I got an email from Karma today indicating that their new Neverstop program, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, has just gone live. This program offers literally unlimited 4G WiFi bandwidth throttled to 5 megabits per second, for up to three devices at a time, via the Karma Go personal hotspot that you carry with you. I go into more detail about it in the aforementioned post I linked.
I’ve already decided that Neverstop isn’t for me, unless I suddenly start using a lot more bandwidth via my Karma. Nonetheless, the Karma Go is certainly an economical device for anyone who does fit that usage pattern—or who, like me, uses bandwidth more sparingly under the pay-per-gig “Refuel” plan.
In the several months I’ve been using it, I’ve noticed my own mobile usage patterns have changed a bit. I used to look for WiFi networks first, even when I was using my old 3G MiFi. The MiFi was simply too slow to get a huge amount of use out of, but it was a lot better than nothing, especially when traveling. But now, I effectively take Internet connectivity for granted. I’ve logged into my Karma Go from all my major wireless devices—phone, Nexus 7, Kindle Fire—and I usually run my Karma whenever I’m out and about, so hopping online is simply a matter of pulling out my tablet and hopping on. Sometimes I don’t even bother hooking onto the hotspot of whatever restaurant or café I’m in, especially if I’m only going to be there for a short time. It’s like I don’t even have to think about my tablets as WiFi-only limited connectivity devices anymore, because now they can connect to the Internet anywhere I can get a cellular data signal.
It’s even fast enough to watch streaming video. I’ll often stop at a local brewpub for supper after work, watching Agents of SHIELD or The Flash or Arrow on my tablet via my Karma Go. (The brewpub’s WiFi isn’t fast enough for reliable video streaming, but my Karma is.) It’s an enjoyable way of catching up with my shows in a comfortable setting with great food.
There are a couple of things about the Karma that do annoy me a little—for example, often when I log on the first time in a day, my device demands that I open my browser to the login window, as it does with any captive portal such as a public hotspot where I have to hit a button to log in. In actuality, since my device automatically logs in once it’s presented with the window, the browser window just pops up long enough to tell me “Internet magic is happening” and I’m logged in—but it’s a necessary step to log in, so I do have to open the browser for that device. I can’t just log in automatically without any attention.
Another thing is that the router sometimes gets on a little awkwardly with “smart” USB chargers. If a charger is smart enough to try to regulate the voltage it feeds a device so as to prevent overcharging when the battery is full, that can conflict with the Karma’s own internal charge regulation system. Also, the Karma stops drawing power on its own when it thinks it’s full, which can result in “smart” chargers or batteries turning themselves off, which means you can run your Karma out of power while still physically plugged into a completely full battery or live charger.
One thing about the Karma Go that does not annoy me is the unencrypted nature of the router. I had been a little concerned about that at first, but it turns out that wireless routers are no longer the completely wide-open all-connections-on-one-network devices that were unencrypted routers of old. The Karma uses a system called client isolation that effectively locks each connection away on its own private network—you can’t sniff one connection from another with a tool like aircrack, because there’s simply nothing out there to sniff.
So if you’re concerned about the hazards of running a wide-open unencrypted public router, which lets anyone connect to it for free Internet, don’t be. The worst that could happen is that someone else might connect up and hog your bandwidth by streaming video—but you’re not paying for their bandwidth, so all that means is your own connection might run a little more slowly for a while. And given that almost every connection you get is going to be from someone who only has 100 megabytes of free bandwidth and won’t be interested in buying more—after all, they don’t know how long you’re going to be in the area to use it—the effect is going to be limited overall.
Anyway, in my experience, that sort of connection-sharing tends to happen pretty rarely. In all the time I’ve had my Karma, I’ve only had a couple of dozen total stranger connections altogether. The amount of extra bandwidth I got out of it has been negligible. (I’ve earned considerably more by having 130 people so far use my Karma referral code to save them $10 and earn me $10 on their $149 routers.) So I wouldn’t even worry about it. Seriously, put it out of your head. Forget about the Karma as a way to bring public WiFi to other needy people, and just enjoy it for the contract-free 4G connectivity and quite reasonable bandwidth costs. You don’t have to be concerned about what benefits others are getting out of it to get some good use out of it yourself.