Bye Bye Boingo? iPad is not a Smartphone


Boingo is one of those services that can be indispensable, especially for those who enjoy a mobile lifestyle. It provides access to public Wi-Fi hotspots that otherwise carry a high price for short term connectivity. I travel a bit and work mobile a lot, so I’ve found the $10/monthly Boingo to be money well spent. I’ve gotten good value from my Boingo plan, but I ran into a situation on the trip to Orlando that has me rethinking the worth of this recurring fee.

My usage of the Boingo service has been predictable: it has gotten me online in many different coffee shops, primarily Starbucks, and in airports while traveling. The Orlando trip was no exception as I was able to use Boingo in the airport to get online and work. It even came in handy in the hotel in Orlando, as the venue was one of those charging an exorbitant rate for connectivity in the room. The hotel didn’t even have free Wi-Fi connectivity in public areas (like the lobby) as many do. To get online in the hotel would easily cost $20/day in the room and public work areas.

I was thrilled to learn that the hotel hotspots were accessible through Boingo, since I’m paying for that already. I was able to get online in the room and anywhere in the hotel through the Boingo roaming agreement. You’d think that would eliminate any doubt I had about the worth of that monthly fee for Boingo, but that’s not the case.

The Boingo plan I have is the unlimited laptop plan. It’s $9.95/month and lets me get one laptop at a time on the Boingo roaming network for as long as needed. I was able to get my MacBook on the hotel network through Boingo at no additional cost to me. The problem I ran into was with the iPad. I frequently wanted to jump online with the iPad, rather than pulling the laptop out of the bag. This is a strength of the iPad, the ability to grab it and quickly get online to check email or other stuff on the web.

Unfortunately I couldn’t do that with the Boingo plan I have as the iPad is considered a smartphone by the company. Boingo offers three plans in the U.S.: laptop (which I have); smartphone only (which includes the iPad); and a Combo plan that works with both laptops and smartphones. The Combo plan would have let me use both the laptop and iPad as needed, and even the EVO 4G if desired. The problem is this plan is $17.95/monthly, which is too much for the limited times I would use it.

The most use I get out of Boingo is in Starbucks, as I work there a lot. This alone has made the $10 I pay each month worth the price of the Boingo plan I have. On July 1 that won’t be necessary, as all U.S. Starbucks will offer the Wi-Fi connectivity for free. It’s no fault of Boingo, but I suspect I’m not the only customer wondering if it will still be worth the $10 with free connectivity in Starbucks. In my case probably not, but it’s definitely not worth the $18 for the combo plan. I find I use the iPad pretty hard while mobile, and I can’t get online with the cheaper Boingo plan anyway. That has me rethinking the value of the plan I have now.

On the trip this week I was forced to use the EVO 4G mobile hotspot capability to get the iPad online, even in my hotel room. Orlando doesn’t have a 4G network to tap into, but the Sprint 3G network was plenty fast enough. I got decent bandwidth on the iPad, so much so I quickly forgot I wasn’t on the Boingo connection. I could have shared this EVO hotspot with up to 8 devices, so in fact the Boingo connectivity wasn’t really needed. That has me seriously thinking of canceling the Boingo plan and going with free hotspots and the EVO connectivity. Note that I don’t travel outside the U.S. so this would work fine for me, as Sprint has at least 3G coverage everywhere I work and play.

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