AT&T(s t) and Novatel Wireless(s nvtl) jointly announced a next-generation mobile hotspot on Thursday: The MiFi 2 will be offered in the future as the AT&T MiFi Liberate. The device differs from older MiFi personal hotspots due to its 2.8-inch touchscreen and up to 11 hours of continuous on a single battery charge. More of the device configuration is handled directly on the MiFi Liberate, which also doubles as a media server.
The Liberate supports AT&T’s fast LTE network and falls back to HSPA+ networks for areas without LTE coverage; AT&T says the personal hotspot will work in more than 200 countries worldwide as a result. Connectivity while out and about is a primary feature of the device, of course, but the advanced functionality includes some smartphone-like qualities as well. From Novatel Wireless:
MiFi 2 also has a new DLNA-certified Media Center which allows users to enjoy and share their movies, music, presentations and photos stored on microSD cards on connected devices. A user can simply upload photos from their camera to MiFi 2 using a microSD card and start showing them on any DLNA-enabled television or compatible devices. For business users, MiFi 2 has a simple process to upload and download stored files from any connected device.
Instead of just a temporary on-ramp to the web then, the new MiFi is evolving into a centralized storage area that leverages Wi-Fi connectivity with smart televisions and other devices in the home. That’s a big step forward for what used to be a credit-card sized device that creates a simple hotspot via cellular networks.
Heck, this MiFi looks more like what you’d get if an Apple(s aapl) Magic Trackpad had a fling with a touchscreen phone. Surprisingly, the new device is still relatively small and not as thick as I would expect for such battery life. But it still appears pocketable — you can surely toss it in a small bag with other mobile gear — sounds far more useful and can provide a 4G LTE connection for a full work day.