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The Best Unlocked Mobile Hotspots for Travelers

A mobile hotspot is a must for any travel enthusiast. It’s a device that enables you to connect your laptop or phone to the internet wherever you are. If you leave home for lengthy periods, especially if you’re exploring new areas with family or friends, a mobile hotspot can be a real live saver. In this guide, we’ll share the best mobile hotspots available on the market for travelers. We’ll also list the best data plans for traveling and compare hotspot internet to mobile tethering.

Top 10 Mobile Hotspots

Below, we’ll list the best devices for keeping you connected at all times, wherever you go.

1. Netgear Orbi

Netgear Orbi Front View

The Netgear Orbi is a powerful mobile router providing a stable 4G LTE connection with 2.2 gigabits per second speed for up to 20 devices simultaneously. The coverage range is 2,000 square feet, so there’s no need to carry the hotspot around to catch the signal. For instance, you can leave it behind in your trailer and go sailing on a boat. The setup process takes under five minutes, with no professional help required.

This isn’t the smallest hotspot in our selection but is still highly portable, weighing only 0.45 pounds. The router requires connection to a power source, though, making it an option only for travelers who have access to a socket.

Pros

  • Connect up to 20 devices
  • Fast internet connection
  • Wide coverage area
  • Netgear Armor security
  • No recharge required

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Needs connection to a power source

2. ZTE Falcon

ZTE Flacon Front View

ZTE Falcon is a simple yet powerful mobile hotspot that provides an internet connection with up to 150 megabits per second speed for up to 10 devices at once. No professional setup is required, simply charge the hotspot, turn it on, and connect your devices.

Although the hotspot is tiny, it features a display for essential information, including battery life, Wi-Fi status, and new mails. A 200mAh battery ensures the hotspot can withstand long hours of working and won’t let you down when you’re traveling.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Connect up to 10 devices at once
  • Portable
  • Display
  • 2000mAh battery

Cons

  • The internet speed could be higher
  • Only 256 megabytes of RAM memory

3. Netgear Unite Express 2

Netgear Unite Express 2 is a compact (weighing slightly over 0.3 pounds) yet advanced hotspot. A removable 2930mAh battery ensures about 11 hours of continuous usage and even more if you have a replacement. Furthermore, the hotspot supports fast charging. You can connect up to 15 devices at once, so Netgear Unite Express 2 is ideal for family trips.

The device supports a wide range of 3G and 4G Wi-Fi frequencies. Plus, a small display shows all the necessary information and lets you configure settings. Initially created for AT&T, the hotspot is now fully unlocked and works with any provider.

Pros

  • Touch display
  • Long battery life
  • Connect 15 devices at once
  • Wide frequency range
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Low RAM memory

4. Netgear NightHawk MR110

Netgear Night Hawk Tilted Front View

Netgear NightHawk is among the best mobile hotspots on the market currently, and its high price is fully justified. Under an inch thick, this compact hotspot supports download speeds of up to one gigabit per second and connects to 20 devices simultaneously. If that’s not impressive enough, the hotspot ensures about 24 hours of continuous work, enough for traveling to remote parts of the world.

The device is unlocked for AT&T, T-Mobile, and selected prepaid GSM carriers.

Pros

  • 24-hour battery life
  • Connect up to 20 devices at once
  • High download speeds
  • Compact

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Doesn’t support any carrier

5. ZTE Velocity USB Stick Modem

ZTE Velocity USB Stick Modem Front View

ZTE Velocity hotspot is available as a separate device and a USB stick modem. We’ve included the latter due to its portability and advanced features. This USB stick modem must be connected to a laptop or other device with a suitable port.

It supports a wide range of 4G Wi-Fi frequencies. While technically, the hotspot only connects to one device, many laptops can be used as hotspots for tens of other devices. Lastly, the USB stick weighs under 0.2 pounds and measures 3.82 x 1.3 x 0.6 inches. The hotspot is unlocked for AT&T, T-Mobile, and select prepaid GSM carriers.

