From Japan, a mobile data revelation.

DoCoMo L-03E

You kind of expect to have your mind blown in the futuristic technological utopia that is Japan. But this time around it wasn’t the super-fast Shinkansen or even the high-tech toilets; for me, all the magic came from that little black box you see above.

You’ll recall my bitching and moaning about how ridiculously expensive prepaid data SIMs are for non-Japanese residents. Because my girlfriend and I both took our phones, I ended up renting a personal hotspot instead, the LG L-03E. Of course it didn’t deliver anywhere near the advertised 100Mbps download speeds, but it did prove to be a dependable source for fast LTE data. An example of the results:

DoCoMo LTE Speeds

Pretty damn impressive, particularly for someone like me who’s not had the pleasure of LTE service before this.

But it gets better… With the cellular radio turned off my Nexus 4 could endure an entire day of heavy use on a single battery charge — this despite the widely-acknowledged fact that battery life on Android devices is generally crap.

Likewise, the big 3600mAh battery on DoCoMo’s hotspot never let me down. I was expecting a fair amount of wake-from-sleep issues, but except for a few hiccups a fast data connection was always ready and waiting for the two handsets (plus one tablet) with us on the trip.

Now here’s the mind-blowing part: Despite all the bloatware on smartphones, the extra services that nobody wants and the deliberate billing obfuscations — what the hell are “anytime rollover minutes”?! — the inescapable future for all wireless carriers is to be dumb pipes for data. And these portable hotspots/MiFis/whatever you want to call them is the realization of that very thing. In plain English, why pay a surcharge for data on your phone when you can unbundle the data altogether and move it to a dedicated device?

It worked amazingly well for our two weeks in Japan, and I’m giving serious consideration to using a similar setup back here at home.

Serious consideration