Author Topic: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?  (Read 1741 times)

MVal

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I just moved and have no internet service at my new house yet. I'm on a waiting list for Google Fiber, but they said it could take a few months. I am very low tech and do not have a smartphone or flat screen TV or anything, but I do have one of those $50 Amazon Fire tablets...could I use phone data on that, or is there a way I can get some kind of little "hotspot" for wifi just so I can check mail and Facebook and such when I'm home while I wait for my glorious fiber?

I could buy a cheap smartphone to use for this purpose if the Fire tablet is a no-go, I suppose. Curious what you all recommend.

Daley

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Re: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2017, 01:08:38 PM »
Unfortunately, a device needs to have a cellular modem to be able to grab mobile data. This means you won't be using your tablet.

The thing with mobile data is, it's not that cheap and usually if you want it by itself, you have to have the right device.

If all you're wanting is Facebook, email and a temporary hotspot for basic web browsing... my first question would be what (if any) mobile provider are you using currently, and what are you paying per month for that non-data service?

T-Mobile based providers are going to have the cheapest mobile data available either indirectly coupled with a talk and text plan through an MVNO like US Mobile, or a stand-alone mobile data only device through T-Mobile prepaid directly. Either way, figure around $10/GB for lighter usage and at least $20 a month. So long as you don't stream anything or do heavy updates to a desktop, a couple GB of data a month would probably be plenty. It gets a bit more pricey and complicated if we have to go AT&T or Verizon.

If you go smartphone and can go US Mobile (T-Mobile without roaming coverage), a nice and solid used/refurb T-Mo locked Lumia 435 can be picked up for under $25, and the data prices past 1GB/month would fall in line with T-Mobile prepaid for data only plans, with the talk and text end probably falling closely in line with what you may already be paying. The nice thing about US Mobile is that they technically aren't too picky about selling plans with data only for phones. They're one of very very few MVNOs who do, though.

Stand alone WiFi hotspot devices will run you closer toward $30-50 used, and you'll likely have to commit to $35/month or higher rates for around 3GB of data. TOAST.net is a good option for this route for AT&T coverage. Boom Mobile offers smaller plans cheaper than Verizon for Verizon data only plans, but device and setup investment will be $50 or more. Similar could be done with T-Mobile as referenced, but there's still the outlay for dedicated hotspot equipment given nobody really wants to activate data only plans on phones.

Alternately, you could get to know your neighbors and ask them nicely, though that's rapidly tapdancing toward a possible terms of service breach on their part and takes some real trust between people.

Personally, if T-Mobile coverage is an option, I'd personally may or may not just port my mobile number over to US Mobile and pick up a cheap Lumia if I were in your shoes as the prices are available and right for lighter usage. I use the Lumia 435 myself these days as my daily phone (and have been for nearly a year), it's a solid phone, easy on mobile data itself, and easy to tether.

That's about as good a recommendation I can make with the info provided. More info, better detailed solution. That said, if you're not allergic to reading, my more recent mobile data guide for RV enthusiasts might have a few good tips for you on reducing data usage with any laptops or desktops used on mobile data and give you a better idea of the sort of hoops you'd jump through for doing mobile data on the various networks.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2017, 01:10:50 PM by I.P. Daley »

MVal

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Re: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2017, 01:26:16 PM »
Thanks, I.P.! I am currently using Airvoice for my dump phone service at a rate of $20/mo for unlimited talk and text and this also includes 20 MB of data, although I doubt I ever touch that limit with just the handful of pictures I send. I will look into the Lumia phone and possibly porting out to US Mobile like you mentioned, that sounds like a good option.

Yikes, I didn't know those wifi services could be that much. If I went that route, I might as well do a no-contract internet service with Time Warner locally here, as I think it is about that much.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2017, 01:28:36 PM by MVal »

catccc

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Re: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2017, 01:27:22 PM »
This wouldn't be a fast fix, but a freedompop hotspot can be had for $20-$30 w/ limited (500 MB) free service.  I think you could be up and running within a week, I don't think it takes much longer than that for them to ship the device.  You'll probably be good for checking email and fb periodically, but don't stream any videos, I that'll eat up the alloted free data pretty quickly.

