I was given an advance trial of Three’s MiFi unit – a pocket sized wifi router that connects to the net via the 3 mobile network. So, like a 3G dongle only separate from a computer and able to share it’s signal with up to 5 other devices/people. Or like a phone with something like joikuspot but without the ability to make calls.
OK let’s try to simplify it a bit – the ability to connect up to 5 wifi-enabled devices to the net wherever you can get a signal.
I had a few problems. The first is 3’s network coverage. Now I’m not a 3 subscriber for my handset so I was a bit surprised to find that it is seemingly quite acceptable that you can’t get a signal inside many buildings. Certainly not my flat for example, so I was disappointed that on getting home, immediately after the demonstration that we’d had in Bar Soho, I wasn’t able to get a signal. So I put it away.
I was able to get a signal in the Sun offices when I was at TEDxTuttle and therefore able to show it off to my compadres with a glowing green connection light and all, but I was rather busy what with speaking and all and I didn’t have a laptop with me so I couldn’t test/show it off fully. I could connect with my phone, but there’s something a bit weird about using a 3G signal converted to wifi to connect my 3G phone to the net.
And I was able to get a signal on the train from Wimbledon to Epsom one day – and I could get my iPod Touch to connect to the router, but I couldn’t actually get anything to load in the browser or for Tweetdeck to connect either during the 18 minute journey.
So all round disappointing in practice. It’s still an exciting idea. Yes it would be cool on long train journeys or car journeys being able to connect a variety of devices: iPod Touch (maybe plus Spotify for the super-rich!), Nintendo DS or PSP as well as a laptop, wherever you go – or else to have a team meeting in the park – or even as a wireless dongle for single use in emergencies, especially pay as you go, but it looks like it needs some of the rough edges smoothed off first.
When I spoke to other people about it, the almost universal reaction was “Why does it have to be tied to one network?” We’re really feeling this lack of choice, we understand why it’s there, but really you should be able to just connect regardless – one person said it was like the old ATM system where you had to find a machine for your bank – exactly, that seems daft now and so does this, we want to buy access to the cloud, able to pick up the best available signal not be tied to a particular carrier.