Palm captured the imagination of many when they announced the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus on Verizon early this year. The ability to turn the phones into the equivalent of the MiFi excited quite a few who were considering such capability for their mobile arsenal. The Palm Mobile Hotspot software taps into the Verizon’s EVDO 3G network and then uses the phone’s Wi-Fi to form a personal hotspot for up to five devices. It is wireless tethering the way it should be — easy and affordable. Verizon charges $40 a month for the Mobile Hotspot service, while the data plan for the MiFi is $60. Everything sounds like the Mobile Hotspot is the perfect solution for the road warrior looking to use the Palm phone for a dual purpose. That’s if the Mobile Hotspot service lives up to its expectations, and that might not be the case.
I have tested the Mobile Hotspot service using the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus. I restricted my testing to date in areas that show full 3G signal strength, to give the Mobile Hotspot a best-case scenario for the testing. My testing has been simple in nature — I conducted multiple bandwidth tests using each phone as the Mobile Hotspot, and recorded the results. I also tested the Verizon MiFi in the same locations, a fair comparison since it uses the same network as the Palm solution.
My findings are disappointing to say the least. I found that both the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus performed virtually identically in the testing, which was expected given the similarity of the phones. The problem is I could never get anything above abysmal bandwidth with either phone. The MiFi performed as usual, with decent bandwidth in the same locations without fail. I can only reach the conclusion that the Mobile Hotspot implementation is not a very good one, and not one I would be willing to depend on for mobile connectivity — certainly not for $40 per month.
To save space below I have included two rounds of testing from each device. Each test for the three was done in the same location, and back to back. I ran a speed test on the Pixi Plus, then the MiFi, and finally on the Pre Plus. After a slew of tests, I believe this is an accurate representation of what I could expect with either phone in regards to bandwidth. While location is important for 3G bandwidth due to local signal strength, the testing accurately reflects the comparison of bandwidth provided by the MiFi vs the two phones. The testing was done with only one device connected to the Mobile Hotspot — a ThinkPad notebook.