Traveling internationally can be complicated when it comes to always finding reliable and constant WiFi connectivity for one's smartphones and portable computers.
Sure, many cities, airports, restaurants and tourist destinations have adequate to good free WiFi access, but travelers will often find frustrating dead spots where they'll have no connectivity for periods of time, making it impossible to check their email or check websites for needed information in a foreign land.
In a world where we are used to constant WiFi access at home and work, that can be maddening.
As I was preparing for a recent trip to Japan to tour Panasonic's Toughbook factory in Kobe, mobile 4G hotspot vendor RoamingMan contacted me to see if I wanted to test their portable device to see how it performed. Their timing was perfect so I agreed to accept a device to review during my trip.
When I departed for Japan earlier in November, I was equipped with one of RoamingMan's first-generation 4G portable WiFi hotspot units, which is shaped like a basic model iPhone, but is almost three times as thick.
This gave it a rather bulky feel when carried in a pocket. But a newer model currently available from RoamingMan is much thinner, more like a typical smartphone making it easier to carry. I ended up carrying the thicker older model in a jacket pocket or backpack pocket, where it still worked efficiently but was easier to carry around.
The thicker old-style version of the mobile hotspot allows users to charge their smartphones from the built-in battery, which was a trade-off for its thicker size. I never used the battery as a phone charger because I carry spare batteries for my older LG V10 phone. The new thinner version of the hotspot does not provide phone charging capabilities.
How did it work on the road?
I turned the hotspot on and it quickly showed its network name and password on a small display screen, which once entered in my phone immediately allowed me to connect to the internet. The device worked well in every place I used it, from hotel rooms in Osaka and Tokyo as well as while sightseeing in Kyoto and touring the Panasonic factory in Kobe, Japan. It even worked from the 46th floor observation deck of a government office tower in Tokyo and in parts of the subway system below the city.
I was able to easily access Google Maps, check email, post updates on Facebook and run web searches for places to eat and visit.
One of my colleagues was having trouble finding free local WiFi in Tokyo one night so I allowed him log into my RoamingMan device and connect to the roaming service during our evening excursion in the city. Up to five devices can connect to RoamingMan at one time, extending its usefulness for travelers. I also connected my Surface Pro 3 tablet and a second smartphone as well with excellent results.
RoamingMan says its 4G mobile hotspot connects using "cloud SIM" technology, which replaces the need for users to acquire local SIM cards for their phones when traveling.