We have all heard the terms: Jacuzzi, Thermos, Band-Aid, Chapstick and now MiFi. All are words in common use for any brand within their respective product markets, but which are also registered trade marks. Even Bubble Wrap is a registered trademark. Yet it is the only name you’ll ever hear for, well, bubble wrap.
The youngest term of those listed is MiFi. It is technically a brand name owned by electronics maker Novatel for their range of mobile hotspots. But the word has moved into common usage for any mobile hotspot by any manufacturer, such is the rise in popularity of the devices. But what, exactly, is a MiFi?
Go in any coffee shop, hotel or bar these days and it’s likely there’ll be a free Wi-Fi connection available. Some, like those in hotels, will probably need a password that changes daily. While others will ask you to register so they can bombard your email address with spam about things you’re not remotely interested in. In short, you’re connecting to open Wi-Fi with all the pitfalls that come with it. Such as a rampant lack of security and having to remember yet another (also probably insecure) password.
With a MiFi, it’s different. When using open Wi-Fi connections, you can’t really be 100% sure of whose connection you’re using. Instead, you are in effect creating your own Wi-Fi network which is controlled by a password you choose. It also only allows connections from people to whom you give that password. It even allows you to share a mobile data connection with up to 15 people.
“But hold on”, I hear you cry, “Why would I use a data connection when there’s free Wi-Fi?” Well, you don’t of course, and if you trust the Wi-Fi network, go ahead and use it. But what if you need to do some online banking, would you use it then? No, or at least you shouldn’t. And so far we’ve mentioned places where you can get Wi-Fi, but what if somewhere that doesn’t give free Wi-Fi? In such circumstances a MiFi such as the Netgear Unite Explore will get you connected quickly and cheaply.
You likely already have a mobile data contract. And unless you routinely use a ton of data and are willing to pay for unlimited amounts of it you will likely see the following. The plan will either cut you off altogether when you reach your contacted limit, or will start to charge you at rates which will make you hate Twitter until the day you die.
The alternative is to source the cheapest amount of data for the least amount of money. Lots of airtime sellers do them these days. They sell data-only sim cards surprisingly cheaply with the option to top up as you go. Some even do sim cards even though they will have a nominal limit set. Yet they will merely slow the connection speed down once you reach that limit. To be honest, it will slow quite considerably, but it means you’re never left without data so long as you have a network connection.
And this is where MiFis come in.
Your phone is designed to use Wi-Fi whenever it has a valid connection, and a MiFi device provides just that. All you need to do is pop in your chosen sim card. Then you must set up the device to broadcast your chosen network ID. Finally, all you need do is provide the MiFi password to friends or family and everyone can connect to the internet. Your phone may well already have the facility to create a Wi-Fi hotspot. But having a MiFi device goes much further in terms of access control.
Hotspot devices can allow up to 15 simultaneous connections. You can even create a 2nd, guest network on which you can limit the amount of data allowed. Or, you may choose the length of time a connection is maintained. Best of all, all of our MiFi devices are unlocked so you can use sim cards on networks in nearly 200 countries. Along with enjoying a battery life that be long enough to get you through a full day.
Setup is a one-time thing, unless you choose to change the password, and is usually done by way of a built in LCD screen that makes the whole process as simple as clicking a few buttons. The screen will also tell you how much data you’ve used since the last reset, as well as who is connected and for how long.
You may be looking at your home network router and thinking it looks a bit big to carry around because, after all, a device that does pretty much the same thing must be pretty big, right? Wrong. A lot wrong, actually.
Most MiFi devices are about the same size as a pack of cards, and weigh in at about 4oz or so. This makes them so portable that it’s easy to forget you’ve got it with you. Sitting comfortably in a pocket or a purse, WiFis are so unobtrusive that you’ll end up wondering how you ever managed without it. Connection between phone and MiFi is done by wifi, which far outstrips the speed capabilities of even 4G. Although you can’t get a connection that will run faster than 4G, as you’re relying on the mobile network to provide the data stream, it does mean that your MiFi will always be one step ahead of US carriers when it comes to data speed. With 5G being at least 3 years away, there’s never been a better time to buy a MiFi device.