Novatel MiFi: The Most Important Gadget in my Mobile Arsenal

Over the years I’ve owned more than my fair share of PCs, Macs, phones, cameras and gadgets. But the single device that’s had the most impact on how I work is the Novatel MiFi. The version I own will likely be put to rest as 4G is lit up across U.S. and reliability improves.

The simplest and most reliable mobile broadband solutions are integrated into PCs. But like a lot of people, I have more than one device that I use on the road and like being able to use my $60 per month Sprint service on multiple devices. My previous USB modems partially solved this problem, but I could only use it with PCs and Macs that had an available USB port and that had the proper Sprint software installed.


The Novatel MiFi was introduced at CES 2009. At the time, I was completely satisfied with mySierra Wireless USB modem and didn’t put too much stock in the MiFi. I bought one almost as soon as Sprint started offering them since I was eligible for a subsidy. And that’s when I started to truly appreciate the wonder that is mobile broadband.

The most important feature of the MiFi for me is the fact that I can use it with any device. The second most important feature is that I can use it with up to five devices simultaneously. It’s unleashed me from the confines of paid/public WiFi and has been money well spent.

Here’s an abbreviated list of how I have used the MiFi and things that I can do with it:


  • To avoid paying for overpriced hotel WiFi whenever possible. This is especially important when attending geek events, such as CES, when hotels’ networks or overwhelmed. It’s also especially important when traveling with my wife or others. Some hotels charge for each device you hook up to their networks. The only thing worse than paying $15 a night for WiFi is paying $30 per night.
  • To upload images from cameras without a computer in conjunction with Eye-Fi cards. This is especially useful when blogging live from events and dealing with swapping memory cards and card adapters is a real pain.
  • To work from anywhere, even when I go to get my haircut. Over the past year and a half I’ve used the MiFi to get online in and around Atlanta, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, Charlotte, Seattle, the Poconos and all over the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • I’ve also jumped online at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Infineon Raceway. This is an especially good mobile experience considering that Sprint sponsors NASCAR and brings in COWs (Cell on Wheels) to boost network performance.
  • I can even get online amongst the redwood trees surrounding our family’s country house, which doesn’t have phone, DSL or cable lines.
  • The MiFi’s made my wife more productive. About once a week I drive her to work, as I did today, and she’s able to get online while riding in the passenger seat. She works for SAP, a giant software company that’s not too keen on employees installing software on their PCs. A simple WiFi password avoids the mess of installing connection software.
  • The Sprint MiFi’s opened up a world of venues for coffee and lunch meetings. Instead of having to pick a location with an open or paid WiFi network, I can actually suggest meeting at restaurants or cafes that I enjoy going to without worrying if my lunchmate or I will be able to get online.
  • To use my iPad on the go without having to wait (or pay) for the 3G enabled iPad.
  • The MiFi’s unlocked my iPhone from Apple and AT&T’s restrictions on apps that require WiFi to work. I’m able to download apps of any size with the MiFi. I’m able to watch video from my Slingbox on my iPhone thanks to the MiFi. This is especially handy during football season.

Which gadget of yours has had the biggest impact on your mobility? For me, it’s a close call between my iPhone and the MiFi, but the MiFi wins out because it allows me to get ‘real work’ done and it brings so many of my other devices to life.