Burnt Nipples And Battery Blues: The Downside Of 3G Wi-Fi Hotspots

Burnt Nipples And Battery Blues: The Downside Of 3G Wi-Fi Hotspots

A 3G Wi-Fi hotspot can be a really handy way of getting Internet on the road, especially if you need to connect multiple devices. Just don’t expect it to work for a long time — and don’t put it in your shirt pocket.

I’ve recently been testing Telstra’s Elite Mobile prepaid Wi-Fi device, which was launched earlier this month. There’s a lot to like about it: the design is pretty much foolproof even for a confirmed gadget breaker like me, and you don’t need any specialised software to connect it. (That makes it a very straightforward choice if you want to run Linux on your notebook, for starters.) The network performance is also up to the usual high Telstra standard.

Despite that, there are two reasons why I don’t think I’ll be swapping permanently from a 3G dongle to a Wi-Fi device any time soon. The first is that the battery life isn’t that impressive. During my recent and unexpectedly extended stay on the Gold Coast, I used the Elite Mobile while I was hanging around the airport waiting to learn what happened. My notebook battery worked fine over that five hour period and still had charge to spare, but a fully-charged Elite ran out two-thirds of the way through — and I was only connecting to a single device at the time. Having to recharge the device every single day would make it rather less convenient, but that seems like a necessity.

The second reason I’ve been put off is that I don’t want singed nipple hairs. This device runs hot — so hot that I could easily feel it on my chest when I had it in my jacket pocket, even with two layers of fabric in between. Frankly, that’s just not a good look. I definitely don’t want to risk putting it in my jeans pocket and being forced to order a “SCORCHED NADS” headband shortly thereafter. And in a crowded airport, leaving it sitting on a desk or table isn’t really an option.

I’m not singling out the Telstra model for special criticism here; by all accounts, running warm isn’t an unusual feature of these devices. But it’s enough of an issue that I feel like a connected dongle is going to work better for me.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman decided to eliminate medically offensive photography from this post. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


    • I’ve never experienced such problems with the Netcomm Myzone. I’m using it with a telstra sim and never had heating problems, like you I’m also putting it in my shirt pocket. Battery life is also decent, it lasts up to 5 hours when I use it with my mobile or laptop (although I tend to use only one at a time

  • I use the Telstra Ultimate dongle and I plug it into the Netcomm 3GT1WN device which sits in my bag with room for airflow.

    i have also obtained a spare battery for it because it uses a Fujifilm camera battery the NP120.

    It looks ungainly but you can use any 3G dongle and any OS that can use WiFi including iOS devices.


  • I have a Vodafone Pocket Wifi and it suits my needs perfectly. I have an iPod Touch and hate mobile contracts plus don’t want to buy an iPhone outright and so on.. I also have a netbook that I “occasionally” use but it’s the iTouch that I use the most. There’s no way to stick a dongle into an iTouch, so the Pocket Wifi is perfect for that. I always knew the battery wouldn’t be long.. and since I only use it for short periods (1 or 2 hours would be the absolute max on a single day) it works out perfectly.

    They’re not perfect.. but the other thing they are great for is getting rid of the expensive and slow Unwired service for those of us who STILL can’t get ADSL in Australia. My mother is one of those people, so she was delighted to get the Vodafone Pocket Wifi.. it cut her costs and the connection was far superior.

  • I bought a similar virgin hotspot that I used before the iphone wifi hotspot was released. I now normally stick to bluetooth – iphone connection as I can leave it in my pocket and connect straight from the laptop.

    For the battery issue there are AA battery – usb chargers you can get that are compact and can double or triple your distance on these devices if you are a real road warrior.

    But for simply checking e-mails and surfing the net and reducing the number of devices I have to tote around you can’t beat Telstra’s 2 gig data pack on iphone or android for internet on the go.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!