What’s The Point Of The MiFi?

When the MiFi was announced, I thought it sounded like an awesome idea. If you don’t know, the MiFi is essentially a 3G modem combined with a WiFi router. The device is roughly the size of a credit card, though thicker, and connects to a cellular 3G network (there are both CDMA and UMTS variants). It then re-broadcasts this data connection via WiFi, so that other devices, such as a netbook, internet tablet, or laptop, can connect. Reviews have been positive, but I’m not sure I really see the point.

For starters, the carriers are all requiring a tethering-specific data plan, just like they do for their USB dongles. These data plans often have a 5GB cap, and run roughly $60/month. That’s in addition to whatever voice and data plan you already have for your cell phone, meaning you’re effectively doubling your monthly bill in order to use this MiFi.

This brings me to the main reason that I simply don’t see the point of the MiFi – if I already have a smartphone, with an unlimited data plan, why on earth would I pay an additional $60/month for *more* data, when I can simply tether my phone to my computer, and go from there? I get the same data speeds either way, and I only then have a single device to worry about.

Some will say ‘but with the MiFi, you can have up to 5 devices connected, whereas tethering only gets you one’. This is true, but how often do you really need more than one device connected? Obviously your phone is already connected, and tethering gets your laptop going, so now what?

Moreso, applications such as JoikuSpot exist that are able to turn your 3G and WiFi enabled smartphone into a WiFi router, using the 3G connection as the input, and then rebroadcasting it over WiFi. Of course, you have battery life to worry about, but it’d be much cheaper to purchase a USB cable to charge your phone from your computer than it would be to purchase the MiFi for $80 (with a 2-year contract, mind you) and pay an additional $60+taxes each month.

Can anyone help me out here, to explain how the MiFi might somehow outweigh the substantial costs involved?

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