Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Karma Wi-Fi Hotspot: I think we could all use a little Karma

The Karma Wi-Fi Hotspot Charging

Karma is an interesting business model. On the surface, it's just another provider offering up a MiFi hotspot device that allows you to connect the abundance of wifi only devices we have to the Internet no matter where we are. In this case, it's a very attractive little unit connected to the Clearwire network. It's supposed to have about 8 hours of battery life, which is impressive for such a tiny thing. You can get devices like this from Verizon or Sprint or ATT. What makes Karma different?

Their stated goal is Internet for everyone without ripping you off. And I'd say they have succeeded. 

1) It's 14 bucks for each Gig of data. You also get a free Gig just for signing up (79 bucks free shipping).

2) The access point is completely open. This is so other people can use it. 

Wait, that's scary isn't it? Not really. I'll explain.

3) The billing is tied to your account, not the device. This means if you are out and about and somebody else with a Karma account sees your Karma, they can connect to it with their account and start surfing the net. 

4) If someone logs into your Karma, you get 100mb of free bandwidth tacked onto your account! They get 100mb free just for connecting to your Karma! That's very very cool. I'll explain why later on. 

5) If you have 750mb left at the end of the month, it rolls over. That is different than EVERY OTHER PROVIDER. The rest of them rip you off. If you pay for 5G a month from Verizon, and you don't use it, *POOF* it's gone. Whether you use it or not. And next month if you use 6G of bandwidth and go over your 5G, they have no mercy. They will charge you for that extra gig. Because they are jerks. 

Look at that tiny little thing

All very cool things. But there are concerns:

1) What about it being open?  

Same difference as you using Starbucks wifi instead of this. If you are really concerned about other people stealing your passwords, or watching you visit hamster porn sites, you really should be using a VPN service (google that). Some better routers even have these built in (like the excellent Asus Dark Knight Router for example). 

2) What if 7 other people connect (they can) and start using my Karma? Will it get slow? 

Nope. The Karma has a technology called QoS. What that means is that the owner of the device will always get preference for network traffic. You might notice a slight slowdown, but not much.

3) How fast is it?

That's indoors, with a bad signal. Quite impressive actually. That's better than I get from Verizon devices indoors. That's good enough for 720p YouTube.

So yeah, I have to say all-in-all, this looks like a good deal. It's cheap. There's a nice social aspect to it, and if you live in the dorms or around a bunch of people, it could very well end up being free Internet service if you get a lot of people using it. I'm frequently around a ton of people, so I plan to toss it in my bag with my Chromebook Pixel.

Note: This is a MUCH better deal than the 4G from Verizon for the Pixel. Or the iPad 4G. Or any 4G from anyone else for that matter.

This is an initial review, so give me a few weeks with the Karma and I'll report back. I will say the unit is a well priced, adorable little thing, charges fast, lasts a decent amount of time, and you can't beat the price of the service.