Connectivity has become prime to providing an ideal mobile work environment. It doesn't matter if you provide lip service all day for clients on your cellphone, handle 100+ emails or need to video conference every morning half-way across the globe - it's your connectivity that will either make or break your day. With more ways now than ever to get both voice and data working for you, it's only fitting that I show how you too can hit the road without sacrificing anything when it comes to staying connected.
It's been 11 years since I got my first notebook, 8 years since I got my first smartphone and 4 years since I got my first netbook. To give you an idea of how long it's been since I worked with a desktop, the last rig that I built was running Windows 95 and used a passive heat sink. I've been blogging here on lgpOnTheMove for 4 years as well, and over that time, have become more and more mobile, thanks firstly to newer and better mobile gear, but also to better options for connectivity.
It is both liberating and gratifying that I can today pretty much sit down wherever there's a space to sit, and work away without hindrance. Armed with as little as just a svelte netbook in hand, I can be productive in seconds, and stay connected thanks to my smartphone and mobile hotspot. This is the essence of the mobile road warrior - always on the go, ready to be productive in an instant, and able to adapt to whatever the surroundings may be. For those who live this lifestyle daily, challenge is a word not in your vocabulary.
But with every kind of mobile tech gadget available today with internet capabilities standard, how can you ensure that you have that connection wherever you are? The secret is mobile hotspot connectivity, or tethering. Many smartphones come with the functionality built-in, except carriers today have eliminated unlimited data plans to prevent any real-world use of this feature. I'll show how you can get unlimited data and use it not only for your smartphone, but with any device in your gear bag that can connect over wifi.
PICKING THE RIGHT WIRELESS HARDWARE AND DATA PLAN:
|Your key device is the mobile hotspot|
But the absolute killer argument for using a mobile hotspot lies in the data plan. While just about every carrier has either eliminated or severely throttled unlimited plans, there are still options out there for getting fast, usable data. Clear in particular offers speed-tiered unlimited 4G data plans for it's mobile hotspot that let you connect 24/7 without worrying about overage fees or hitting any data caps.
I cannot overemphasize enough the benefits of having an unlimited data plan for the mobile road warrior. Business users require an always-on connection to communicate, yet refuse to count geebees. With mobile hotspots offering wifi-like convenience, without being tied to a physical location, it means that you can get your work done anywhere. The luxury of unlimited data allows you to work completely independent, without resorting to a wired connection to fall back on. Being fully mobile, you also no longer need to battle for tables at the nearby coffee shop.
Why go with a separate hotspot device rather than a built-in 3G or 4G option on a notebook? One, it's a lot smaller to carry than a notebook. Two, you don't lose your ability to connect if your notebook breaks down, gets lost or decide to upgrade your notebook to a newer model, which may not offer built-in 3G/4G. Three, sharing a connection on a notebook means you need to have the notebook powered on. Most importantly, though, your mobile hotspot will likely outlast and work with multiple notebooks and devices you buy over time.
A SMARTER WAY OF INTEGRATING YOUR SMARTPHONE:
|An unlocked 4G Touch Pro 2? You bet!|
This hybrid approach of smartphone + mobile hotspot offers numerous advantages. First of all, I enjoy the luxury of a separate voice and data plan from two different providers, using GSM for voice and WiMax/LTE for data. Second, I don't take a hit on my smartphone's battery when using 4G. Third, I continue to save money by staying with prepaid voice. Fourth, and most importantly, it makes inexpensive voice+data not only a reality, but a contract-free possibility.
To put that last point into perspective, the average U.S. smartphone user pays $108/month. That means I end up saving over $700/year compared to a bundled voice+data plan, and without being stuck in a long-term contract or pony up an ETF if I decide to change devices. For as little as $8.33/month I can get 1150 minutes of voice good for a full year on my prepaid SIM. That works well for me since I don't do much voice at all. But for $35/month I can get unlimited internet for my smartphone, netbook and notebook! That totals to just 43 bucks a month - and I make no compromises whatsoever in connectivity.
This also underscores the advantage of going with prepaid voice as opposed to a monthly contract for cellphone service. I can freely swap my prepaid SIM with any newer model GSM smartphone as I like, I'm not tied to a carrier-branded smartphone model, and am also not required to make a fixed payment every single month. Rather, I make a payment of $100 perhaps just once a year, as the minutes I buy last a full 12 months, and with a low $10 refill, will roll over so I don't lose them either. Light to moderate voice users can save big using this approach.