MVal

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Re: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2017, 01:53:09 PM »
This wouldn't be a fast fix, but a freedompop hotspot can be had for $20-$30 w/ limited (500 MB) free service.  I think you could be up and running within a week, I don't think it takes much longer than that for them to ship the device.  You'll probably be good for checking email and fb periodically, but don't stream any videos, I that'll eat up the alloted free data pretty quickly.

So you buy the hotspot for $20-30 and then it's free forever after that? No monthly fee?

Daley

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Re: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2017, 05:02:50 PM »
This wouldn't be a fast fix, but a freedompop hotspot can be had for $20-$30 w/ limited (500 MB) free service.  I think you could be up and running within a week, I don't think it takes much longer than that for them to ship the device.  You'll probably be good for checking email and fb periodically, but don't stream any videos, I that'll eat up the alloted free data pretty quickly.

So you buy the hotspot for $20-30 and then it's free forever after that? No monthly fee?

Ish. Keep in mind they try to set you up to be nickel and dimed by default, they datamine, and there's no real customer service. If you're okay with the caveats, then... there you go. Just remember, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Someone offers you service for "free", it's best to ask why and understand fully what you're getting yourself into. Some folks here swear by FreedomPop, but I'm personally uncomfortable recommending them or placing them in the guide. Take that however you like. Given you're signing up for Google Fiber, though, I suspect this isn't a great concern. I just want to encourage you to think twice before selling your privacy out for a few shiny trinkets and a few bucks savings.

Keep in mind that if you're on Airvoice, and you're on the $20 plan mostly because the $10 plan didn't work out well enough for usage, it might pay to be prudent and investigate to see what your monthly minute and text usage actually looks like. As much as I want to keep churn down with good MVNOs and my respect for Airvoice, it's worth noting that if you're averaging both 250 minutes and 500 text messages a month or less, the US Mobile price for those tiers with their 500MB data package adds up to $20 on the nose. It'd be a transition that would cost no more a month than what you're currently paying and give you the same amount of data that FreedomPop would without the datamining for roughly the same cost outlay... plus the opportunity to go cheaper on your phone plan once you get your home internet set up. Popping up to 750 minutes (above the national average) and 1000 text messages (and if you're using a feature phone, I doubt you're texting *that* much) with 500MB of data is only $24/month. Just something to consider on the math if you know what your actual usage looks like versus FreedomPop.

Again though, let me remind you that you want to make sure you have good T-Mobile coverage in your area and home first before switching to a T-Mobile MVNO.

MVal

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Re: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2017, 04:21:37 PM »
This wouldn't be a fast fix, but a freedompop hotspot can be had for $20-$30 w/ limited (500 MB) free service.  I think you could be up and running within a week, I don't think it takes much longer than that for them to ship the device.  You'll probably be good for checking email and fb periodically, but don't stream any videos, I that'll eat up the alloted free data pretty quickly.

So you buy the hotspot for $20-30 and then it's free forever after that? No monthly fee?

Ish. Keep in mind they try to set you up to be nickel and dimed by default, they datamine, and there's no real customer service. If you're okay with the caveats, then... there you go. Just remember, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Someone offers you service for "free", it's best to ask why and understand fully what you're getting yourself into. Some folks here swear by FreedomPop, but I'm personally uncomfortable recommending them or placing them in the guide. Take that however you like. Given you're signing up for Google Fiber, though, I suspect this isn't a great concern. I just want to encourage you to think twice before selling your privacy out for a few shiny trinkets and a few bucks savings.

Keep in mind that if you're on Airvoice, and you're on the $20 plan mostly because the $10 plan didn't work out well enough for usage, it might pay to be prudent and investigate to see what your monthly minute and text usage actually looks like. As much as I want to keep churn down with good MVNOs and my respect for Airvoice, it's worth noting that if you're averaging both 250 minutes and 500 text messages a month or less, the US Mobile price for those tiers with their 500MB data package adds up to $20 on the nose. It'd be a transition that would cost no more a month than what you're currently paying and give you the same amount of data that FreedomPop would without the datamining for roughly the same cost outlay... plus the opportunity to go cheaper on your phone plan once you get your home internet set up. Popping up to 750 minutes (above the national average) and 1000 text messages (and if you're using a feature phone, I doubt you're texting *that* much) with 500MB of data is only $24/month. Just something to consider on the math if you know what your actual usage looks like versus FreedomPop.

