Don’t Bother Buying a Verizon MiFi.

You’ll just be disappointed. Very, very disappointed.

My job responsibilities include managing a cloud of about 50 servers that host an enterprise SaaS application. Naturally, this requires that I be available to take emergency calls and deal with them from anywhere. I have a great, lightweight laptop that frequently follows me around – an HP EliteBook with an internal Verizon 3G card. Unfortunately, my company upgraded our Verizon service to 4G and replaced my internal aircard with a device that makes me hate every interaction I have with it.

The MiFi is an excellent concept. It’s a tiny Novatel wireless bridge – Verizon Wireless on one end, and WiFi 802.11b+g+n on the other. Dead simple, too. Turn it on, connect using the password written on the back of the unit, and browse the Internet at lightning fast speeds. And it is fast: gave me 16Mb/s downstream and 2Mb/s upstream in the back of a moving bus on the highway. It’s a shame its ease of use and speed are overshadowed by the fact that actually taking advantage of its features is horrible.

The device is tiny. Too small, in fact, because there’s only enough room for the most pitiful of batteries which deliver around 2-3 hours of use on a brand new charge. I’d expect a device like this to last at least long as the devices pairing to it – my EliteBook has about 7 hours of battery life if I manage my power consumption carefully. The battery life is so short, in fact, it would not last for the duration of a trip from my apartment to the airport on mass transit and if I forget to charge it one day, it’ll be dead by the end of my next morning’s commute. I’m curious who they’re expecting to want to use the MiFi, unless they’re figuring you’ll leave it plugged in all the time – which has its own issues.

But isn’t the battery life a non-issue because of the included USB charging cable? You’d think so! Rational logic fails again with this device, however, as plugging the USB cable in causes it to enter a locked mode where it stops broadcasting its wireless. Thus, I have to make a choice that shouldn’t exist: I can either charge my device, or use my device. What if the battery is dead already? This could be an issue with the current in the USB plug, I’ll have to do some experimenting to be sure – but I’m fairly opposed to devices that need the high-current ports to work right in teh first place.

Tough luck. And don’t get me started about the fact that it tends to lock itself into 1xRTT at approximately dial-up speed, even though LTE is broadcast from the same tower, or that the fall-back process between LTE 4G and CDMA isn’t very graceful, can go up and down quickly in a short period of time, and causes the connection to drop out while reconnecting.

I’d recommend you save your money and just buy a USB dongle or an ExpressCard. Or take your dollars to a carrier with better hardware, but there might not be any better.

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