The Chinese word for Challenge also means Opportunity. I kept this in mind when my cable modem Internet connection stopped working today. Fortunately, I have a review unit of the Novatel MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. It's basically a wireless 3G modem. I was planning to seek out a remote location to test it. But suddenly not having any Internet here in the suburbs proved to be an opportunity to test out this device in the comfort of my own home, and get some work done!
The Novatel MiFi 2200
The unit is compact and fairly well-designed, with a faux metal front and a single button for power. It goes well with any mobile Apple product, and that works out because the MiFi can bring the Internet to your non-3G iPad as well as 4 additional WiFi clients, simultaneously. You can create a mini LAN and piggyback off the MiFi's 3G connection. There is a small bit of setup, basically identifying the SSID of the unit and entering the password. My unit had that info on a sticker on the bottom, but the SSID was wrong. Fortunately, my iPad found the SSID when it did a search and within seconds I was connected and back in business.
There are some downsides to the MiFi approach. You have yet another device to carry around, albeit it tiny. The MiFi is about the size of eight credit cards and weighs just 2 ounces. Also, the microUSB charger is another device to carry. You have to remember to charge the MiFi and turn it off when not in use. The battery lasts about 4 hours or 40 hours on standby. You can use it indefinitely when it's plugged into the wall, or computer users can plug the MiFi into a USB port but then only that computer can go online. Verizon offers the MiFi for as little as $50 with either a $60/month 5GB data plan or a $40/month 250MB data plan and a two year contract. Sprint goes even further and offers the MiFi for free with a two year contract but their only plan is $60/month for 5GB.
There are alternatives to the MiFi that are worth a look.
Alternative #1: iPad 3G
The MiFi presents an attractive alternative to a 3G-equipped iPad. I didn't buy an iPad 3G because I didn't like the idea of spending too much on an iPad. I knew I would upgrade to the next model as soon as it came out. So for $500 I bought the WiFi iPad and next year, I can get the next generation iPad for another $500 and hand down the old one to my kids. But at $1,000 for the cheapest iPad 3G ($630 plus $360/year with the unlimited data plan) I'd be less likely to upgrade. When AT&T eliminated the unlimited plan, I was even more sold on the WiFi model. Yes, you can turn the plan off and on, but you lose the unlimited option assuming you had it in the first place a...