Verizon’s new Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

UPDATE April 20, 2011: Can’t get the thing to connect and stay connected on a consistent basis. Am going to return it. Everytime I started it up I had to reboot 3 to 4 times before I could get it to work. My WiFi connected to the device but it wasn’t connecting me to the web. It’s a shame. I really wanted to like this device. I’ll have to give the new Novatel MiFi a try next.

==========================

I have the new Samsung 4G LTE SCH-LC11 Mobile Hotspot and I think I’m liking it OK. It’s definitely fast but seems to be a bit inconsistent. I’m not sure if it’s the device or Verizon’s new 4G LTE network in New York City. It’s fast, has reverted to a 3G connection a few times and has mysteriously shut down three times in the last 10 minutes on its own. We’ll see.

My verdict on the original 3G MiFi back in 2009 was summarized in the headline of the post: I love my Verizon MiFi. I did then and still do. It has been an indispensable device for work and play away from the office or my home.

The Novatel version, the original MiFi was on Verizon’s 3G EVDO network. On a good day I was able to get 1+Mbps down and about that up as well. It really varied and I found depending on the city I was in could range from anything 0.4Mbps – 2Mbps (hit that in Boston once). Not bad. The convenience was terrific and the speeds were decent.

A few weeks ago I got a call from Verizon Wireless, on a Saturday no less, saying that I was eligible for an upgrade to a 4G LTE device. Ah…I’ve been waiting for this. The conversation with the rep took longer than it needed to, I felt like saying to her: I know what I want, you don’t have to sell it.

New data plans

The only pause I had was that I was on an unlimited data plan with the 3G MiFi and was now told that they no longer have that option available for LTE devices. Oh how sneaky.

Verizon has rolled out a couple of new plans for their 4G LTE data devices: 5GB/$50/month and 10GB/$80/month. Granted I rarely went over 2GB in bandwidth per month in the time I used the 3G MiFi, it was too slow to do much in the way of data intensive activities, like streaming movies on NetFlix or downloading lots of large movie files. The new Samsung 4G LTE hotspot could be a total different story though.

So, we’ll see how this goes. I opted for the 5GB plan. Cheaper than what I was paying for unlimited ($60/month) and we’ll see if my consumption habits change now that I have faster bandwidth.

Setting up the Samsung 4G LTE mobile hotspot

Looks like Verizon has figured out that it’s different setting up a data device and a phone. I didn’t have any of the trouble I experienced setting up the original MiFi that I did with this device. The documentation was very clear and it was a simple process of dialing the activation number and following the voice prompts. The only thing you’ll need is the phone number associated with your device. Not that intuitive  since you don’t naturally think that a data device has a number associated with it but I supposed that’s how Verizon keeps track of things.

Speed

OK, so this thing is pretty fast. It seems to take a few tries to get it on the LTE network, literally. My first couple of connects didn’t result in anything special. Finally, I was able to get a pretty decent downlink speed at my office in the Meatpacking District in Manhattan. By decent I mean this:

That’s pretty fast.

It gets better. When I tried it at my apartment, I was able to get this:

That’s faster than my cable averages even though RCN claims that I have the 15Mbps package.

Here’s the problem though. The first time I tried it home it connected to the 3G network. It was painfully slow and didn’t really connect. Switched it off and tried it again. Same thing. Finally, after a few goes it connected to the 4G network and it worked!

It seems that it’s still a bit inconsistent. I’m not sure if this is the device or the network. I’ll see how it goes in the days to come as I use it here. I’ll have a chance to test it in a few major cities in the coming weeks as well.

Mysteriously shuts down

The other thing that is happening is that the device keeps switching off! As I’ve been writing this for the last 30 or so minutes, it’s switched off by itself three times. Not sure what’s going on here. I went into the device configuration and have switched the power option to never go to sleep so it shouldn’t be that. My guess is that they’ll issue a firmware upgrade to address this at some point. It looks like there have been a number of reports of this on Verizon’s own review section of the website.

Initial take

So far it’s mixed. But, it’s only been a few hours. That said, here’s what I like:

1. Set up was painless.

2. Speed is promising, in fact, if it stays like this, I love it.

3. Size and form factor are much like the original MiFi. Slightly larger but great.

Questions I’ll be asking in the coming days:

1. Will this auto-shut down ‘feature’ be resolved?! If not, it’ll be a problem and a return.

2. Will the speed hold up?

3. Battery life? Is it useable?

4. It doesn’t use Verizon’s VZ Manager, which I think is interesting. Meaning it can’t be tethered and can only be used via WiFi. Not sure what this means yet and if I’ll miss it.

