Smartphones step aside, Palm has given us something (more) to talk about. While the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus have always offered the Mobile HotSpot feature, Verizon announced on April 1 that this service would be reduced from $40/month to free. That’s right, this coveted feature that turns the smartphone into a WiFi router for up to 5 users is now free.
Upon hearing the news, I was in disbelief and had to confirm it with multiple websites before finally letting the truth of it all sink in. I could never justify paying $40/month to turn my Pre Plus into a Mobile HotSpot, but free is a totally different story. Whether traveling or just sitting at the local coffee shop, having a personal WiFi router is by far more convenient then dealing with the hassle and overpriced fees associated with hotel, airport and restaurant wireless access providers. Embracing my new-found smartphone technology, I took the plunge (double and triple checking that there were no hidden fees or commitments) and added the Mobile HotSpot feature online, which thankfully confirmed the $0.00/month charge in print.
The timing of this free-of-charge feature could not have been more perfect. As a military family, moving is something we are accustomed to and the end of March had us packing yet again. Watching the packers and movers leave with all of our things less a few essentials, my family was prepared for our fun week of “camping” on the floor and slumber parties. My fun came to a screeching halt when I realized that with the movers and terminated cable package went our internet connection. How was I going to get any work done? Was I going to have to rely entirely on my Pre Plus? Was that even possible? Then it dawned on me - my new Mobile Hotspot feature!
Coincidence? Maybe. A cruel April Fool’s Day joke? Not at all. Too good to be true? Absolutely ... but it was true!
So how does the Mobile HotSpot work? Like many things on the Pre Plus, setting up and using the Mobile HotSpot feature is beyond simple. My Pre Plus already had the application preloaded and accessible through the launcher, so there was nothing to download. All I had to do was add the feature online, open the application on my phone, turn the switch to the on position and set a password. Done! The whole process took all of three minutes. I am still amazed by the simplicity and ease of set up and use.
Not surprisingly, tethering devices through the Mobile HotSpot drains the phone’s battery life at a much faster rate. For this reason, a nearby power source is a must. This hasn’t been a problem for me since I have a car charger and the Touchstone charging dock, which is a must-have fun accessory for the Palm. This incredibly sleek and functional accessory charges your phone through the use of magnetics. No having to fumble with cords, plugs or opening the phone’s side door.
Another way to manage battery life while using the Mobile HotSpot is to set a password, or passphrase as it is called by Palm. Otherwise, there is no way to control who connects to your WiFi and each additional connection obviously drains the battery that much faster. For your monitoring needs, the phone conveniently chimes when a user connects and disconnects from the device and keeps an on-screen log of all connections. Since battery life is a vital concern with smartphones in general and the Pre Plus in particular, I also want to note that turning off the phone’s WiFi receptor and Bluetooth features when not needed significantly conserves battery resources.
Last but not least, speed has been just fine. I have to give a full disclosure up front that my test was by no means scientific, but running on Verizon’s 3G network does very well for the Pre Plus’ Mobile HotSpot feature. To my pleasant surprise, I didn’t notice a difference between the tethering and my prior high-speed connection, and surfing the web was business as usual.
By and large, the Mobile HotSpot has always been a feather in Palms’ cap, but is the fact that this feature is now gratis, while remarkable yes, enough to change the smartphone game? Will Palm be able to break out from the pack? Let me know what you think.