Laptops, netbooks and most recently iPads are all devices that would benefit from being always connected. The good news is there are options available to make that happen. Not a new market, but one that’s certainly emerging is the portable Wi-Fi hotspots. Very few phones on the market today have hotspot functionality so other options are needed until this becomes the norm.
The pocket sized Virgin Mobile Wi-Fi Modem is one such solution. Containing a sim card that connects to the Virgin / Optus 3G network, the device emits a short range (up to 15m) Wi-Fi network allowing up to 3 devices to get online simultaneously.
Remember that the speeds will vary based on Virgin network coverage and the number of users downloading data. The device charges via a USB cable, but other that really should be the only time you need to connect it. A number of other Wi-Fi modems come in the form of a USB dongle. This is a pretty ugly solution and specifically won’t work with Apple’s iPad.
Personally I like the concept of having a connected car. Given it’s size, it easily fits in the glovebox of your car allowing your passengers to go online for that extended road trip. You would need to charge from time to time, unless your lucky enough to have a USB port in your car.
As a test I took the Virgin Mobile Wi-Fi Modem and my Wi-Fi only iPad to the coffee shop. This solution worked great. As I mentioned earlier speeds do vary, the same as they do on your phone, but if the other option is to not be connected at all, I choose connected.
So how much does this always connected functionality cost ?
There’s two options available, Post-paid and Pre-paid.
If you were seriously considering this as a dedicated device for your iPad you may want to reconsider and get the 3G + Wifi iPad. There’s one good reason for this. The iPad data plans are much cheaper than devices like this for two good reasons. You can only use data from the iPad, not multiple devices like Wi-Fi modems. The second reason is the amount of potential data you could burn through on the iPad is relatively low.
Overall the Virgin Mobile Wi-Fi Modem work well as an ultra-portable hotspot to get you and your devices online.