Pros

  • Wide Wi-Fi frequency range
  • Highly compact
  • Doesn’t require a recharge

Cons

  • The number of connected devices depends on your laptop
  • Only unlocked for select carriers

6. ZTE Velocity 2

ZTE Velocity 2 Tilted Front View

ZTE Velocity 2 offers excellent value. Priced lower than the ZTE Velocity USB stick modem, this mobile hotspot provides up to 600 megabits per second download speeds and connects to 10 devices at once. The device ensures up to 12 hours of continuous use that can be extended even further thanks to a removable battery.

A microSD card slot with up to 128-gigabyte capacity lets you save favorite movies or other content without taking up space on other devices. Finally, the touch display shows essential information and lets you configure settings.

Pros

  • Great value
  • Fast internet connection
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Touch display
  • Removable battery

Cons

  • Above-average weight of 0.55 pounds

7. Netgear Unite Express

Netgear Unite Express Tilted Front View

Netgear Unite Express is a simple mobile hotspot that provides great value for money. It offers up to 10 hours of battery life and connects to up to 10 devices at once. There’s no memory card slot or removable battery, though it isn’t necessary for casual traveling. A small LCD screen shows all the necessary information.

Although the hotspot features an AT&T logo, it’s unlocked for any carrier.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Display
  • Connect up to 10 devices
  • Lightweight
  • Wide frequency range

Cons

  • Non-removable battery
  • Battery life could be longer

8. Netgear Unite Pro

Netgear Unite Pro Front View

Netgear Unite Pro offers amazing characteristics for a low price. The hotspot supports up to 15 connected devices at once and ensures up to 16 hours of battery life. Furthermore, the battery is replaceable for even longer usage time.

Weighing under 0.3 ounces, this hotspot is the perfect choice for family trips. A 2.4-inch large display shows the necessary indicators, such as battery and Wi-Fi status and the network name, and lets you configure settings.

Pros

  • Touch display
  • Lightweight
  • Long battery life
  • Connect up to 15 devices at once

Cons

  • No memory card slot

9. Novatel Liberate

Novatel Liberate tilted Front View

Novatel Liberate hotspot provides a wireless signal at a 30-feet range to 10 devices simultaneously. The battery life is average, only 11 hours, though the battery is replaceable. This hotspot supports a wide range of Wi-Fi frequencies, from 2G to 4G.

Furthermore, it features a microSD card slot with up to 32 gigabytes capacity to free your laptop or mobile phone from extra files. A small touchscreen displays essential information and enables you to tailor the user experience to your preference.

Pros

  • Removable battery
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Wide frequency range
  • 30-feet coverage
  • Connect up to 10 devices

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Average battery life

10. Netgear Beam USB Modem

Netgear Beam Tilted Front View

Yet another USB stick modem in our selection, this time by Netgear. The Netgear 340U USB hotspot requires a connection to a laptop and can provide Wi-Fi connection to 10 devices at once. While it features an AT&T logo, the hotspot is unlocked for most carriers.

A 32-gigabyte capacity microSD card slot is rare for USB stick modems and certainly a nice bonus. Finally, like any USB stick, this hotspot is extremely compact and easily fits in a pocket.

Pros

  • MicroSD card slot
  • Connect 10 devices at once
  • Doesn’t require a recharge
  • Great value
  • Compact

Cons

  • Must be connected to a laptop

12 Top Tips When Buying a Mobile Hotspot for Travelling

Hands typing on laptop

There’s such a wide range of available hotspots on the market, making the right choice may feel overwhelming. In this section, we’ll share the top tips for choosing the best mobile hotspot for traveling.

1. Pay Attention to the Battery Life

Battery life is one of the key factors to consider when choosing the right hotspot. Some devices can last for 24 hours – Netgear NightHawk – and are suitable for longer distance traveling. However, even devices with a 10-hour battery life may feature replaceable batteries. By taking an additional battery along, you can significantly extend the equipment’s lifetime. Quick charge support is another useful feature of modern hotspots.

2. Memory Capacity

The most advanced hotspots feature a memory card slot for file storage. Although not necessary for any user, it’s extremely useful if you download movies or music for lengthy travels or take a lot of pictures. A memory card in your hotspot helps to free up space on other devices.

