Review: Sprint Mobile Hotspot on HTC EVO 4G
Being able to use your cell phone as a mobile hotspot is nothing new. Cradlepoint travel routers and third-party software like WMWiFiRouter for Windows Mobile or JoikuSpot for S60/Maemo have been around for years. These days, some smartphones are being shipped with hotspot software already on them. WebOS devices have Mobile HotSpot, the unlocked HTC HD2 comes with the company's own WiFi Router, and the HTC EVO 4G has Sprint Mobile Hotspot.
Sprint Mobile Hotspot uses a 3G/4G connection to turn the EVO into a portable WiFi router for up to 8 devices, but is it worth $29.99 per month? Read my full review to find out.
Sprint Mobile Hotspot requires very little setup.
After launching the app, simply name the router so that other devices can find it, select your desired security level (None, WEP-128, WPA-TKIP, or WPA2-AES), and create a password. All of these things can be changed whenever you use the app, so you're never locked into anything and can do whatever is appropriate to the situation.
Once you're happy with your settings, just tap the box at the top and let the EVO do the rest. A small pop-up window will appear while everything is processing, then the check mark in the box will turn green, you'll see the word "Ready," and a new router icon (with 3G or 4G, depending on your connection) will show up in the status bar at the top of the screen.
Once Sprint Mobile Hotspot is ready to use, instructions on how to use it will appear on screen. It will even show you the router name and password you selected earlier.
By default, the app is set up to only allow two simultaneous connections. To change this, just tap "Manage users" on the main screen, "Max connections" on the screen that follows, and select the number (2 through 8) on the pop-up window that appears. Keep in mind that the speed gets slower as the connection is shared between more devices.
Once a device is connected to Sprint Mobile Hotspot, it will appear on the main screen and the "Manage users" screen. As you can see above, I had two devices connected: my iPhone 3GS and one of my computers. I'm not sure why my computer's MAC address showed up and not its name.
Connection speed varies by location, time of day, network congestion, etc., but I've been getting 800kbps to 1.2Mbps (down) on a 3G connection. As of this writing, the day after I got my HTC EVO, I haven't been able to get a 4G signal in my apartment yet. I have been able to connect to WiMAX on my Fujitsu LifeBook UH900 from the same location, though, so maybe the EVO's 4G radio isn't very strong.
I'll be taking the EVO to a very open area tomorrow and will update this review if I can get on. I'm expecting to see around 5Mbps or higher (down) with a full 4G signal, as that seems to be the average speed that Sprint Overdrive users get, but we'll see.
As you might expect, the EVO's 1500mAh battery takes a noticeable hit from Sprint Mobile Hotspot. WiMAX is obviously more power-hungry than 3G, which will of course be reflected in how long you're able to use the hotspot, so if you need to use the EVO as a router for more than a few hours, be sure you're near an outlet. As I write this, my EVO has been powered on for 14 hours and I have 40% of my battery left after fairly light usage (mostly standby/idle) other than about 45 minutes of 3G hotspot use.
I suggest buying the Seidio Innocell 1750mAh slim battery if you want extra runtime without adding any bulk to the EVO.
For Overdrive or MiFi users, who pay $40 to $60 per month for service, Sprint Mobile Hotspot's $30 monthly charge may sound like a bargain. People who didn't know it was even possible to use a phone as a router may not balk at the price either.
But for everyone else, the price isn't exactly attractive. Verizon offers the same feature (though with a 5GB monthly data cap) to its webOS users for free and third-party software like the ones mentioned earlier are either free or require a reasonable one-time fee.
With the exception of Verizon, carriers have kind of always had a reputation of somewhat gouging and controlling its customers when it comes to data. They don't believe that you should be able to do anything with the data plan you already pay for, which is why tethering and hotspot functions usually aren't free.
People will always find ways to get things for free, though, so of course it's possible to do things like tether to your computer without signing up for a pricey "tethering plan." Rooted phones can make use of free hotspot apps from Android Market, and I'm hoping there will eventually be similar software for non-rooted phones too.
So is Sprint Mobile Hotspot worth $30/month on your HTC EVO 4G?
Not to me, no. But if you can't wait for the EVO's root hack to go public (or don't want to root it at all) and you really want/need to use the device as a portable router, then Sprint Mobile Hotspot is really your only option right now. It's cheaper than a 3G/4G Overdrive plan, the only way to turn the EVO into a 4G router (a first in the US), and more convenient than carrying around another device or looking for an open hotspot when you're on the go.