Mobile Data Versus Pocket Wi-Fi. Which One Should I Use?


Today our world’s more mobile. More of us are on the move than ever. In some ways this is great, no more sitting in a stiff computer chair when you can work on the couch‚ in a cafe‚ or beyond.

The trade-off is connectivity becomes a bigger challenge. As the world becomes more mobile, deciding which option is best for staying online becomes harder. In the absence of a public Wi-Fi connection, it comes down to mobile data versus pocket Wi-Fi.

So which one is the best option for you? Let’s look now.

Why Mobile Data?

It’s not news smartphones are popular. Smartphones are good because they’re essentially universal. Everyone carries one, and everyone always has it on them. In fact, stats from January 2018 hold 51.92% of web traffic now comes via smartphone -and that stat is only set to grow.

For those seeking a quick and simple online hookup, using your smartphone as a hotspot can be great. It’s actually the default choice for many needing portable Wi-Fi.

But smartphones can be bad. There’s the low battery issues. There’s the clash with other apps. There can even be a dreaded auto-update that can shut down your phone for an hour unexpectedly.

Smartphones may be preferable but they’re not invulnerable as your portable online solution. 

Why Pocket Wi-Fi?

To many people, a pocket Wi-Fi is the digital equivalent of a can opener. Sure it’s useful, but you don’t always need to carry one with you, right?  And it is another thing to carry.

Your phone. Your keys. Your money and credit card. There are so many things you can comfortably carry on your person at one time – and even if you are using a bag or a purse to lug all you need around – the case for carrying another device when you already have your phone is a hard sell. So, why would you?

You carry a pocket Wi-Fi because you seek a particular feature (or features) a phone won’t offer. A pocket Wi-Fi doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a smartphone, but that can be an advantage. It frees up your phone for use if you need to use multiple devices at once. Also, for those who feel they’re simply addicted to their smartphone and like to work away from the perpetual temptation to check their social media? A pocket Wi-Fi is your answer.

A pocket Wi-Fi is also good as it can offer a long battery life than a smartphone. It can (though not always, so check with your provider) offer a better deal on data usage than your existing smartphone plan. Pocket Wi-Fi’s are also easy to pass around the office in an emergency to get connectivity going on. Nobody is going to be passing around their smartphone with all their private data (and a super big Candy Crush high score).

Finally, a pocket Wi-Fi can also provide extra peace of mind. Whether you’re away from your ‘main’ internet connection once a week – or you’re a remote worker travelling away from home for many years! – a pocket Wi-Fi provides a backup network connection in case your main smartphone provider’s signal fails. If your smartphone totally fails? Your pocket Wi-Fi can serve as a backup to write a quick email and update social media letting others know your phone is out temporarily. 

Do Any Other Options Exist?

While the debate between mobile data versus pocket Wi-Fi may be the most prominent one in this area‚ other options exist.  Many tablets like the iPad come with the option of a SIM card and an independent data connection. In a pinch it can serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot when needed.

There are also many professionals who are unable to find a dual SIM phone they like‚ and regularly operate two phones‚ with a separate network and data plan on each. It’s a reality too the differences in data charges can vary widely around the world, and that can influence whether a smartphone or pocket Wi-Fi is the best way to get online. Finally, there’s the question of publicly available Wi-Fi connections.

Public Wi-Fi is not usually a wise thing to rely on, but if you’re so fortunate to be working in a smart city with a universal internet connection? Then the public offering could be a good backup.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

For all the talk surrounding remote work’s growth, most of us still work at a regular desk. For now. This means seeing organisation-wide change here isn’t as urgent as much as sorting yourself out personally. Ultimately, while bad things do happen to good people, it does take a real spot of bad luck to:

  1. Have no smartphone Wi-Fi
  2. Have no pocket Wi-Fi
  3. Be far away from an alternative connection you can use

Nonetheless, having a guarantee of a constant connection is essential. Especially as the need can arise unexpectedly. Even an internet connection in-office can experience tech issues. The good folks in IT may be working to fix it quickly, but if they can’t it can create huge headaches. In circumstances like this, having a backup Wi-Fi in your desk drawer can be a lifesaver.  Especially if you’ve colleagues nearby who also need to get back online rapidly. Such resourcefulness and helpfulness to your colleagues can really pay off when its 3pm and you’re one coin short at the vending machine.

Let’s Make a Connection

There’s just one golden rule when it comes to having internet access when you need it: whatever you do don’t get caught out. Nobody is saying you need to be anchored to an online device 24/7 – in fact there’s much to be said for disconnecting and refreshing now and then – but being stuck offline when you need to be online is a huge issue.

For this reason, many professionals ultimately value the best of both worlds when travelling.  One device to use regularly, and one to serve as backup. This can be particularly good if they’re on a separate network as it can offer more choice in prices, speed, and connectivity when mobile.

Ed Kennedy is a journalist and ghostwriter from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via on Skype or LinkedIn.