Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
8/4/2010
02:55 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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Clear Targets Apple Devices With iSpot WiMax Device

Clearwire on Wednesday announced the iSpot, a mobile WiMax hotspot designed exclusively to provide wireless broadband to Apple's stable of iOS devices.

If AT&T's wireless data options aren't good enough for you, Clear is hoping you'll give its WiMax network a whirl. For $99, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch owners can access wireless broadband through Clear's new iSpot mobile hotspot. How does it work?

The iSpot has a WiMax modem inside and the proper Wi-Fi equipment to permit up to eight other devices to access the Internet at 4G speeds. Clear says that typical users will see downloads between 3Mbps and 6Mbps, though bursts up to 10Mbps are possible. The service costs $25 per month for unlimited access to data, though the Clear press release says this is "an initial low monthly service offering." The company doesn't clarify if that means the price will go up in three or six months for customers.

The iSpot even pretends to be an Apple accessory, as it is colored white, as many of Apple's products are. Speaking of Apple's products, the iSpot only (only!!!) works with iOS devices. That means you can't use your laptop or other Wi-Fi devices with the iSpot. No, not even an Apple laptop. According to iSpot, the device uses MAC address filtering to make sure only iOS devices connect to it. (No word yet if MAC address spoofing will work, but it probably will.)

If that's not a significant enough limitation for you, here's another: it doesn't have a 3G modem to fall back on. Clear says that its WiMax network is in 48 markets and covers some 51 million Americans. That's still only one in every six of us, and significant portions of the country have no WiMax coverage.

If the iSpot had an EVDO 3G modem inside (as many of Sprint's WiMax modems do), it could at least fall back on Sprint's 3G network and provide Internet access that way. Alas, if there's no WiMax, the iSpot won't work.

The good news is, Clear is practically giving the iSpot away. If you order Wednesday, August 4, or Thursday, August 5, Clear will sell you the iSpot for $29 with no contract obligation. That's right, you'll own it free and clear (pun intended) for just $29. According to Clear, users can suspend service at will, and the resume it with no activation fees or penalties.

Unlimited WiMax data for $25 per month is a bargain, despite the iSpot's limitations.

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