Sprint Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot by Sierra Wireless

6 04 2011

Hotspot Dashboard - Click to Enlarge

Sprint offer a wireless hotspot device for their 3g and 4g networks. I took a device on evaluation from Sprint recently and tested how well it worked at my home. My address is not listed as supported for Clearwire wireless internet, which is the same network as the Sprint 4g devices use. So I was interested to see how well it would work.

AT&T DSL Speeds - Click to Enlarge

First I tested the speed of my AT&T DSL broadband as a comparison between wireless and land-line capability. My DSL is marginal where I live (which seems to apply to any service I have looked into). DSL Download/Upload speeds achieved were 2.35 Mb down and 0.32 Mb up. Pretty pedestrian by today’s broadband offerings and demands from services such as Netflix streaming.

Sprint 3g Speeds - Click to Enlarge

I then switched on the Sprint Hotspot device. It sync’d using 3g only. Power cycling didn’t encourage it to connect to 4g at all. Maybe my home is just too far out. The speeds I got with Sprint 3g are 0.33 Mb Down and 0.24 Mb Up. Very slow indeed. I got much better speeds using my Droid as a tethered modem using Verizon wireless 3g network.

Perturbed by the very slow speeds I decided read the manual and discovered where the factory reset button is. Being an eval unit someone ahead of me may have set some weird and wonderful setting. After a successful reset and reboot the device immediately connected to the 4G network. I checked the firmware, it is up to date, all it needed was a factory reset.

Sprint 4g - Click to Enlarge

The signal strength varied between 20% and 40%, so my address is clearly marginal for Sprint. I tested the performance and got 4.92 Mbs Down and 0.92 Mbs Up. Much better and superior to my AT&T DSL. This is fast enough to support HD quality movie streaming from Netflix and others. I am due to get uVerse installed in a few days so will update this post with those speeds as a direct comparison.

The hotspot device can be used as a Wifi hotspot supporting up to 5 clients, or as a tethered device. The management console is clear and easy to use. I was able to change from WEP encryption to WPA2 easily enough, the unit rebooted after this change and worked just fine.

I switched on GPS location to see how that would work. The unit consistently failed to get a GPS lock inside my home. My Motorola Droid never has issues, so the GPS sensitivity for this device seems poor.

The device looks like a hockey puck, is reasonably light and is easily thrown into a laptop bag. It uses a universal Micro USB charger, so you don’t need to carry its charging cable/wall plug if you already have one for your phone or other device(s). As standard the device comes with a quick start guide. To get the full manual, one needs to download this from Sprints support website.

Compared to Verizon wireless LTE, the Sprint network is a step behind in terms of raw speed. Reports of 10Mb down and 3 Mb up on Verizon LTE hotspots reveal that the Verizon 4g is a step above the older Sprint/Clearwire 4g. Speed isn’t everything though. Verizon put a 10GB monthly cap on their hotspot devices, Sprint’s claim to fame is that their unlimited means truly unlimited. So if you want to stream Netflix movies and therefore consume large amounts of bandwidth, the Spring hotspot device makes better financial sense.

If AT&T U-verse disappoints, I will seriously consider a Clearwire modem or this 4g hotspot from Sprint. As much as I like LTE from Verizon and already being  a Verizon customer, the 10GB cap would be way too restrictive for my home internet needs. Sprint have made the right choice in not placing caps on their wireless service, no one wants an unexpected bill at the end of the month because you used ‘too much’ bandwidth. 10GB is hardly classifiable as hogging bandwidth in this day and age. A 10GB cap on a individual smartphone sounds OK, but on a  hot spot, it’s outlandish. Congratulations to Sprint for getting this right, shame on Verizon.





How to get a replacement Belt Clip for the ‘obsolete’ Driod.

18 01 2011

If you own the original Droid, getting accessories has become more difficult. Verizon do not stock accessories for the Droid now that they no longer sell the phone. (They now sell the Droid X or Droid 2). This is a little frustrating since I am still under contract for another 8 months, not stocking accessories for phones less than 2 years old and still under contract leaves the customer at sea.

I recently broke my belt clip and looked for a cheaper generic belt clip. I soon found they often use a magnet to hold them closed, which puts the Droid into driving or desktop modes. So I tried the local Verizon store only to be told I was out of luck, they no longer sell Droid accessories.

I was about to leave the store when I noticed a Droid 2 belt clip. I enquired if it would fit. ‘No’ was the answer, ‘the Droid 2 has buttons in a different location’. I asked if could try and soon discovered the holster fits the original Droid like a glove. It is the front and rear snap on components that don’t fit the original Droid. My belt clip was broken at the holster, the snap on components are just fine and match the new holster both in color and design.

Problem solved.

Don’t readily accept a no from a Verizon sales rep, they only want to sell new stuff. I won’t sign a two year contract again either. A one year contract is plenty long enough given the pace of change in the smart phone marketplace and the rapid abandonment of the products by all involved





Skype on Android / Verizon = Crippleware

27 03 2010

At long last Skype is available on my Droid!!!! The news on the new app is Good, Bad and Ugly.

