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?

  • ashu

    symbian loyalists think alike.;)
    There was this article on gigaom by stacy on sharing mifi stuff and all. There also, i wrote the same thing. Why would i need to carry an extra device when i can use joikuspot premium and do whatever i want to.
    The reason for popularity of stuff like this is especially in US where symbian is not a dominant force and running multiple devices with one connection is unheard of in the world of iPhones, blackberrys.

  • ashu

    symbian loyalists think alike.;)
    There was this article on gigaom by stacy on sharing mifi stuff and all. There also, i wrote the same thing. Why would i need to carry an extra device when i can use joikuspot premium and do whatever i want to.
    The reason for popularity of stuff like this is especially in US where symbian is not a dominant force and running multiple devices with one connection is unheard of in the world of iPhones, blackberrys.

  • http://www.zatznotfunny.com Dave Zatz

    I’ve used my MiFi every day since I purchased it. First off, I love being able to leave it in my backpack or pocket while on my laptop without a dongle. Second, the multiple device support is HUGE. I get zero AT&T reception at work and various other places, so I count on Sprint to keep my iPhone going. Also, when we travel Melissa also has a laptop she works on while I work on mine. And before we reconnected broadband at the new place, it also powered Xbox Live (1vs100). The MiFi replaced a regular Sprint aircard and Cradlepoint router. So I was already willing to pay an addition $50-$60 for a different sort of mobile broadband experience than tethering. Which I wouldn’t call a substantial cost for what it gives me.

  • http://www.zatznotfunny.com Dave Zatz

    I’ve used my MiFi every day since I purchased it. First off, I love being able to leave it in my backpack or pocket while on my laptop without a dongle. Second, the multiple device support is HUGE. I get zero AT&T reception at work and various other places, so I count on Sprint to keep my iPhone going. Also, when we travel Melissa also has a laptop she works on while I work on mine. And before we reconnected broadband at the new place, it also powered Xbox Live (1vs100). The MiFi replaced a regular Sprint aircard and Cradlepoint router. So I was already willing to pay an addition $50-$60 for a different sort of mobile broadband experience than tethering. Which I wouldn’t call a substantial cost for what it gives me.

  • http://www.zatznotfunny.com DaveZatz

    I’ve used my MiFi every day since I purchased it. First off, I love being able to leave it in my backpack or pocket while on my laptop without a dongle. Second, the multiple device support is HUGE. I get zero AT&T reception at work and various other places, so I count on Sprint to keep my iPhone going. Also, when we travel Melissa also has a laptop she works on while I work on mine. And before we reconnected broadband at the new place, it also powered Xbox Live (1vs100). The MiFi replaced a regular Sprint aircard and Cradlepoint router. So I was already willing to pay an addition $50-$60 for a different sort of mobile broadband experience than tethering. Which I wouldn’t call a substantial cost for what it gives me.

  • http://www.zatznotfunny.com Dave Zatz

    Also, I should add most carriers officially charge additional for a tethering add-on (not always enforced) and many phones don’t support it directly.

  • http://www.zatznotfunny.com Dave Zatz

    Also, I should add most carriers officially charge additional for a tethering add-on (not always enforced) and many phones don’t support it directly.

  • http://www.zatznotfunny.com DaveZatz

    Also, I should add most carriers officially charge additional for a tethering add-on (not always enforced) and many phones don’t support it directly.

  • http://www.rickycadden.com/ Ricky

    Dave – sure, there are situations in which it comes in handy. It just very much feels like more of the carriers trying to squeeze as much as possible out of you. It’s definitely a cool piece of kit. I suppose as you hinted on Twitter, i’m more incredulous at the cost of ownership

  • http://www.rickycadden.com Ricky

    Dave – sure, there are situations in which it comes in handy. It just very much feels like more of the carriers trying to squeeze as much as possible out of you. It’s definitely a cool piece of kit. I suppose as you hinted on Twitter, i’m more incredulous at the cost of ownership

  • Deserttaxguy

    I’m with you Ricky.. just another shiny new “tool” to extract money from the less informed by the greedy phone marketing pimps.

  • Deserttaxguy

    I’m with you Ricky.. just another shiny new “tool” to extract money from the less informed by the greedy phone marketing pimps.

  • Deserttaxguy

    I’m with you Ricky.. just another shiny new “tool” to extract money from the less informed by the greedy phone marketing pimps.

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