3. Opt for an Easy Set-Up

The setup process of some mobile hotspots involves managing API settings, manual selection of preferred Wi-Fi bandwidth, and other technical points. While it can typically be done on your own if you’re tech-savvy, it’s better to look for a hotspot with an easy setup. This way, you’ll ensure that no professional help is required. All the hotspots in our selection are ready to use straight out of the box.

4. Unlocked Is Better

Some hotspots are created for a specific carrier. However, they can be later unlocked to be used with any data provider. The issue with locked devices is that a specific carrier doesn’t always provide the best rates. With an unlocked device, you get full freedom of choice.

5. Consider How Much Data You Need

Unlimited data is perfect as long as you aren’t limited in budget. The issue is, data is pricey and no one likes overpaying. Therefore, you should consider how much data per month you use and what exactly you do with it. For instance, a family of five that often downloads movies or plays online games invariably needs high-speed, unlimited data. But if you’re traveling alone and only use the internet for GPS and checking e-mails, 100-megabits per second, 10-gigabytes a month internet would be sufficient.

6. Portability Is Key

The whole purpose of a mobile hotspot is to carry it with you wherever you go. Compact size and lightweight construction are crucial for easy portability. Even if you have access to a socket and opt for a router instead of a hotspot, you can find a compact option. For instance, the Netgear Orbi router weighs under 0.5 pounds.

7. Stay Secure

It’s no secret that your device can be easily hacked through an unprotected Wi-Fi connection. Always ensure that your hotspot has a WPA2 password and, ideally, some kind of antivirus built-in.

8. Wi-Fi Bandwidth Matters

The most suitable bandwidth depends on how much data you use, for which purposes, and how many devices are connected to a hotspot. So, 2.4 hertz Wi-Fi has a wider coverage but is slower, whereas 5-hertz Wi-Fi provides a faster connection at a lower range.

9. GSM or CDMA?

GSM and CDMA are the most common cellular frequencies you’ll come across, but not all hotspots support both. To start, GSM is used all around the globe, but in the US it’s supported only by AT&T and T-Mobile. Therefore, the GSM hotspot is better for international travel. CDMA is mostly used in the US and Russia and is supported by a wider range of providers in the states. For that reason, it’s better for nationwide travel. While GSM signal relies on a SIM card, CDMA doesn’t. If your device doesn’t support CDMA signals by default, you’ll need to purchase a new one. GSM, on the other hand, can be connected by replacing a SIM card.

10. Do You Even Need a Mobile Hotspot?

If you only travel occasionally for short distances, you may not even need a hotspot. While the cost of a hotspot itself may be minor, you’ll also have to regularly pay for additional data. Most modern smartphones can be used as a hotspot, thanks to mobile tethering. Consider the frequency and distances you travel to determine whether a hotspot is necessary.

11. Consider Used Options

Unpacking a brand-new device is a pleasure, if they are the more expensive option. Naturally, purchasing a used device may be risky. This especially applies to mobile phones, cameras, or laptops. In other words, devices with complex external components. However, hotpots are fairly simple devices, and damaging the internal parts without affecting the appearance is nearly impossible. Thus, purchasing a used hotspot is completely safe and can save you a lot of money. At Mr. Aberthon, we check every detail for working conditions before posting a used hotspot in our catalog.

12. Consider Pay-as-You-Go Plans

It may be hard to predict how much data you’ll use during travel. Sometimes, Wi-Fi is available along the way, and unlimited data is a waste of money. In other cases, you may have to use significantly more data than expected, for example, due to extensive GPS usage. Finally, you likely don’t travel non-stop and don’t need a mobile hotspot at home. Therefore, you may consider prepaid plans instead of a bill to only pay for the amount of data used.

Which Plans to Get for National and International Travels

airport directional signs many people walking

Unlocked hotspots are great as you can choose a data plan with the best value to fit your needs. Let’s take a look at some of the best mobile data plans available in the US, both for national and international travels.

1. Verizon TravelPass – Best International Travel Plan

Verizon Logo

If you’re already a Verizon customer, you can set up an international data plan in a few clicks via Verizon’s home page. If you only travel abroad occasionally, you can get unlimited data for 25 hours for a fixed price. So, data in Canada or Mexico will cost you only $5 a day, while to any other country in the world only $10.

