on August 1, 2013
We wanted to be able to Skype with our Kindle Fire even when there was no wifi available. I bought this from the AT&T store because there were no reviews saying if Kindle Fire would connect to it. We started it up, Kindle Fire immediately recognized the device and connected with no problem.
Edit to add: we used the Kindle Fire to Skype across the country in locations w/no Wifi available with absolutely no problems via this mobile hotspot. We bought a month to month data plan for it just before our trip, and then cancelled the plan when we were done so we only paid for it while it was needed and we can reactivate it whenever we wish to use it again.
on March 27, 2013
I picked this up at my local AT&T store last week. I needed a reliable hotspot with fast Internet access for my frequent travels away from home, mostly for my laptop and whichever tablet I have on hand (over the years I have acquired an iPad, a Samsung Galaxy Tab, and most recently an Asus VivoTab - basically a more compact version of Microsoft's Surface RT). After relying for years on spotty Internet access at Starbucks, McDonalds, and anyone else offering somewhat free WiFi - and often being frustrated with limited availability or slow/dead connections - I had, last year, started tethering through my iPhone on an AT&T DataPro plan, but I didn't like how quickly it would kill my phone's battery. So, I finally took the dive into a dedicated hotspot on my AT&T plan, and I love the service and the AT&T Unite hardware so far. The 5GB plan is expensive, at $50 per month plus $10 more for each 1GB of over usage, but I have been able to justify it for the work that I am able to get done with it. Here are my impressions of the device and service:
1. It is attractive and compact, about the size and weight of my iPhone 4. The touchscreen offers useful information on AT&T 4G signal strength, amount of data used and number of days left in the service month, and connected devices. It even offers a simple tutorial on its use and configuration. Most actual configuration, however, such as changing the hotspot WiFi broadcast name and password, requires connecting to the device with a PC or tablet Internet browser. The web-based configuration screens are clean and easy to use. I would, though, like to be able to turn off the alert messages that come up on the hardware touchscreen. For instance, I configured the device to offer no "guest" connections (these are connections with a temporary password that you can use to offer a friend or coworker access through the hotspot without telling them the main password that you use from your own devices). I don't plan to use this, but setting it to no guest connections generates a frequent alert, telling me that I have run out of guest connections to offer. It is an annoyance in the software that I hope will be remedied with a future update.
2. The battery life is great. I got over 8 hours of use on my first charge, and it has a replaceable battery, so I plan to buy an extra one in case I need more extended use between charges. The device detects when nothing is connected to it, and it goes to sleep until I tap the power button, which suggests that the claimed 10 days of standby time is realistic.
3. I live in and mostly travel to cities that have good AT&T LTE coverage, so now I am enjoying great speeds. My tests average around 20MB downloads and 4MB uploads, which is more than I need and much faster than the DSL connectivity I'm stuck with at home. It is so much better than the 3G coverage on my iPhone 4 that I now keep the iPhone connected through the hotspot whenever I want to do some heavier browsing on the phone, and it has allowed me to delay upgrade to an LTE-capable handset. I may even drop the phone's data plan to AT&T's least expensive one (I think it is $20 for 300MB monthly). I have had 5 devices (2 Windows PC's, a MacBook Pro, an iPad, and my VivoTab) all accessing the Internet simultaneously through this hotspot, and, as I said above, it is much better at handling all of these devices' Internet traffic than my home DSL. I understand why AT&T dropped their unlimited Internet plans, because if I could I would just drop my home DSL connection and use the Unite device for everything at home.
4. Here is something quite annoying. The AT&T Unite device has a phone number and receives text messages, but there is no way to answer these messages. I understand that the touchscreen is too limited to allow typing, but the web interface should at least allow me to send texts and respond to texts that the device receives. I really hope that AT&T or the manufacturer (Sierra Wireless) enhances the web interface soon to allow text sending and response. One downside of this limitation is that AT&T sent my customer satisfaction survey texts to the Unite device, and I have no way of putting in the 5's that I would have entered to thank the AT&T reps for their excellent service on the day of my purchase.
5. It looks like there are two ports for external antennae, which I look forward to trying out one day after I find out how to purchase this option. So far my signal strengths have allowed me great connection speeds, but I'm sure I will soon find myself someplace where the extra signal boost would be useful or needed to get a reliable connection.
That's about it. Except for the software limits I mentioned above I am very happy with my purchase and the services that I am getting with the AT&T Unite hotspot.
on August 28, 2013
As far as I can tell, the one that was shipped to me was new. It was in AT&T logo packaging sealed with one of those clear plastic, circular seals. There was no SIM in the unit even though the "Package Contents" list printed on the box listed a "Pre-installed SIM card" in the contents list. Everything else in the list was in there.
I had no trouble at all getting a SIM card put in it and getting it activated at a nearby AT&T store.
