A dongle is a USB thingy (as you can see, I’m very qualified in this area) that lets you connect your computer to the internet wherever you go. It uses the same type of connection your cellphone data plan uses (3G or 4G).
A few months ago, Clear asked if they could send me a free sample dongle, as I am such a prestigious tech blogger. And I, being a sucker for free things (take note marketers) agreed to try out their dongle. And I have to say, it’s been pretty cool having free wifi wherever I go. The good bits:
- It is very handy, especially when traveling. Waiting for hours in cold, smelly terminals become much more bearable. If I traveled more, I’d definitely get my own dongle (or try to get work to get one for me).
- I could use the dongle on multiple laptops. I was worried about this, it seems like a lot of companies grub for money by binding devices like this to a single machine so you have to buy one for each computer you have (and who has just one computer?). It only supported Mac and Windows, though, so minor ding for that.
- Andrew and I watched Law and Order (Netflix) using it and there was no noticeable difference in quality from our landline. I didn’t do a proper speed test, partly because I’m lazy and partly because I didn’t care. (If you know me IRL and want to do one, let me know and I’ll lend the dongle to you.)
But… there aren’t a whole lot of places I go where I don’t have free wifi already. Almost all of the coffeeshops and bookstores (and even bars) I go to already advertise free wifi. I used the dongle maybe once a week. I’ll miss it when my free trial runs out, but I won’t miss it $55-per-month-worth.
Also, I should be able to get the same sort of behavior by tethering my cellphone–if Sprint didn’t cripple their cellphones to prevent you from tethering. I actually don’t like having a phone, period, so when my contract runs out I’ll probably get a phone with just a data plan and a less douchey carrier.
So, my conclusions are: it’s super handy, but my cellphone should really be able to serve the same function. But that’s just me, and it is really cool being able to go online anywhere.