2. AT&T Passport – Best Frequent International Travel Plan

AT&T Logo

AT&T’s Passport plan is a great option for frequent international travelers already using AT&T. Just like Verizon, AT&T offers unlimited data for 24 hours for only $10, no matter where you go. Plus, you only pay for the days actually used rather than get charged automatically. If you’re traveling via boat, you can opt for unlimited data, text, and talk for $100 a month. Lastly, if you only travel to Mexico or Canada, you may be eligible for unlimited data for the price of a local unlimited plan.

3. Mint Mobile Unlimited – Best National Travel Data Plan

Mint Mobile

Mint Mobile offers unlimited data for only $30 per month during the first three months and $40 afterward. That’s one of the best offers across the whole US, and the provider has nationwide coverage. Most importantly, even if you use all the data included in the plan, you won’t get charged extra. Instead, the data speeds will slow down slightly.

4. Visible Prepaid – Best National Pay as You Go Data Plan

Visible prepaid mobile logo

If you only use a mobile hotspot occasionally, a prepaid plan is the smartest way to go. Visible offers unlimited hotspot data powered by Verizon, 5G included, for $40 monthly. There are no contracts involved, you can pay right before you travel and return to your regular plan afterward.

Best Accessories for Travelling With Hotspot

Laptop on desk with phone next to headphones

Additional accessories can help to extend your hotspot’s battery life, coverage range, and protect it from bumps.

Signal boosters typically come in the form of attaching external antennas. To connect such a signal booster, you must first make sure your hotspot has an antenna port and purchase a suitable adapter. Antennas can help to improve your hotspot’s coverage range and frequency sensitivity.

Mobile hotspots, like most non-rugged digital devices, are vulnerable to extreme temperatures, physical pressure, and liquids. Unfortunately, traveling often involves either of these conditions. A protective case can help to keep your device safe, ensuring you won’t be left without a Wi-Fi connection due to unexpected issues.

Finally, the best mobile hotspot accessory you may ever purchase is a battery replacement. As sockets aren’t always available during lengthy travels, a battery replacement will ensure your hotspot won’t let you down at the most inconvenient time. When purchasing a battery replacement, you must make sure it suits your hotspot. We advise you to buy a battery of the same brand as your device.

Mobile Phone Internet vs. Hotspot Internet

woman on laptop with phone

The main factor stopping travelers from purchasing a mobile hotspot is that most smartphones and laptops feature a tethering function. We’ve created a brief comparison of these two data-sharing methods to determine whether tethering can replace a mobile hotspot.

A mobile hotspot doesn’t drain your device’s battery, whereas tethering can kill any smartphone in a few hours. That’s the most apparent benefit of a mobile hotspot and the reason it’s so useful for frequent travelers.

The second significant difference is the price of data. While you don’t have to pay extra to use mobile tethering, an additional device (hotspot) equals charges for an extra SIM card. Therefore, you should consider whether you travel often and far enough to need a mobile hotspot.

Mobile hotspots can typically provide an internet connection to more devices simultaneously. Also, the connection is often more stable. In the case of tethering, one device receives a cellular signal and forwards it to another. In the case of a hotspot, there is no middle step – the signal flows directly between two devices. The speed, however, depends on the initial limitation of each device. Currently, more smartphones than mobile hotspots support 5G Wi-Fi frequency.

Some mobile hotspots feature memory card slots, serving as an additional file storage device.

Finally, mobile hotspots typically have a wider coverage range than mobile tethering. You don’t have to be close to a hotspot to enjoy a Wi-Fi connection, as opposed to phone tethering. Mobile devices may also not catch networks in remote areas, whereas that isn’t an issue with hotspots.

To conclude, hotspots are a better option for people who travel long distances and to remote areas. They can ensure a stable internet connection to a whole family or large group of friends. The main drawback is that hotspots are pricey and often limited in speed. Mobile tethering is a better option for casual travels within your state.

Always Stay in Touch

hand holding iphone showing social media apps

Hopefully, our guide has helped you find a mobile hotspot that fits your needs and budget and determine which features matter most. As you can see, internet access can be both reliable and cheap, even during international travel. We highly advise checking out hotspot accessories to improve the battery life and coverage of your device.

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