Karma Wifi Hotspot – Roadtrip Review

Back from holiday roadtripping, here’s my take on the Karma Go Hotspot

Summary: Get one. They’re great. But understand the caveats, too.

Background

The Karma Go LTE hotspot is the first one that I thought, “Gee, that is really interesting.” And, in my opinion, the first real innovation in hotspot technology in a few years.  That being said, I am not the typical hotspot user. I do NOT need a hotspot all the time. I need* one every once in a while for things like family roadtrips or for business trips

Verizon, AT&T and the like all will gladly take your money and sign you up for a dedicated hotspot line, chewing away at your data plan (or with it’s own data plan)  That is NOT what this is.

The Karma Go hotspot gets LTE speeds, but has strictly two modes:

  • Pay As You Go – Drop-dead-easy buy-a-gig data plans in the app.  Need data? Get some data.  The data you buy is yours forever until you use it up.
  • Neverstop – $50/mo for unlimited data, capped at 5MBPs a second, and for a max of three concurrent devices.

Hardcore hotspot reviews stack the Karma down in the alsoran part of the list because it’s more like a pre-paid wireless phone in the sense that you buy what you use but you don’t likely automatically renew month over month.

One other, innovative feature I like very much of the hotspot is that anyone can connect to my device! All they need is a Karma account and they can connect to my (or I can connect to their) hotspot using each individuals own data plan and is able to privately surf the web on their own dime instead of siphoning off my data plan — I’m a nice guy, but not that nice! More on this below…**

Sharing is Caring

Another innovation is that, if you want to share your connection, people can connect to your hotspot and you get $10 for helping someone buy a Karma of their own (and they get $10 off their purchase of a KarmaGo) or either 100mbps free for sharing or a $1 off your neverstop balance by letting someone connect to your hotspot. Want to tip me for sharing this with you? Great … use this link: https://yourkarma.com/invite/robert5589 and get $10 off your device or 100mbps free for creating an account

Or, if you want to be a little stingy, that’s fine. The website directly is http://yourkarma.com 🙂

That being said, here’s my good, bad and ugly from a recent roadtrip from Utah to Texas with the Karma and a car full of teenage gigabyte-guzzlers.

GOOD

Easy to setup and very easy to use.  The KarmaGo is small and has a great feel to it. It’s smaller than your smartphone and has one button. ONE. And the lights on the front tell you if its working and the signal strength.  When you need battery, the light just turns from green to orange and finally to red.  It fit on the dashboard or tucked in the center console of the car nicely. Logging in was a breeze through all our devices (mostly ios, a bit of android and a Mac). I signed up for the Neverstop plan, noting that $50 for all the netflix you could handle (at 5Mbps cap) should have been worth the price.  The “month” starts the moment you activate your account.  If you switch to the pay-as-you-go plan, it just starts at the end of your neverstop month. No big deal.

Oh, and all of that was done from the app or just the web browser on my phone at a gas station somewhere in Southern Utah.

Bad

The only thing I can mention here is that on the neverstop plan, I had to choose between three devices maximum who could be online.  I completely understand why Karma does this, although allowing me to “name” my devices would be awesome so I can tell between iphone and iphone or ipad and ipad when I have to kick one of them off (the euphemism they use is “pause” the device).  I do not know if this limitation exists on the pay-as-you-go plan.

 

Ugly

Sometimes, there would just be dropped connections and confusing connection problems.The Verge review points to the Sprint network being at fault for this though I freely admit I was driving through Southeastern Utah, Northern New Mexico and West Texas… not exactly the most rigorous cellular-happy locations on the planet. Still, those limitations would have been tolerable perhaps with better messaging while connecting.

Sometimes, either because of cellular network weakness or something else, you get kicked offline. You get a “Oops, trying to get online” message after that which is comparatively friendly and welcoming but without any other context to what exactly was happening, troubleshooting was hard–no, impossible. The only remedy we found was to just turn it off for a while and then reconnect later.  Again, noting the realization that Internet access has surpassed luxury stage and is now more important than oxygen.

Future Upside – family data independence?

One future upside item I can note, however, is **the realization crossed my mind that, if I really wanted to let my children manage their own data usage, I could simply have had them create their own accounts with Karma and, even if using my one hotspot, could have used up their own data budget which I could either refill or they could, depending on how I set it up.  That is worth thinking about the next time I am feeling rather miserly… or wanting my daughter to learn the value of things in a very intimate way if her money is being spend very visibly on the data she chooses to use.

 

  • The author sadly admits that internet access is a need, not a luxury

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