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Mifi (Wireless part 2)

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This is the second of two reviews.  Both reviews are being written because I recently purchased some cool pieces of electronics.  I’ve realised both products will enable me to live a more mobile life style.  Part One described the JayBird SB2 Bluetooth headphones.

3 Mifi – Introduction

Who remembers how cool it was to walk around the house for the first time using WiFi with their laptop?  It felt so liberating not being anchored to the desk anymore. Remember taking your laptop from one room to another; it became useful to show people something on your laptop rather than escort them to it. I recall having to buy an Airport wireless card to fit my iBook G3 in 2003 in order to upgrade it for wireless use. Now a wireless chip is standard.

Since 2003, the Internet has evolved considerably. It’s matured to a level in our computing experience where the Internet runs in the background, allowing us to work off and online without much fuss. Much more dynamic compared to dialling up with our 56k modems all those years ago. To me, computing offline seems like owning a house with no windows because of that feeling of being closed off from the world when you’re not connected.

I get frustrated if I’m out of the house and there are no WiFi networks available for my MacBook or iPad. Owning an iPhone has helped but owning an iPad has made things worse. The iPad is crying out for a constant Internet connection, unless you’re content with reading iBooks. I was a cheapskate and bought one without 3G.

Mifi with iPhone size comparison

The solution for me was a Mifi (mobile wifi). They started showing up on tech blogs after the MacBook Air originally debuted. It seems like coincidence (mobile Internet rates were becoming reasonable) but many people lamented the lack of a ‘True MacBook Air’ when it was first announced in 2008. Apple hadn’t taken their design philosophy far enough, they should have allowed for a 3G sim inside the ‘the thinnest notebook in the world’.*

We didn’t lament for long because of these new pocketable Internet hotspots. Once activated they can simply sit on your person or in your bag giving 4-5 hours of Internet use. Importantly, they allow for multiple devices to connect to them. On the road, my iPhone and iPad connect to it (as a bonus, the iPhone’s battery lasts longer if using the Mifi) at the same time.

The device 3 offers, is very easy to set up. 3 include a bunch of small instruction cards offering a step by step process for those intimidated. All you end up having to do after the initial setup is turn it on. I think it’s already a geek’s toy that has gone straight into the mainstream.**

I’m amazed now, as I was when I walked around my house with my laptop years ago. But this time I’m anywhere in the UK. Owning a Mifi has helped me live a more mobile lifestyle.

Speed Tests – from my iPhone.

I ran a number of speed tests using the O2 network. None of them could beat the speed test result I got using the Mifi.

3G on O2 with iPhone

Latency is lower with the 3G in the iPhone on O2. The fastest download speed I could gather on O2 was 1.03Mbps.  The fastest upload speed can be found in the image above.

3G score using Three's Mifi on iPhone

I ran this test once on the Mifi. I thought the time of day would be a factor but I re-ran the tests on O2’s 3G, after the Mifi test again but it made no difference. For me, Three’s network is faster by far.

Mifi – Advantages

  • iPhone 3GS battery lasts longer using Mifi Wifi instead of 3G.
  • Since the iPhone sees the device as a Wifi router, downloads ignore the 20 Megabyte rule imposed by Apple.
  • 3 has better coverage and faster 3G speeds than O2. (Importantly, full signal inside my house with Three unlike with O2).
  • All my devices can connect to the Mifi network at the same time.
  • When I move house, I don’t need to wait for a wireline provider. In time I’d like to exclusively use mobile Internet.
  • The Internet is a convenience again. I have it all the time with me now.
  • Did I mention faster?
  • I can use DisplayPad over the MiFi network.

Mifi – Disadvantages

  • I have another thing to charge, charging luckily only takes 2 hours.
  • An addition device to carry around
  • 30-40 delay with turning it on and making a connection.

*Another thing which puzzled me with Apple’s design philosophy is their lack of tethering; allowing the iPhone to serve as a mobile hotspot. I know there are many people who would want this capability.

**3 offer their Mifi for £70 with 3GB included in what they call a starter pack. This 3GB lasts up to 3 months. You can use it in a single day or in small chunks until the 90 day limit. After that you purchase another sim, on a contract or pay as you go.  The pay as you go is far more useful because you can cancel at any time. What’s better is 3 will allow you to purchase an iPad sim card. The iPad sim for some reason is cheaper than a normal sim, with more Gigabytes. Why I don’t know, but it’s good to take advantage of it.

Written by jonathanjk

December 21, 2010 at 14:21


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