Staying connected when in the US
I’ve been going back and forth in my mind about the best way to “stay connected” when in the U.S. next month. Any suggestions from friends in the US, particularly in the Boston area?
When I’m at my sister’s apartment it’s no problem. She has a decent (for the U.S.) Comcast connection in her apartment.
Otherwise, I’m not sure what to do while outside and wonder what peoples’ thoughts are about these:
1. Boingo.com has a $4.98/month deal for 3 months that supposedly gives access to “thousands of wifi spots” around the U.S. and an app that points to even more free ones. Ever use that before?
2. I have thought about selling my iPad 4 wifi + iPad 2 cellular + iPad 1 and getting an iPad Air. Then I could get a T-Mobile SIM card which gives 200 MB/month free data for life, plus I could get a 1 month no commitment contract and use the tethering feature of the iPad Air and it could be my mobile hotspot.
But then I’m stuck with a 2 year cellular commitment in Japan (there are no no-commitment contracts here). With data sharing not expensive, but money is money. And I’m a bit “new gadget weary.” Believe it or not, that is possible, even for me. 😉
3. I could bring my older iPad 2 with me and get a no-commitment contract for that. No tethering, or 4G, but at least I would have some means of communication while out.
4. I could buy an inexpensive mobile hotspot (they have some refurbished ones for as low as $44 at the T-Mobile site) and get a one month contract and carry that around. Anybody have experience with those?
5. I could stay unconnected when out and about. Not reachable by email or text or phone. (!)
Free WiFi is widely available in restaurants, hotel lobbies, and other places so it’s easy to get access. I doubt the Boingo $4.95 is going to get you much more than you can do for yourself. IMHO you absolutely should use a VPN when using a public WiFi network. I’ve been happy with Private Internet Access (but I’m an Android guy, no experience using it with iOS).
I don’t have a mobile hotspot device these days but I had one for a long time and Jeanne uses hers a lot. Mine was slower than my home WiFi connection but quite adequate for email, IM, terminal emulation and other essentially text type tasks. I don’t know how well it would have worked for video, I never tried it. The main downside is that the speed is quite variable depending on your location. Since it appears you can get one cheap and without a long term contract, I think that might be a good option.
One possibility you didn’t mention is using a hotspot application on your phone, that’s what I do these days. I believe the phone hotspot is technically a bit slower than the dedicated device but I have never noticed any difference. The same location-based speed issues apply. Using a phone hotspot would require that your US phone be a smartphone and there’s an extra charge unless you are rooted (and even then it’s against your carrier’s rules). I think I pay Verizon an extra $10 per month for the hotspot capability.
The reason I didn’t mention tethering from my phone is because I don’t have a US phone!
In that case I would think an inexpensive hotspot device is your best option. Unless you need serious bandwidth, as in watching movies, I think you’ll be fine with it. I would send you my old one, but I think it’s only 3G and I’m sure newer versions are a lot faster.
Yes, you’re probably right. The hotspot is probably the least expensive alternative overall. It’s probably a waste to dive into a new iPad at the moment. I do calculate that between my iPad 4, iPad 2, and iPad one I should be able to get one of the iPad air models without laying out extra money though. However, there is that extra cellular contract that I would have to deal with going forward. Unless I cancel the contract then there’s a cancellation penalty. The data contract system is a little crazy in Japan even when your device is paid off. I don’t know why they don’t let you just turn on and off the contract whenever you need it, especially since there’s no subsidy.