Again though, let me remind you that you want to make sure you have good T-Mobile coverage in your area and home first before switching to a T-Mobile MVNO.

Hmmm, well, I just checked the coverage map and it looks like on my particular street, the T-Mobile coverage is Fair unless I select what I assume is an LTE capable version of the phone you recommended to me, the Lumia 635, then it goes up to "Good". I had T-Mobile for years before Airvoice and generally had good coverage, but once I switched, it was an improvement to be on the AT&T network. I just bought a cheap Lumia 435 on ebay last night (unlocked and only $10, so no big deal if it doesn't work out). Maybe it would be worth it to port to US Mobile and just try it out...I suppose I could always port back to Airvoice if it really sucks.

I just checked the call duration log in my phone and although I have no idea it if starts over each month or how often, I'm a little over 250 as of right now, so I'd venture a guess and say I would normally need more than 250 minutes of talk, but not much more. I'm sure I don't send 500 texts a month, though.

MVal

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Re: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2017, 08:12:29 AM »
Hey, I.P., I just checked Airvoice's website and it looks like they now have a 1GB plan with all the other stuff unlimited for $30/mo. Since that Lumia 435 I just ordered on your recommendation is coming unlocked, I may just up my current plan with Airvoice and use that and see how it goes! I'm bummed it isn't as cheap as the US Mobile plan you mentioned, but I guess just $10 more per month over my current cell plan is not bad for being to access the internet with some kind of device.

Daley

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Re: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2017, 08:31:31 AM »
Sounds like a plan, hope it works out well for you!

catccc

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Re: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2017, 01:46:46 PM »
Freedompop being free... It can be, but like IP Daley says, they plan to sustain the business by having some people opt in (or not opt out of, in some cases) additional data and services.  It can be a little complicated with top-up rules and requirements.  But if you are willing to figure them out and work around the limitations, yes, it is free.  I have been using freedompop for free data since 2014 without major issues.  Customer service is there but it is slow.

HipGnosis

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Re: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2017, 12:25:28 PM »
This wouldn't be a fast fix, but a freedompop hotspot can be had for $20-$30 w/ limited (500 MB) free service.  I think you could be up and running within a week, I don't think it takes much longer than that for them to ship the device.  You'll probably be good for checking email and fb periodically, but don't stream any videos, I that'll eat up the alloted free data pretty quickly.
Where can I get a FreedomPop hotspot for $20-$30??  The cheapest I can find is $40.

geekette

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Re: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2017, 12:45:40 PM »
FYI, if you (generic you) have a cellular enabled tablet, you can get 200mb of cellular data per month free on T-mobile.  That's more cellular data than I use on my phone every month.  DH just got me a refurb iPad mini and a sim card for my birthday, and it activated within a minute via settings on the tablet.  Apparently it can be used as a hotspot, too. 

I'm not sure if they data mine, but it'll probably be used mostly for badgering Time Warner when our service goes out, and maybe some Pokemon Go ;-)

catccc

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Re: Low cost phone data or wifi for a tablet or laptop temporarily?
« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2017, 09:26:31 PM »
This wouldn't be a fast fix, but a freedompop hotspot can be had for $20-$30 w/ limited (500 MB) free service.  I think you could be up and running within a week, I don't think it takes much longer than that for them to ship the device.  You'll probably be good for checking email and fb periodically, but don't stream any videos, I that'll eat up the alloted free data pretty quickly.
Where can I get a FreedomPop hotspot for $20-$30??  The cheapest I can find is $40.

Just google "freedompop hotspot 19.99"  You'll probably get a few different hotspot models.  There is one they offer that is GSM (not CDMA) and it only comes with 200 MB of free service.  The CDMA one comes with 500 MB of free service.  The GSM has better coverage, so it's a trade off.  You can up both by 500 MB with freedom friends.