Sunday, August 17, 2014

TECH: 3 Ways to be Wifi Connected while on the go with Verizon Wireless, Xfinity, and Skype

Disclosure: Verizon Wireless has partnered with my blog over the past 4 years to demo many products, including the Verizon Jetpack Mifi mentioned in this post. All opinions are my own...

Verizon Mifi Hotspots are great for daily use and for traveling...but at a price.
No Smartphone?  No Problem. You can still stay connected while on-the-go and even traveling with these services...

It has almost been a year since I gave my technology challenged sister a new tablet for her birthday. My sister only uses technology when she is forced and she refuses to even consider buying a smartphone since a flip phone meets her daily needs.  She does use a laptop because it is part of her job, but left up to her, she would still be using a manual typewriter if she could get away with it.

When my son and I gifted my sister a new tablet for her birthday, I really did not know how she was going to react. So I could not believe it when she started using the tablet everyday for checking her email, reading eBooks, paying games and watching movies on Netflix, Hulu Plus, Comcast To Go.

Her only complaint? That her tablet does not have a built-in Internet connection so that she can use all the apps while on-the-go.

So that got me to thinking about what options are available for people like my sister who are not ready to commit to a smartphone but want to still stay somewhat connected using devices like "wifi only" tablets and laptops.

So I did some research and came up with a few ways that my family has tried out over the last couple of months to stay connected while on the go.

Some of the options are paid while others are FREE as part of subscriptions services that you may always have...

My sister did not want to give it back... she loved the Verizon Jetpack Hotspot...
Verizon Jetpack Mifi Hotspot
If you have read my blog for any amount of time, then you know how much I love staying connected while on the go by using a hotspot. Verizon has loaned me many Mifi Hotspots for review over the last 4 years that I have used while traveling and for daily use.

Hotspots can be stand alone devices and also a separate paid feature available on your smartphone. A Hotspot allows you to share an Internet connection with between 5-10 other devices including laptops and tablets.

I personally have loved using Verizon Mifi Hotspots while traveling over the years since I find most hotel Wifi connections (both in-room and in convention areas) to be spotty and inconsistent.

Thanks to my friends at Verizon Wireless my sister was recently able to demo a Verizon Jetpack Mifi Hotspot - and she loved every minute of it!!!

When I told my sister that Verizon Wireless was going to loan her a Mifi Hotspot to try out, she was skeptical that she would be able to figure out how to work it. So I gave her a short 5 minute demo on how to turn it out and how to connect it to her tablet and she was good to go.

My sister loved being able to keep the small Verizon Jetpack Mifi in her purse and use it wherever and whenever she wanted. She loved using the Verizon Mifi Hotspot at work on her lunch hour to watch movies and also in her car while waiting to pick my nephew up from work.

My sister loved the Verizon Mifi so much that she went to her local Verizon store (she is a long time Verizon customer) to check out the pricing for buying one for herself.  I am so proud of her since she is definitely not a technology novice any longer.

I would sum up the Verizon Mifi Hotspot as follows -

Pros -
- Portable
- Can be used to connect with up to 10 wifi devices including tablets and laptops
- Gives you an Internet connection anywhere that Verizon service is available
- Verizon Mifi Hotspots and service are available both on contract and through prepaid service
- Mifi Hotspots devices have better battery life than using a hotspot feature on your phone

- There may be a separate fee for the Mifi Hotspot device hardware depending on if you buy it on-contract or prepaid
- Just like using data on a smartphone, you need to manage your Mifi Hotspot data use and pick a monthly plan that matches that use or you could end up spending lots of money for the service

Check here to find out more about Verzion Mifi Hotspots

Comcast Xfinity Wifi
In addition to services like Verizon Mifi Hotspots, Wifi on-the-go services are also available through other means.

My sister and I are both Comcast customers so I made sure to check out Comcast's new Xfinity Wifi service to see if this could be an additional option for my sister to use since Xfinity Wifi is included for no extra change as part of regular Comcast Internet billing.

Xfinity Wifi is a network of Internet connections available across the country where Comcast Xfinity customers can connect their devices for FREE to do anything from checking email to streaming a movie. There is an Xfinity Wifi app that can be downloaded from the Google Play store or the Apple store to help find Xfinity Wifi locations.

I tried out the service by looking for an Xfinity Wifi location near where I work in Dearborn, MI. I was able to find a couple of locations, so during my lunch break, I drove over to Leo's Coney Island on Greenfield Road to check out the service. I sat in my car in the parking lot and joined the network on my iPad.  Once I was connected, I had to sign into my Comcast account and then I was good to go.

To check the speed of the connection, I decided to stream a movie using my Netflix app and everything worked great with no buffering - I was very impressed.

I would sum up Comcast Xfinity Wifi as follows -

Pros -
- FREE for Comcast Internet customers - HOLLA!
- Connection is strong enough to stream movies without buffering - a huge plus if you like to stream movies!
- Once you successfully connect to a Xfinity Wifi location, you will automatically connect when you come back to the same location and go to another Xfinity Wifi location

Cons -
- Xfiniity Wifi is in limited locations which may not be anywhere near where you are located while out and about

Click here to find out more about Comcast Xfinity Wifi

Skype Wifi
I have been using Skype now for over a year through a Skype World subscription that I bought at a discount on eBay.  I love Skype because I can get clear VOIP calls just using an Internet connection. And one of the features of my subscription is that it includes FREE access to Skype Wifi.

Skype Wifi works like Comcast Xfinity Wifi in that there are locations avaiable across the US where you connect to the service and Skype also has a app that you can download from the Google Play store or the Apple store to help you find available Skype Wifi locations.  But unlike Comcast Xfinity Wifi which is only in the US, Skype Wifi locations are available around the world.

I tried to find Skype Wifi locations near where I work in Dearborn, but I found they were all located inside of hotels or in the DTW airport.

I did find a hotel near where I work that has Skype Wifi, but I was not able to connect from the parking lot like I was able to do with Xfinity Wifi.  Since I did not want to go into the hotel without being a guest, I did not get to chance to actually check out the service speed.

Given where Skype Wifi locations are located, the service seems great for traveling, but not great for needing free wifi connection on a daily basis.

Since I really did not get to try out the service, I would sum up what little I did get to try out about Skype Wifi as follows -

Pros -
- FREE as part of a Skype World Subscription
- Would be nice for travel since the service is mostly available in hotels and airports

Cons -
- Not great day to day use due to the extremely limited locations

Click here to find out more about Skype Wifi

So there are a few of the ways we can all stay connected while on the go.  Some options like Skype Wifi seem to be better for world traveling while others like Xfinity Wifi and the Verizon Mfi Hotspot are better for everyday use.  But however we choose to connect, it is great to know that services like these are available with even more options probably on the way.


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