It's working well on LTE: upwards of 18-20 Mbps from a nearby cell tower a mile or two away ("LTE B17", 700 MHz). I've used it connected via WiFi with a smartphone and two notebooks so far. Solid connections, no hiccups.
Don't know yet how it works on HSPA+ or EDGE.
on September 20, 2013
The good news; this little monster shames both my upgraded home Time Warner internet and my office ATT internet! I normally Speedtest 4.5 to 5 mbps, but this little sweetheart rocked in at 26 mbps! UNHEARD OF! I CAN'T BUY THIS SPEED!
The bad news; range is limited to virtually one room. I am buying the optional antennae to try it. If there were an optional charge and antennae cradle I would be all in.
Still, for this hot ticket to live in your pocket, have all-day battery life AND connect up to 10 units...........
I ran my 52" Sony and 2 laptops playing video to check it out. Trust me, it ROCKS!
If you find a better player, please tell me!
I had the chance to test this Unite mobile hotspot and the Pro version. Both feature the same connectivity speeds (4G and 4GLTE, with 3G fallback), same touchscreen specs, same form factor and interface, so aside from the color, what are the major differences, you are wondering?
Primarily, it's the number of devices you can connect to it. This one allows 10. The Pro allows 15. The Pro has a bigger battery (4020 mAh), allowing for up to 16 hours of use while this one is rated at 10 hours (2500 mAh). Standby and use hours rating is the same, so putting the unit on Standby does nothing to prolong the battery life. If you're not using it for a few hours, I recommend turning it off. Booting takes about 30 seconds, which isn't terrible but it's not a short amount of time. The Pro has "battery boost" which lets you charge an external device. This one does not. I don't imagine many people wanting to drain their hotspot to charge their phone unless it's an emergency, but the option is there.
Speed is more than adequate for one person, whether for work or play. I did not test with multiple users. My primary use case would be to use this on the road or while working outside in the park. Youtube speeds are fine with no playback issues. All videos I tried to play did so without any interruptions due to buffering. Checking emails and normal office work, I'd imagine even the maximum of 10 users on it would not be a problem.
Charging is via a standard USB micro plug. For road warriors, this is a good option for a hotspot that can be shared with friends or co-workers.
on September 9, 2014
I loved my Unite Hotspot until five months ago when it suddenly started to lose connectivity capacity and began to give inaccurate data readings. Unfortunately AT&T Customer Service is usually either clueless or unavailable about this. Techie friend said it's because AT&T wireless networks are now overloaded. I looked for an alternative but AT&T has by far the best coverage for my rural needs so I kept calling, chatting and searching for help. Finally, more than five months and long hours later, my hotspot is working properly again. It was a multi-problem fix. Apparently the local network had tech problems that required multiple trouble tickets and followups. There are also AT&T website tools specifically for this product at http://attunite but no link to this url on the AT&T account management pages and the CS reps also were completely unaware of these resources. Finally, there was a problem with the hotspot SIMS card. I can't give this more than a moderate recommendation because it should never have taken this long to find and fix the problems, but apparently there is nothing wrong with the hotspot itself - just the lack of support.
I received this at no cost through the Vine program. Here are my comments.
1. If like me you are not an existing AT&T customer a 5 GB monthly data plan costs $50/month. However, in order for non AT&T customers to test this out it comes free with 1GB or 30 days, whichever comes first. No credit card information was required, so when my trial expires I won't be automatically charged for a renewal.
2. The registration process for non AT&T customers was relatively simple. I did it on my desktop at work so that I would have a large screen to work with. It's not necessary to do the initial registration on a Wi-Fi device as the directions suggest.
3. This unit is easy and intuitive to use. Browsing speed when connected was good. Of course I also had a 4 bar AT&T signal strength.
4. This was much easier to use than a comparable Verizon unit that I borrowed from neighbor during Hurricane Sandy when I lost my internet for a week. However, as another reviewer notes, AT&T has much more limited coverage than Verizon, so before you buy this you have to consider your travel needs.
5. The unit is lightweight and compact (1 3/4 x 4 1/2 x 9/16 inches), so it's easy to bring for travel. It comes with a micro USB charging cable as well as an AC USB adapter, so you can easily charge this from a standard electrical outlet.
Bottom line: This is an easy way, subject to AT&T coverage, to create a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. However, if you bring this with you when your data plan has expired, you will need internet access through some device in order to purchase a data plan. So if you're going on a trip, it's a good idea to buy the data plan when you're still at home and have easy internet access.
on November 26, 2013
I received my Unite Hotspot today and it's not brand new as expected. The front display panel has several nicks in it, there were messages from the last user still in the messages section and I'm having a difficult time getting it to connect. This is either a refurbished unit which was not specified in the details, or this is a return that was shipped back out.
Update: Mark with TheBestInClass called me and will be sending me a new unit, this appears to be a fluke. Great customer service. Thanks Mark!