Click to enlarge

The Good.

  1. Cheap calls to international destinations directly from your cell phone. This is Huge!
  2. Skype calls do not use any of your wireless plan minutes. Yak all day long if you want to! Especially useful for those long tech support calls to 1-800 numbers during peak hours.
  3. All of your Skype contacts are automatically imported/synced when you sign-in to Skype.
  4. Contact presence is indicated. The online contacts filter to the top of the list, just like with the desktop application.
  5. Call Quality is good.
  6. It’s available at last – Yippee!!!

The Bad Read the rest of this entry »





No WiFi? Tether your Droid and use it as a Broadband Modem

30 01 2010

We’ve all been there, you visit a holiday home or a business and no public internet is available. Maybe the Hotel or Airport you’re at want to sell you a full days access just for the few hours you’ll be there.

Tethering computers to your cell phone is one way to overcome this, and with the Droid or another 3G cell phone one can achieve pretty decent data rates. So how is it done?

PDA Net

Click to Enlarge

Visit PDA Net and download their PC/Mac client software and install it. It will prompt you to connect your phone using its USB cable or connect via  Bluetooth when it is ready to install the software on your phone. On Android phones such as the Droid, it is necessary to switch the phones USB mode to debugging mode for PDA Net to work. (Debugging mode is accessible via the phones setting menu, Applications, then Development). The advantage of using a USB cable is that the phone will be charged at the same time you are using the internet on your laptop, giving you hours of use.

Read the rest of this entry »





Resolving outgoing email problems with Yahoo! email Plus on a Droid

12 01 2010

Update 2010-04-01

The new android 2.1 firmware for the droid has resolved all the email issues I was having with my droid on Yahoo email. Deleting messages on the droid really does delete off the yahoo account and vice versa. Reading in one place updates the message read indication on the other. It really works like you’d expect it to. The new update is really worth it for yahoo mail users on a droid. For further information on getting the update now visit here.

Original Article:

Verizon do not support Yahoo email on the Droid. They do on a Blackberry, but not the Droid, and with good reason, it is unreliable.

Outgoing email can easily get stuck in the Droid’s outbox. I found that email could sit there ‘forever’, but switching the phone off and on again would temporarily resolve the problem and mail would be sent. Not wanting to power off the droid every time I sent email from my Yahoo account on the Droid, I looked for another solution.

The solution is to stop using the Yahoo SMTP (Outgoing email) servers and use another service that is compatible with the Droid. Read the rest of this entry »





How Accurate is Google Latitude?

10 12 2009

Google latitude is a service Google offer to its mobile Google Maps customers. Latitude is able to optionally transmit and/or track a cell phones(and hence the owners) location.

It’s accuracy depends directly on how accurate the phones location tracking is. Some phones have fairly accurate GPS systems allowing for turn by turn applications, others are ‘approximations’ based upon triangulation of the adjacent cell phone towers. Nothing surprising or earth shattering here, however I was interested how far off the triangulation location is on the Blackberry 8830.  Even if you have very accurate GPS, how much can you depend on the present location of contacts you share location data with?

If your contacts don’t have accurate GPS on their phones, their location is very approximate. In addition to preciseness of GPS functionality of the phone itself, Google Maps/Latitude drops into low precision mode when you are running it as a background application. See here. So even if you do have great GPS,  results may not be that accurate.

Density of cell towers where you are located appears to have the greatest impact on accuracy if your phone uses triangulation. At home it is accurate within 1/2 mile most of the time. At work near the airport at  Gallatin TN, I found it can be off by as much as 10 Miles!! Latitude History maps are shown below.

Poor accuracy when in low density cell tower zone

Reasonable accuracy with a higher density of cell towers

In the map on the left I was stationary for several hours at a location with a poor signal. The map on the right has a tighter cluster of points close to my home and the route to work, where I had a stronger signal and was closer to more cell towers. Google’s website indicates that it will typically default to the local cell tower location when you run it as  a background application. If that were true I’d expect a  cluster of points at the same spot while I was present at work and not that mobile. Clearly that did not happen.

Latitude will be of more value when all cell phones have true GPS. That day hopefully is not too far away. My next phone from Verizon maybe the Droid, I’d hope it to be more accurate than the 2+ year old Blackberry 8830 I currently have.

Update:2010-01-23 – I got the Droid.

On the Motorola Droid the GPS while Google Maps is running in foreground is wonderfully accurate, and even has the ability for a digital compass pointer. The problem comes when it runs in background, as I described earlier Google Maps drops into low precision mode, so I found my location could be off by several miles. No better than the Blackberry 8830 without GPS. The features on the Droid are superior however. Better map resolution, better traffic data, more map layers. I found the GPS Status App for the droid to be a nice app for troubleshooting GPS issues and it doubles as a compass and altimeter. The droid is accurate to 6 feet according to the GPS Status app.