Here’s the Skyroam hotspot that offers travelers hassle-free Internet service
Are all mobile hotspots created equal? Not if you’re a global traveler. Some models are incompatible with networks in other countries. Also, depending on your carrier and service plan, you could be on the hook for massive roaming charges if you try to connect anywhere outside the U.S.
Enter the Skyroam Hotspot, which aims to take the hassle and expense out of global connectivity. The company’s friendly-looking orange slab instantly gets you online in over 65 countries. You don’t have to deal with finding and swapping SIM cards, and you don’t have to worry about megabytes per minute: Skyroam charges a flat daily rate.
The company charges $10 per day for unlimited data, which you can share with up to five devices. So, you could spend a week in, say, France and pay only $70 for Wi-Fi while you’re there. That’s a pretty sweet deal.
The Skyroam Hotspot itself sells for $124.99, a price that includes five preloaded day passes.
If you’re thinking there must be a catch, you’re right: This is not a 4G-capable device. Instead, it relies on HSPA+ technology, which Skyroam describes as “in between 3G and 4G.” What’s more, you get HSPA+ connectivity for only the first 350MB you consume, and after that speeds drop to 2G.
Whether or not this proves to be an issue depends on what you intend to do online. For simple tasks like retrieving e-mail and loading Web pages, HSPA+ should suffice. If you want to watch Netflix or stream music from Spotify, however, you’re likely to find it too slow–and you’ll burn through your 350MB in short order. As for the sluggish 2G that comes after, it’s suitable for e-mail and not much else.
I found the device extremely easy to use. My demo unit arrived preconfigured for service, so I was able to bypass the account-setup process that, judging from the illustrated instructions supplied by Skyroam, shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.
Once you power up the unit and connect to the nearest carrier, you’ll see a Start option on the color display. From there you simply tap the OK button to activate a day pass. I love the fact that all this happens right on the device; you don’t need to jump through a bunch of startup hoops on your phone or laptop. Also, the home screen conveniently shows what country you’re in and exactly how much time you have left, instead of forcing you to wade through menus.
I tested the hotspot in downtown Detroit and various suburbs. Speedtest.net reported download speeds ranging from 1.5 to 3.3Mbps, while uploads ranged from an anemic 0.1Mbps to a passable 0.9Mbps. Your mileage may vary, of course, especially as you go from one country to another.
The Skyroam Hotspot is an affordable, hassle-free travel companion, and a great way to get connected just about anywhere you travel. However, it saddles you with a limited amount of medium-speed data and an unlimited amount of dial-up-speed data. If you can live with that, this device definitely deserves a place in your carry-on.
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