5. Will the 5GB limit hurt?

Stay tuned.

UPDATE April 18, 2011: The auto-shut down ‘feature’ seems to have subsided. The 4G LTE bandwidth works much better at home than it does at the office where it was pretty bad today. I suppose the network is new and still rolling out, so that can be expected.

  • Evelyn

    WOW! That is so cool!! We don’t even have it here in Singapore yet. Wait…gahmen knows they are headed for a slaughter in the polls on May 7th…4G roll-out has to wait.

  • akj

    mine keeps shutting down too…anyone found a fix?

  • legman

    goto  http://192.168.1.1
    enter the password for your device (located inside the battery cover)

    go to power and select none…default is to switch off every 30 min.

  • http://www.isaidok.com SirMichael

    That worked for me too.  

  • Plopsujj

    I have the auto-shut down problem. It works for a while, then if I haven’t used it in a while it starts nodding off. Support from Verizon is non-existent. Samsung, after jumping through a bunch of hoops asked for a bunch of info I don’t have. Essentially I feel like driving my truck over it. 

  • http://www.isaidok.com SirMichael

    Yeah, the support is lacking. A lot. What I’ve found is that you need to get in the control panel and make sure that you switch the sleep option off. That helps. Secondly, what I’ve found that it runs into a lot of trouble when you’re moving around and it has to switch between networks from LTE to 3G and back. It tends to stall a lot then.

    I returned the Samsung for the LTE Novatel MiFi. The Novatel version is much better.

  • jacob

    that worked for me!

  • Alb457

    Hi. I just followed your instructions to visit the SCH IP page and change the Power configuration to “none.” So far, it doesn’t seem to have made a difference. I’m about ready to smash this thing with a hammer. I hit “Apply” and the status choice (“none”) seems to have been set. . . but the damn thing is still shutting off every 3-5 minutes while fully charged.

  • Sir Michael

    I’d bring it back, especially if it’s under the return period. I really didn’t like the Samsung model. The Novatel LTE one works much better. It’s the way to go.

  • Jasonfrench1993

    Mines been doing the same thing…. in fact I can’t get it to stay on while charging. I think it shuts down while it charges to prevent damage. It heats up when its on and charging it seems

  • Steve

    I have had the same issues. I got it a few months ago. It would loose signal but even more irritating was the unit just shutting off completely. Many phone calls to verizon later, they sent me a new one. Then it didn’t shut off, but did loose signal and just freezes up. Many more phone calls later, after having tried many things they suggested, like removing the battery and sim card and restarting, they eventually sent me a new sim card. Many more phone calls later and they want me to buy a $200 some dallor devise that boosts the signal. I am told that if the device does not see 4G, it then goes to 3G, which when it does, seems to work ok, slower, but does not freeze up. I am also told that they are not allowed to help us do the manual over ride to set it to 3G when 4G is acting up. So basically, you are stuck paying every month, for something that does not always work. They tell me, “Well look at your bill, you see, you used this many Gigs last month, and this many before that, so it must be working”. But its like this, you can get to work with your car every day, and every one can see your car in the parking lot, and you at your desk. But if you had to get out and push the fucking car a couple of blocks ever once in a while because it kept shutting off, you wouldn’t be too fucking happy. But hey, whats the problem, your at work, and your car got you there (sort of) right? I don’t blame the actual customer care people who are as polite as they can be, literally, they get rated by follow up calls asking if we had good service, so they do what they can, but they can’t do anything except try to be as nice as they can so they don’t get a bad review. Some where up the chain of comand, someone needs to have the chain wrapped around their neck and dragged around a bit until they say uncle. Fix the fucking problem, or stop selling crap. They must figure it a bit like Micro Soft, sell it and fix the bugs as we go. Patches, firmware updates, what ever you call it, most people can’t run a business that way, At least at Wallmart, if it doesn’t work, you just bring it back. Here, 2year contract, gotcha sucker! So typing this right at the moment, is a bit like looking out the window at my car in the parking lot, its there all right. yep.