had a quiet night of testing the Cr-48 while I was DSL-less. Even though I lacked traditional broadband access, I still had plenty of high(ish) speed net access in the form of Verizon 3G devices. To be exact I had out on my desk (and was actively using the data service on all of the devices): a Cr-48, a Motorola Xoom, and a Motorola Droid 2. At some point I paused and realized that it costs money to maintain internet on all these devices… and there could be cheaper options; namely a MiFi.

So first, I needed to break down the costs for my current devices, starting with my cell. My Droid 2 actually has two different data services, the regular kind that is unlimited and covers just the phone, and then the tethering service. I’m always going to maintain data service on my phone, so I ignored that. The remainder was the tethering at $20/mo (for 2 GB). On the Xoom, I pay for a 3 GB plan which is $35 a month. Lastly is the Chromebook, which I’m only testing so I don’t pay for, but if I did, I’d probably be paying another $35 a month for another 3 GB plan.

Together this adds up to a whopping $90/mo for 8 GBs of data between 3 devices. On top of that cost, and because I’m careful, I never fully utilize any of those monthly allotments (never know when I might need that GB I squandered previously). So not only is that a lot of money, much of it gets effectively wasted.

The other option, is getting a MiFi and tethering all my devices. Right now on Verizon it costs $50 a month for 5 GB or $80 a month for 10 GB with overage of “just” $10 a GB. From a financial standpoint, it makes a lot of sense (and cents!) to go with the one MiFi. I also wouldn’t need to “balance” my usage across devices. It would also power those non-cellular enabled devices. Plus, it would be faster than any of my devices now because I could get a 4G MiFi.

The real issue is convenience. If I add the MiFi to the mix, that is another device I have to carry around and charge. Of course, it could be charged off the Chromebook and a MiFi prevents the Cellphone from going dead due to tethering (since that KILLS my Droid’s battery). In the case of something like the Xoom, it also prevents the nice “always on” features like getting IMs and the other periodic updates. As for other cons… I can’t think of anything else other than the idea of “one more device” and “one more step”, both of which just seem so… exhausting. More likely I’m just being super lazy.

The other question that comes to mind while I debate this is more philisophical in nature: Where is this technology going in the future? It seems that slowly but surely, every device is getting a cell modem built in. While that’s cool, insofar as always having a net connection on every device… I don’t want to think about trying to pay for all that.

For me, I think the answer is to switch to a MiFi. I wanted a Chromebook with 3G, but maybe I’ll save a few bucks on that and put it towards that 4G MiFi that looks so sexy. I can also go ahead and cancel the 3G service on the Xoom and my cellphone tethering. I was also thinking about buying (in bulk) 3G enabled Chromebooks for the Office… but it also seems like MiFis would be the cheaper option. Actually for a business, the MiFis make doubly more sense than the Chromebooks with 3G, as one MiFi can service multiple users.