Things To Consider Before Buying a Mobile Hotspot
If you need to be connected all the time, a mobile hotspot can be handy. However, are mobile hotspots worth it? How do they compare to tethering your devices to your phone’s built-in hotspot? Finally, what should you look for when purchasing a hotspot? Read on to learn the answers to those questions and more.
Is a Mobile Hotspot for You? Who Should Consider Getting a Mobile Hotspot
With Wifi available everywhere, is a mobile hotspot really necessary? While most people can do without it, people who rely on having a steady internet connection for work, business, or study should consider getting a mobile Wifi hotspot device.
If you frequently travel, whether for leisure or business, a mobile hotspot can come in handy. If you’ve stayed in at least several hotels and Airbnb, you know that the quality of the internet can vary significantly from one to another.
Some hotels and Airbnb don’t have great connections. Sometimes, the connection is slow and barely works; at other times, it doesn’t reach all areas of the house, such as the desk where you will be working.
You can’t rely on your hotel to always have good internet, so why not take a mobile hotspot device with you instead?
As a freelancer, you may generally work out of coffee shops, coworking spaces, and parks. Most coffee shops offer free Wifi, but what if the Wifi isn’t working well when you arrive? Whether they are experiencing a technical issue or the coffee shop is full, with many people using the bandwidth, it helps to have a backup, even if you don’t use it often.
If you work at home and need a strong internet connection to place VoIP calls and hold Zoom meetings, it’s important to have a backup in case your home internet is slow or isn’t working well. Whether you work for a company or tutor students online, a mobile hotspot can be useful in a pinch.
As a student, you may rely on online resources to help you study. Alternatively, you may have to attend classes over Zoom. If your internet connection is sluggish, you might miss out on what your teacher is saying. A mobile hotspot can be helpful when studying at a friend’s house or watching recordings of previous classes while on the go.
People Worried About Privacy and Security
Privacy is always an issue when connecting to public Wifi networks. Others on a public network can monitor your traffic if you visit an unsecured website.
Furthermore, the network owners can also read your traffic, even if you’re visiting a secured site (HTTPS), if they require you to install a digital certificate or sign into the network to use it. That’s common when using public Wifi at hotels, gyms, and airports.
Everyone should be wary when using public Wifi, but people who use it for business need to be even more cautious. You could expose sensitive company information if you’re not careful.
Business travelers and security-minded consumers should consider getting a mobile hotspot and securing it with a strong password. Since you’re the only user of the network, nobody will be able to monitor your traffic and read your data.
Advantages of a Mobile Hotspot Over Using Your Phone’s Hotspot
You may wonder why you should bother buying a mobile hotspot device if you can tether your laptop to your phone. Most phones allow you to create a mobile hotspot and share your mobile data connection with other devices.
While that might work in a pinch, here’s why it’s not a practical long-term solution for remote workers, students, and others who need to do this regularly.
Turning on your phone’s hotspot will use up its battery quickly. It’s one of the most power-consuming tools on your phone. If you’re using your phone simultaneously (to chat with contacts on WhatsApp, for example), your battery will die even quicker.
It is very inconvenient if you need a hotspot while traveling, at a coffee shop, or while on the go. You may not have a socket nearby to charge your phone. You’d have to carry a power bank, so why not just take a mobile hotspot instead and avoid the hassle?
Better Speeds and Connection
A mobile hotspot device generally offers better speeds and a more reliable connection than your phone’s hotspot. That’s due to the firmware of the two devices, but it’s also because your phone will be using data in the background, such as to sync your Gmail inbox or check for new WhatsApp messages.
You can’t turn your phone’s data off while creating a hotspot. Because your phone is also using your bandwidth, you will experience slower speeds on your laptop.
Not All Phone Plans Support Unlimited Tethering
Not all phone plans support tethering. Those that do might have an allowance of just a few GB for tethering and block tethering afterward, even if you have an unlimited data plan.
Other plans don’t block tethering but throttle your speeds, making it useless for Zoom meetings or anything other than simple web browsing or answering emails.
Carriers do this to prevent abuse. They know that people typically use more data on a laptop than on mobile devices.
Data-only plans for mobile hotspots are more affordable because they don’t include any talk or text, reducing costs on the carrier’s end. They might not be unlimited, but they’re typically very generous.
For example, AT&T offers plans with 50 or 100 GB of data per month, which should be more than enough for most people. You can still use your hotspot after you reach the data cap for an extra charge of just $10 for every additional 5 GB.
Diversify Your Carriers
Different carriers have different levels of coverage in different areas. Verizon might work well in one area, but AT&T might have much better coverage in another region. If you have a Verizon phone plan, getting an AT&T mobile hotspot plan can be useful when you travel to an area where Verizon has poor coverage.
How To Choose the Right Hotspot
Not all hotspots offer the same connection quality, speeds, and phone plans. Here are a few things to consider before deciding to purchase a hotspot.
Check Coverage Maps
Before purchasing a plan, check the coverage map on the carrier’s website (such as AT&T’s coverage map). That will help you determine whether you’re likely to experience good speeds and a reliable connection in the places you frequent.
If you work out of coffee shops in your city, check the coverage map for that city. If you travel across the country, check the coverage in the cities you’re going to.
Look for a Hotspot That Supports 4G or 5G
Some hotspot devices only support 3G, an older generation of cellular network technology that won’t give you access to the best speeds. Look for a hotspot with 4G LTE technology, at the least. One with 5G support might be more expensive, but it will give you the best speeds.
Check Battery Life
You should also make sure the hotspot can last for a long time without charging. A battery life of 10 hours is ideal, but it depends on your needs. Check online reviews to ensure that the device lives up to its promises in terms of battery life.
Check How Many Devices You Can Connect
Most mobile hotspots allow you to connect at least 5–10 devices. Some, however, let you connect 15 or more. Realistically, the more devices you connect, the slower your speeds will be.
However, some handle multiple devices better than others. If you are buying a hotspot for many devices (such as for your whole family while traveling), make sure it can support multiple devices without ruining connection quality.
Finally, compare hotspot Wifi plans. First of all, make sure you find a plan compatible with the device you plan on purchasing or purchase a device from a mobile carrier with built-in support for the plan you want.
Other than coverage, some things to look for in a plan include:
- Do you get unlimited data?
- If not, how much high-speed data do you get?
- What happens if you reach your data limit? Can you continue using the hotspot, but with lower speeds, for free?
- Can you purchase additional GBs of data? How much will it cost you?
How To Purchase a Hotspot
You can purchase a hotspot from phone carrier websites, complete with a data-only mobile hotspot plan. Alternatively, you can purchase new or used hotspots from marketplaces like Amazon, Best Buy, or Walmart. However, you may have to sign up for a prepaid or postpaid phone plan separately.
Mobile hotspots offer the perfect solution for business travelers, remote workers, students, educators, and others who need to remain connected to the internet at all times.
They also offer a safer alternative to using unsecured public Wifi networks, which could compromise sensitive data and your online privacy. While you can also use your phone’s hotspot feature, it will drain your battery, and speeds won’t be as fast.