Be your own 'hotspot'

About a decade ago, I received a T-shirt from Sprint with the words "I am your hotspot" prominently emblazoned across the front. It became my favorite T-shirt because it exuded geekiness!

Our smartphones are always connected to the internet, aka the cloud, because the utility of a smartphone goes beyond just making/receiving phone calls and text messages.

Before the advent of smartphones, you paid for talk time and text messages allotted monthly; in marketing parlance they were “metering” how much you yapped and texted. Although metering exists for non-smartphone users and some providers still use this business model, the industry’s preference seems to require smartphone users to select a “mobile data” plan while talk and text are advertised as unlimited (i.e. unmetered).

Although the lines are blurred due to messaging apps offering telephone-like functionality, for telephone calls and text messages a smartphone connects to the good ol’ cellular network that has been around since cell phone services became available. Apps, on the other hand, use mobile data to connect to the cloud over the mobile network from the same provider. Smartphones can also use Wi-Fi networks, when available in your home or at establishments offering public Wi-Fi, without depleting the monthly mobile data allotment.

You can think of monthly mobile data allotment as “buckets” of varying sizes. Every month a new bucket of the size you chose when you signed up for service is filled with mobile data. In the absence of Wi-Fi, your smartphone uses mobile data from that bucket to connect to the internet.

I suspect some of you also run into situations where a Wi-Fi connection is not available but you need to use your other devices such as a laptop or a tablet that can only connect to the cloud using Wi-Fi. Solution?

Turn your smartphone into a “hotspot” where it advertises itself as an available Wi-Fi connection to those devices you want to connect; remember it still uses your mobile data bucket. I use hotspot a lot when I’m on the road and free public Wi-Fi usually offered at libraries, coffee shops and other establishments is not available.  

Another way to connect your Wi-Fi only devices is to use a dedicated “mobile hotspot” gadget which provides the same functionalities I described above without using a smartphone.

In Bay Village and Westlake we have great resources for keeping seniors connected, engaged and happy. Among those resources are the libraries. As a testimony to the extraordinary value provided by area libraries, I carry at least four library cards on my keyring. I frequent them and also utilize their digital-world service offerings from the comfort of my home.

While surfing Westlake Porter Public Library’s website recently, I was elated to read about a new service where WPPL patrons can rent mobile hotspot devices that uses the Sprint network! Without even owning a smartphone you can test out the convenience of being able to connect your Wi-Fi only device such as a tablet to the cloud. Nice job, WPPL, for bringing this service to your patrons!

Tak Sato

Strategist with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder for the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, and Founder of geek with a heart with the service mark "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 10, Issue 6, Posted 10:11 AM, 03.20.2018