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My Early Impressions of my Verizon MiFi 2200 – Good for Some Use Cases, Not So Good for Others

I’ve had my Verizon MiFi 2200 for about a week now and I have some early thoughts on what I like and don’t like about the device. For those of you who are not familiar with the MiFi, it basically combines an EVDO laptop card and a wireless router. Think of it as a mini WiFi hotspot in your pocket, with the connection provided via Verizon’s 3G network. I thought I’d share some of my early experiences using the device.

Overall, I like my MiFi a lot. It’s very small (about the size of 6 credit cards stacked on top of each other), it’s really easy to boot up, and it provides fairly reliable wireless coverage. I have a few gripes below, but I think this is a great first generation device.

One word of caution. If you are an existing Verizon Wireless Broadband customer and you have VZAccess Manager already installed on your computer, make sure you delete that program before trying to configure your MiFi. I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with Verizon before we diagnosed an existing VZAccess Manager installation as the root problem.

I have two primary use cases for my MiFi 2200. Unfortunately for me, one use case shines and one suffers:

Quick, bursty access to WiFi on my iPhone – One of the things I really like to do is download large podcasts on my iPhone 3G. I’ve also been known to enjoy a YouTube video or game on the go as well. Sadly, many of these activities are very taxing over AT&T’s 3G wireless network. Having the ability to quickly get a WiFi network for my iPhone and pull down this data (some of which, like video podcasts, currently require a WiFi connection to grab the data) is a huge help. The MiFi shines in this bursty, quick data grabbing use case. The device generally connects to the Verizon network in about a minute or so, so there’s no waiting around for a connection.

Long session use when traveling (hotels, airports, cafes, etc) – One of the things I liked about my old Verizon data card was that I could have long Internet sessions with minimal disruptions. I could work at an airport, cafe, or hotel room for 60-90 minute stretches before the card would start to flake out. A simple reconnect to the Verizon network would usually solve the problem. Sadly, the MiFi does not seem to work so well in cases where I want to use it for long stretches of time. Because there really isn’t a UI for the device, I have been noticing mystifying drops in coverage. I can’t tell whether it’s an issue with the Verizon 3G network, my computer’s AirPort, or the device itself. After about 30-45 minutes of continuous usage, the MiFi tends to crap out.

I have one modest feature request for the next version of this device. I wish there were a way to put it in “locked mode” where it wouldn’t turn on. I find the on/off switch to be very sensitive and there I have been a few instances where a slight jostling of the device turns it into broadcast mode and I’m unknowingly draining the battery along the way. I wish I could lock the device when it’s not in use so as to not accidentally activate it.

This is a really good device. If you travel frequently and have the need to share a connection across devices, this is a great solution.

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