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TheStreet Open House

Review: Novatel Wireless Liberate MiFi on AT&T

Stocks in this article: TAAPLRIMMVZGOOGMSFT

The preferable way to change the MiFi settings, such as the WiFi network name and password, among every setting imaginable, is on a PC's Web page -- as with any other portable WiFi hotspot. In this regard, the device's touch display doesn't really add any value.

Here is what the device should have had instead of a terrible touch response to the display: Either apps for the popular smartphones, or a Web page that's optimized for a smartphone browser. Companies such as Apple and Netgear offer this for their WiFi router products.

I am not going to change the settings on this crummy touch-display anyway, so that means that it will get done on the PC, as with any other WiFi hotspot. It would have been nice if Novatel Wireless had moved the ball forward and simply made it work on any smartphone -- or for that matter tablet -- in an optimized (finger-friendly) manner, as opposed to a PC screen optimized for a mouse/trackpad pointer.

Furthermore, one has to wonder about the effort put into the visible operating system of this MiFi. We now live in an age where (1) Android is free, and (2) Samsung has just launched its first Android-based camera. Why can't this MiFi simply run on off-the-shelf available Android?

An Android-based MiFi doesn't need to be anything fancy. Android 1.5 in 2008 was already miles ahead of the OS on this MiFi. Today, Android 2.3 would do, let alone 4.0, 4.1 or 4.2. It would also probably be cheaper, given that Novatel Wireless wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. More importantly, it would probably also be a more stable product. Even more importantly, there would probably also be an off-the-shelf touchscreen available with acceptable touch response.

Here is what we have established thus far: The Novatel Wireless Liberate MiFi for AT&T is a great product in terms of the basic physics -- form factor and capabilities -- except for the horrific touch response and mediocre OS.

The good news here is that once you have set up the device -- on the PC -- you really don't have to do anything more than turn it on and off, so the negative aspects don't impact you very much.

Connectivity

Now for the final piece of the puzzle: Connectivity. Basically, how does the AT&T LTE network perform on this device? Does it pipe the bandwidth through the network to the end user device(s) in an acceptable manner?

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