Notice my more-than-subtle hint towards buying an unlocked handset as opposed to a carrier-subsidized model. Yes, you do pay full price up front, but you're free to use it with any plan on any carrier, anywhere. Going with a prepaid voice plan like I have, that handset price will easily recoup itself within the first 6-8 months! Moreover, an unlocked GSM model will get you up and running by just popping in a SIM - activating any CDMA handset requires first calling your carrier and selecting a smartphone plan. That latter means you're forced to accept any data add-ons they mandate. In the worst case, the carrier may even refuse to activate your CDMA device! Folks who travel international will already appreciate the benefits of an unlocked, penta-band GSM phone such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
Of course, as economical as prepaid is, it doesn't always work for everyone. Heavy voice and text users are still best advised to stick with a regular monthly plan, especially if you're one of those people yapping 1000+ minutes each month or punch out 100 texts a day. $50/month can now get you an unlimited voice plan with unlimited text. That's about half the price of what prepaid would cost, yet allows you to do far more each month without having to refill your minutes so often. Notice that I only mention voice+text, not data - remember, we're using our mobile hotspot device for data, so picking a data option for your monthly voice plan isn't necessary!
OTHER BENEFITS OF THE MOBILE HOTSPOT:
Because it can connect with multiple devices, a mobile hotspot is also capable of outlasting them. If you switch smartphones frequently, you needn't worry about having to buy a compatible carrier model or stick to a particular carrier plan. You can also use different netbooks/notebooks easily, and even provide connectivity for a full-tower desktop system at work or home. The ability to work with any gadget makes the mobile hotspot not only versatile, but a future-proof investment, as it will work with everything else you buy down the road later.
Since you're no longer tied to a physical cable, you can ditch that antiquated home DSL connection for good as well. 4G can match and beat DSL speeds easily. If your home lies in a solid coverage zone you may just find that keeping your mobile hotspot powered on all day works just as well as your (now unused) home connection, and may actually pay for itself if you decide to ditch your home service.
You also have the ability to upgrade the connectivity of all your devices. My smartphone and netbook, for example, can all be 4G capable, even though neither device has 4G built-in. It not only extends the life of your devices, but can make them more capable by offering better connectivity than what they came with originally.
Finally, if 4G is still too slow, you can always upgrade the mobile hotspot to newer future LTE-Advanced technology. This brings even faster speeds and better connectivity. What's more, you don't have to worry about upgrading your existing notebook/smartphone, as they will all perform with the new hotspot, only faster.
MAINTAINING YOUR CONNECTION:
|Multiple charges for all-day connectivity|
With the ability to provide a full charge many times over, it can keep any data session going all-day long, without the need to stop your work, power down and swap batteries. It's plug-and-go USB charging ability means you can also use it to keep your smartphone topped up as well, making it serve double-duty. Beyond that, it can even power a notebook/netbook if need be with the included assortment of tips. Sporting the same size and weight as a BlackBerry smartphone, the XP8000 can easily go into a jacket pocket, although I like to carry it on my belt for maximum convenience.
It will also just as easily charge a newer, future mobile hotspot, should you decide to upgrade your hardware. I've found shelling out money on spare device batteries a waste, as those batteries immediately become obsolete when you change devices. In comparison, a battery such as the XP8000 can work with and outlast multiple gadgets, and makes for a sound investment for people that depend on all-day power for their work tools.
Mobile hotspots give you unmatched flexibility. The fact that they are separate from the gear you connect them with allows you to change either one freely, yet maintain compatibility with both and ensure future-proof use of your devices. Whether you decide to upgrade to a newer, more powerful notebook, add a slate to your hardware arsenal or move up from 3G to 4G, going with a mobile hotspot for your internet connectivity is the perfect choice as it provides the best of everything. Paired with an unlimited data plan, you just can't go wrong.
|Productivity comes standard. Frappe optional!|
Of course, if you are anything like me, throwing a mobile hotspot in your front shirt pocket or gear bag becomes second nature. It will probably, in fact, become your most important accessory, and you'll rarely, if ever, leave home without it. For the mobile road warrior looking to stay connected on-the-go, the mobile hotspot IS the definitive mobile broadband device.