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Author Topic: Cell phone with built-in free mobile wifi hotspot  (Read 6102 times)
chilipyro
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« on: April 10, 2010, 09:45:05 AM »

I almost always bring my laptop with me on camping trips. I use MS Streets and trips to plan the return on long trips, make reservations on-line, look up fun things to do, etc. But, WiFi access is spotty, and sometimes expensive. I borrowed a friend's broadband internet card last year, on our trip to Disney Fort Wilderness, saving the $10/day internet access fee there (absurd). That worked fine, but broadband access cards run about $60/month and require 2 yr contracts.

Our old flip-up cell phones had reached the end of their 2 yr contract, and I had heard that you can tether the internet access on some phones to your computer. So, I went into the Verizon store yesterday to see how that works. Low and behold, they had an unbelievable deal on a Palm Pre plus, which was just upgraded to support a mobile WiFi hotspot function. This little phone can be a 3G WiFi router for up to four devices, at a range of 30'. The best thing though, was that neither the hotspot ability nor the hotspot use carried an extra charge. It is a smartphone, so a digital plan is required. That cost $30 more per month than the flip-up phone I had (but a company discount ended up bringing the cost down lower than my current bill). For that $30/month, you get the smartphone features, plus unlimited internet access on the phone and 2GB internet access/month as a WiFi hotspot. I tried the WiFi hotspot function at home, and saw little difference in the speed of web browsing over the house broadband connection. Yea! No more campground WiFi fees or hassles again.

I haven’t paid much attention to smart phone features before, so I won’t comment on those details. However, I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I found I could stream internet radio from the cell phone to the stereo while driving home from MA yesterday.

Oh year – the deal on the Palm Pre Plus… buy one, get one free. If you are at contract renewal time (as I was) the first one is free too. I walked out with two free (and very cool) smartphones, free wifi access wherever I go, and a monthly bill that is lower than what I pay now. If you like having internet access while camping, you should definitely check this out.
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techntrek
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2010, 06:24:48 PM »

You can make any Windows Mobile phone a multi-computer wifi hotspot with WMWifirouter.  Search the net for "wmwifirouter 0.91".  There are more recent paid versions, but I use that one (which is free) almost all day every day and rarely have a problem.  Use it camping all the time, too.
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Tukee44
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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2010, 07:20:32 PM »

Keep it coming. Pretty soon we will have our copilot auction for camp site spot during travel.
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Beacher
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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2010, 09:33:05 PM »

Too bad the places I camp don't have 3G coverage!
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jmcanzo
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« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2010, 04:52:50 AM »

Too bad the places I camp don't have 3G coverage!
Must have AT&T......


LOL
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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2010, 08:14:14 AM »

Or if you run Windows mobile, and are willing to do a bit of hacking, you can download ROM's with Wifi built in for free.  I'm running WM 6.5 on a phone that came with WM 6.1 on Sprint.  The only issue is you need to convert back to the original OS if you need to have the phone serviced.
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Mike Up
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« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2010, 10:02:55 AM »

Too bad the places I camp don't have 3G coverage!

If you have Verizonwireless, you have the best odds for getting signal. When I had AT&T, their service never worked in any of the campgrounds I went. Even tried their analog service with no go. Verizonwireless has had coverage at every campground I've been at in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Arkansas.

My Fiancee has Sprint and her coverage is terrible. Even worse than what I had with At&t. Her son has prepaid Net10 and their coverage is pretty good. Works at most of the campgrounds we've been at. You never know which service is the best until you try them all.

Have a good one.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2010, 10:12:58 AM by Mike Up » Logged

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chilipyro
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« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2010, 10:19:45 AM »

There was no WiFi router activation fee, and the free WiFi hotspot is a promotion (for the length of the contract, unless it becomes permanent after the 2 yrs). You are correct on the 5GB/mo limit for hotspot use, I had that one wrong - I remembered 2GB. It also supports sharing the connection with 5 devices, not 4. This is my first smart phone, so it was not hard to impress me with the features. I doubt the WiFi hotspot deal would be enough to pull over someone who had already figured out a serviceable hack to do that, or who loved their current brand of smart phone. Except for battery life, the new palms (with WebOS 1.4) are getting very good reviews. My old Verizon phone had excellent signals just about everywhere we camped, so I am thinking that this one will give me an excellent internet connection while camping.

The promotion does seem to be moving these phones off the shelves pretty quickly, and Palm certainly has some catching up to do - so I would be surprised to see the promotion end soon. Palm desperately needs differentiators to get potential buyers to give them a second look. I have to admit that I was looking pretty hard at the iphone, the droid and the blackberry, and hadn't really thought to look at Palm before last week. Now that they have hooked me, the other phones start to come up short when I compare.  

I've also been looking at the ipad, and now know that I will be able to have a perfectly good internet connection while traveling, without having to spring for the 3G version (and a separate data plan with AT&T). So, Verizon benefits by having me keep them as my exclusive mobile data provider. Some might say that allowing Verizon owners to experience an AT&T data plan without forcing them to lock into a 2yr contract is the best way to ensure loyalty with Verizon. But, the fear of the unknown (and the fact that people who have had bad experiences are always more vocal about it than the people who have not) is a much better insurance for loyalty.



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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2010, 11:56:04 AM »

Ok, I did some more research. While some verizonwireless reps stated they had no clear cut policy that you couldn't use Blackberry Tether program, it does seem to be against their policy as well as any program or application that allows their Broadband Mobile Connect to be used through any connection, WiFi, Bluetooth, or USB. Therefore, if they found out, they "could" try to get back pay which is $30/month with smartphones.

Here's the programs makers licence liability statement: " Allocation of Risk. YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU MAY INCUR ADDITIONAL CARRIER COSTS, AND THAT YOUR PLAN MAY BE TERMINATED BY YOUR CARRIER FOR VIOLATION OF YOUR CARRIER’S FAIR USE POLICY OR TERMS OF SERVICE. BY USING ANY MATERIALS OR PRODUCTS YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND ACCEPT, THAT YOU HAVE READ, UNDERSTOOD AND AGREE TO THE DISCLAIMERS CONTAINED IN THIS LICENSE AGREEMENT.YOU AGREE THAT THE ABOVE WARRANTIES AND LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY REFLECT THE ALLOCATION OF RISK AMONG THE PARTIES AND THE PRICE OF THE SOFTWARE. "

Here's Verizonwireless' Mobile Broadband Connect policy statement: "Customers who do not have dedicated Mobile Broadband devices cannot tether other devices to laptops or personal computers for use as wireless modems unless they subscribe to Mobile Broadband Connect."

So, if they wanted to push for back payment and had records to show evidence you were using the device as a modem for a PC,  they could likely do so, just as the cable companies have done in the past.

It's a gamble that could cost you big if you use it for months before they demand back payment.

Have a good one.
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22.5' bumper to hitch, 3900#s dry, ~4900#s loaded

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Reese Strait-Line 800 lbs Trunnion Bar Sway Control (High Performance Dual Cam System)

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