Welcome to the Weekly Cornerplay, a guest column where we review a gadget or tech product or service.
I need a dumb phone with only five features: phone calls, SMS, mobile hotspot, long battery life and slim profile.
Here’s why: I travel a lot, so require a local SIM to make calls and text. However, I’d like to still be able to receive calls and texts with my main number, so I usually carry a second phone for overseas use. This works passably well in that the second phone acts as a hotspot and I can use my main phone with data for WhatsApp, LINE, etc.
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The downside is that internet tethering is a big battery drain, and the second phone runs out quickly. I don’t need the phone’s other features — touch screen, camera, GPS, camera, etc. — for all those things I have my main phone. What if the second device doesn’t do anything else except calling, texting and acting as hotspot, so it can dedicate its entire battery to just those things? Like an old school Nokia phone, just with super-sized battery and 4G internet tethering capabilities.
Instead of multiple plans, I focus all the data I need in one. When you buy a lot of data for one plan, it becomes significantly cheaper.
I wish a manufacturer will step up and make this phone.
Recently, I was browsing an electronics store and found the next best thing: a Huawei 5730 Mobile WiFi Hotspot.
This device doesn’t make phone calls or text unfortunately, but it performs internet tethering with a SIM card well. It supports 3G and HSPA+ and doesn’t support LTE, but for the countries I travel to the former is good enough. You can connect up to 10 devices with it. This is useful because when my team of five travels for work, everyone can just connect to this for internet. In my time testing this device, connectivity worked just fine.
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The Huawei also has a huge 5,200 mAh battery. By comparison, an iPhone 5S only has 1,570 mAh. I travelled over the weekend and the device was able to easily last the whole day without recharging. This is important to me — some of the alternatives have smaller batteries and cost less, but what use is a hotspot that runs out in five hours of connectivity? This baby can last 16 hours. It can also double as a power bank if you need it to.
An extra bonus is that it has a standard Ethernet port, so if you are in an area that has LAN but no WiFi, this can still work. You may laugh at the notion of no WiFi, but in Southeast Asia, it happens more than you think, especially in office buildings.
The device is also extremely easy to use. It only has one button.
While well made, the Huawei is relatively thick. You cannot fit both a phone and the device in one jeans’ pocket. It will fit a pocket on its own, but it will feel bulky. Fortunately, when I travel, I usually carry a bag, so I just leave the device in the bag and forget about it.
The other big downside is that the Huawei 5730 can’t make phone calls, so that might force me to carry a second phone. Even that situation offers an advantage. I can buy two pre-paid plans: one without data and one focussed on data. Two specialised plans tend to be more economical than a blended plan that has everything. Nevertheless, now that more people have smartphones, perhaps I can get away with just data.
The Huawei 5730 is quite expensive at about US$125. There is a substantially cheaper alternative offered by TP-Link, but it is atrociously ugly and even bulkier.
Overall, this was a great buy. It isn’t the perfect device but it solves a major problem for me.
The author, Jeffrey Yuwono, blogs at the The Cornerplay, a blog about tech, gadgets and entrepreneurship.
The views expressed here are of the author, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them
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