This week in Mobile News Manor #13: Moving to MiFi?

This is a peek into a technology writer’s home office, aka Mobile News Manor, discussing gadgets, apps, best practices using same, and ebooks. This week a Sprint 4G MiFi arrived.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

One of the primary benefits of being a technology writer is the ability to work in my home office, aka Mobile News Manor (MNM). It is a bustling place, with evaluation gadgets constantly arriving and going back to the vendors. As part of my daily work I spend a fair bit of time testing these gadgets for review, and also looking at new apps for various platforms to streamline my work methods.

This column is my look back each week to share pertinent experiences that I believe you might find useful. There is no telling what you might find in this column, but you’ll definitely get a feel for what it is like testing gadgets for a living. Welcome to the Manor.

Gadgets come, and gadgets go

This week could have been called MiFi week, as a new model not yet publicly available arrived at the Manor. The Novatel folks sent the Sprint 4G MiFi for a test drive, and it is a major improvement over my Sprint Overdrive. The new MiFi is much smaller and dishes out Sprint 4G (WiMAX) when available and 3G (EVDO Rev. A) when it's not. It has a memory card slot for storing files and using the MiFi as a server using the MiFi's router.

One of the biggest problems of the Sprint Overdrive is that it takes a long time to connect to either a 3G or 4G network. It is not possible to turn it on and get connected quickly. I am happy to report the MiFi doesn't suffer from that malady, it is possible to hit the power button and get connected in less than a minute. It's a very good solution for the mobile professional who wants to tap into the Sprint network from virtually anywhere.

As good as the Sprint 4G MiFi has been, I have been seriously considering dropping my Sprint Overdrive and making a move. Not to the Sprint MiFi, but to the Verizon 4G LTE MiFi from Samsung that hit the market this week. I had the opportunity to play with the Verizon LTE network earlier this year, and the speed it provides is unequaled.

I currently use the Sprint Overdrive for connectivity when I travel, and to keep me online in the Manor when my broadband connection goes down. I depend on staying connected for my work, and having a backup connection is important. Unfortunately, even though the Sprint 4G network is live in Houston, it is still not live in my home office. The Sprint 4G coverage map shows a little dead zone right over the Manor, so the Overdrive falls back to the Sprint 3G network. It's not bad, but it's not 4G.

The Verizon LTE network is live in the Manor, and it is blazing fast. The Samsung MiFi I am considering dishes the LTE out as expected, and can also fall back to the Verizon EVDO network when no LTE coverage is available.  I played with the Samsung MiFi earlier this year, and was impressed with it. This has me considering dropping the Sprint data plan on the Overdrive and moving to the Verizon 4G plan.

Last night the Froyo update I have been waiting for finally arrived for the Enspert Identity Tab that Dynamism sent over. This is the official update that will ship on the Identity Tab, bringing it up to Froyo standards and having access to the Android Market. I believe access to the Market is crucial for any Android device to be fully utilitized, and this is a welcome update for the Tab.

I will be putting the new Identity Tab through its paces, and my immediate impression is it is a decent Android tablet for $299. It is made of aluminum and is well appointed, making it a good deal for the price. I will have more on the Identity Tab in the not too distant future.

Apps and ebooks »

Apps of the week

The big news in apps this week was the Amazon release of the Cloud Drive and Cloud Player for the web and Android. The Amazon implementation is brilliant, as a free cloud locker is provided to anyone, with additional storage available for a cheap annual fee. Cloud Drive is tied to the Amazon MP3 store, as all future music purchases can be automatically stored to the cloud.

The Cloud Player app on Android is not as full-featured as other music player apps (where's genre selection?) but it works with the Cloud Drive seamlessly. Once my music collection was uploaded to the cloud I was able to listen to it on all Android devices using the Player. It will end up saving me a lot of storage room on all the various devices I use, as I will now leave my music in the cloud. It will be interesting to see how the Amazon/music labels spat plays out, as there will surely be one.

This week I tried the Spb Shell 3D app for my HTC EVO, and it rocks as a 3D interface that not only looks good but makes it better to use. It has impressed me so much it has become my default launcher on both the EVO and the Galaxy Tab. As good as it is on the EVO, it is even better on the Tab with the bigger screen. I've had no problems running it on the Tab even though Spb says it is not for tablets. It's expensive at $15 but I find it adds value to using both my devices.

Ebooks of the week

Recently I have discovered the Donovan Creed series by John Locke, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. Locke has also written a western novel, Follow the Stone, and this week I picked it up for a diversion. I haven't read a western novel in a long time, and I'm glad I read this one. It's an entertaining story of a gunslinger hired to escort a group of hookers to the western frontier, and it is both action-packed and fun to read. Well worth the 99 cents on Amazon.

I am in the middle of a thriller by an author I haven't read before, and it is pretty good. Killer by Stephen Carpenter is the story of a novelist with a series of books about a serial killer who falls under the suspicion of authorities when they discover his novels accurately describe real murders across the country. It appears there is a copycat killer using his books as a guide until they realize the murders happened before his books were published. Very good novel.


That's the week as it went down at Mobile News Manor. As always I hope you found something to take away that helps you, or at least found it a pleasant way to pass a few minutes. Until next week, be safe.

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