I chose to try the mobile wifi rental as I already have a smartphone, which I'm addicted to, and I have a laptop PC that gets dragged around town too. The small, wireless modem connects to 3G internet and required no set-up.
Both products are delivered to a UK destination address or can be collected from central London, then you simply post them back at the end of your stay.
What Do You Get?
- In the package you will find:
- wireless modem (already charged but I'd recommend charging fully if you're going out for the whole day
- UK charger
- USB lead to connect to PC
- instruction cards
- pre-paid padded return envelope
The mobile wifi can connect up to five devices which could mean you and a friend both with working smartphones and laptops while traveling in the UK, and even the minimum rental plan comes with 1GB of data which is more than twice the amount the average iPhone user gets through in a month, I'm told. I've no idea if I'm an 'average user' but the website makes it very clear to know what you can do with 1GB of data and the device keeps a usage record on the screen. The data is capped at the pre-paid amount but you can easily purchase additional data. I tried the device for more than 5 days and still didn't get through 1GB which surprised me as I used it with my laptop for work for many hours over that time.
Why Do I Need It?International data roaming charges are so high it means most of us switch off data roaming while traveling but this takes away the convenience of our smartphones! I spent a fruitless afternoon trying to meet an overseas friend while he tried to find free wifi hotspots to send me a message on Twitter to let me know where he was and we ended up not meeting up. He was only in town for a few days and as a reliant user of the internet on a smartphone he could have benefited from mobile wifi rental.
You may think, "but my hotel has wifi so this isn't for me". Unfortunately hotel wifi is not always free in the UK and you would find yourself paying to use the internet in your hotel and then back to no access once you're out for the day. For those of us used to the convenience of our smartphones it can be frustrating to know you have your phone with you but can't get at the apps that could make your trip more enjoyable. This mobile wifi means you can use the apps, maps, Facebook, Twitter, emails and search the internet, etc., just as you would in your home country.
Any Downsides?Rental plans start from 5 days but I think if you were looking to rent for more than 30 days you might as well start buying your own equipment. But for those in the UK for short trips this works well.
The 3G signal comes from the 3 phone network which generally works well but you can check the coverage in the areas you plan to visit.
Insurance isn't included but you can buy it to cover cosmetic damage to the device. Loss, theft or total damage and it's down to you to replace it.
Mobile wifi rental is not cheap but is certainly comparable to hotel wifi charges yet it offers you more flexibility.
I found the network wasn't as strong as my home wifi but it was certainly sufficient to keep up with me as I flicked between apps, email and the internet throughout the day.
If you're an iPhone user, remember being connected to wifi seems to drain your phone battery faster so you might want to connect and disconnect as you need it. The mobile wifi still had battery life left after a full day's usage whereas my iPhone doesn't last so long. I gave it a few hours charging each evening and it was ready to go again.
I used it in London, on a train to the Midlands, and in the English countryside of Shropshire and, generally, had no problems with network coverage.
I tried it connected to my laptop with the USB lead and found the network didn't drop out or hiccup so I could work away with no concerns. I'm sure it would be suitable for uploading your holidays snaps each day.