Review of the Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 5510L

Verizon MiFi I have been thinking about getting a portable mobile hotspot for a while. There are two basic reasons I have been looking for one. The first is I occasionally have coffee at a local Starbuck kiosk in a Kroger near me and it does not have any Wi-Fi service. At those coffee shops that do have Wi-Fi service it is often slow or the service just stops working altogether for no apparent reason. The second reason is because of security. I have listen to enough Security Now and read enough about using public wi-fi to know it is not the most secure environment. Before you say it, I know I could simply use my phone as a hotspot and tether my device to it. I have done that before, but it quickly killed the phone’s battery and to be honest I rather have a device that is specifically made for this purpose.

There were a couple of things that I was looking for in the device itself, first obviously it needed to work in my area of West Virginia. This automatically removed any Tmobile devices or services such as FreedomPop neither which work in my area. The second thing I was looking for was something that didn’t require a contract. I am already dealing with enough contracts and didn’t want to deal with another two-year contract. I wanted something that I would pay for on a weekly or monthly basis.
I ended up picking up the Verizon Novatel Jetpack Mifi 5510.With the Verizon Novatel Jetpack MiFi you can buy plans by the week or by the month. A single week plan cost $15 for 250MB, 3GB for $60.00 a month and 10GB for $90.00 a month. The first thing you have to do is activate your device, which requires you to type in a 20 character number which is printed on the back of the sim card, which is the size of my thumb nail in light blue ink. The first time I called the numbers especially all the zeroes ran together so I ended up hanging up, writing the number down and then calling back. After that the activation went fine. When you do the activation make sure you have a way to write down the number they give you.

The Jetpack 5510e is rectangular in shape with rounded corner. It is made of hard plastic. Some people complain that it feels cheap. Personally I think it feels fine, but I don’t have anything else that I can compare it to. The back is easy to open and the battery is replaceable. Unlike some portable wi-fi devices the Jetpack Mifi 5510 has no microSD slot or external antenna port. There is an LED screen on the front and on the home screen you can see the battery life, notifications, signal strength and number of devices connected. You can also change screens to see the Wi-Fi name and password, software updates and more importantly data usage. You can change screens and make selections using the function keys on the device. These function keys can be a little finicky but not too bad once you get use to it. Once I activated and register my device I was able to connect and my iPad mini with no problem. I used it for about 30 minutes to test it and it was great.

There are a some problems with the Jet Pack 5510. First it is an US only device, so if you need something for overseas travel this is not the device for you. Second like I said before some people think that it feels cheap and the function keys are finicky. I read some of the comments on the Verizon site and some people were trying to use this as a replacement for their home or office network, that is not what this device is for , first it would be way too expensive and second it is not built to run 24/7. After using it twice now this week I have to say I am overall happy I purchased it and went without a contract.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Update

Samsung Galaxy S3About a month ago I retired my trusty Sprint Evo 4G (original Wimax version) and got a Samsung Galaxy S3.

My initial impression of the Galaxy S3 was quite positive. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time now with the Galaxy S3, so I want to give a bit of an update on my experience with it. I drive a truck over the road and also use it as a podcast aggregator and playback device, so I am spending even more direct time with my phone than the average consumer might.

The Sprint version of the S3 is currently using the so-called “Ice Cream Sandwich” Android 4.04.

Battery life is excellent compared to the three previous smartphones I’ve had over the past several years using the stock battery that came with it.

The large 4.8” inch AMOLED LCD high resolution touchscreen is superb, with excellent color saturation. The extremely thin form factor allows me to easily carry the phone around in a front pocket.

Performance remains excellent even though I’ve installed several dozens and dozens of apps. App performance is rock solid. I had many of the same apps on my HTC Evo that would sometimes crash or cause problems that run perfectly on the Galaxy S3. I attribute this performance increase to more primary phone memory and perhaps better overall hardware design architecture. It’ likely that people that experience problems with certain apps are really experiencing lack of enough physical memory in their device in the same way that desktop computers experience fewer crashes and more overall stability when they have more physical RAM in which to execute the program code.

The Galaxy S3 has excellent WiFi performance. Connected to a Verizon MiFi 4G WiFi hotspot the WiFi has no slowdown issues even when simultaneously using Bluetooth.

The Bluetooth functionality works pretty well overall, but not quite as good as the HTC Evo. I have a JVC Stereo-Bluetooth-capable stereo in my pickup that functioned just fine with the Evo in speakerphone mode that doesn’t work properly with the Galaxy S3. I can hear callers through the stereo speakers but they cannot hear me through the return channel microphone. I don’t know if there is a Bluetooth version number conflict that could possibly resolve the problem via a JVC firmware upgrade, or if the problem might be resolved when Sprint and Samsung release the next “Jelly Bean” version of Android for the Sprint version of the Galaxy S3.

This problem with the S3’s Bluetooth not working properly with my JVC stereo is even more perplexing, since it works perfectly well with the other Bluetooth devices that I own, including a Tango TRX high fidelity Bluetooth stereo speaker that also can work as a speakerphone.

Overall I’m extremely pleased with the Galaxy S3. This is one of the most amazing pieces of technology I’ve ever owned.

In my opinion, the Galaxy S3 is currently the best phone on the market today.

Three Brings Budget MiFi to the UK

Three LogoBased on the entirely unscientific method of “asking my friends”, British mobile telco Three has pretty much cornered the market in personal wifi hotspots. It’s probably a combination of having the MiFi trademark and offering competitive data rates that has led to their success.

Their current model, the Huawei E586, is shortly to be joined by a budget version, the Huawei E5331, according to today’s press release from Three. Like the original model, the E5331 offers HSPA+ with a theoretical download limit of 21 Mb/s and a battery life of 4.5 hours. There’s no word on what the budget price will actually be but you can buy the E586 for £50 upfront with a £15 / 5GB no commitment rolling contract.

Huawei E5331 MiFi

The budget E5331 has a narrower longer screen showing signal strength, no of connected devices, battery strength and waiting text messages. The MiFi supports up to five devices at a time.

Mark Brewer, head of mobile broadband at Three said, “As the market leader in mobile broadband it’s great to be able to bolster our range with yet another high speed mobile Wi-Fi device. The Value MiFi offers fast browsing and a seamless streaming experience, all on Three’s award winning mobile broadband network.

I will be reviewing the Huawei E586 for Geek News Central shortly, but these are very handy devices. It’s much more cost effective to have one of these serving multiple wifi-only tablets than it is to buy 3G devices and multiple data contracts.

Altair Semiconductor Powers 4G and LTE

Altair Semiconductor logoThe Altair Semiconductor Company specialises in 4G and LTE wireless chipsets for the mobile telecoms industry. Andy and Courtney chat to the CEO of Altair to find out more more about the transition to the latest wireless standards.

4G, LTE and mobile broadband were all key technologies at CES this year, with products incorporating 4G announced from Motorola, Samsung, Nokia and LG, to name but a few. When compared to the relatively slow penetration of 3G, 4G uptake is happening much faster and it’s even surprising the industry. Verizon is expected to have most of the USA covered by the end of 2012. China and India are not far behind with major deployments.

Tablets and smartphones are driving the market but Altair’s chipsets are included in 4G dongles, MiFi-type units and wireless broadband routers.

Interview by Andy McCaskey  and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Show Notes:
DIY In Vogue
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Serious threat to Sirius
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Verizon MiFI by Novatel
Mini Display to HDMI
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