Roam Mobility Liberty Hotspot

Liberty Hotspot on an iPhone 4S

Earlier this year, I was able to try out the Liberty Hotspot from Roam Mobility while at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

Liberty Hotspot

Anytime I travel in the US, it’s always a hassle to stay connected without incurring huge roaming fees. I’ve written about some of the work arounds I’ve used including unlocked phones with iPad sims but it always feels like a hack.

The US carriers (as well as those in Canada), make it very difficult to legitimately purchase temporary data only plans for travellers from out of country. Often, the systems in place to purchase these plans require US credit cards and/or US addresses with no options to accept postal codes, provinces, etc.

They also keep changing the rules and costs so it’s a constant thing you need to get reacquainted with every time you travel. Just try asking at a mobile kiosk or store as well, it’s usually met with blank stares or attempts to sign you for a monthly plan.

So what is the Liberty?
Basically, the Liberty is a mobile wifi hotspot. It acts like a wifi router giving up to five devices internet access via wifi that it broadcasts. You choose your plan before you leave Canada (although you can do it online from anywhere), then the hotspot is active for the time your purchased. You can setup your own hotspot name and password easily via a web interface once the device is powered on.

As you can see, it’s very compact (smaller than an iPhone 4S as you can see below), and fits easily in your pocket. It has a small lcd display that tells you signal strength, battery left (just like a cell phone would) and the number of connected devices. The battery lasts easily 8+ hours and uses a standard micro-USB cord to charge. You can plug it into your computer, a wall outlet or your car to get wifi on the go.

Liberty hotspot vs iPhone 4S

The plans are fairly reasonable and much cheaper than any adhoc roaming options I’ve seen from any Canadian carrier. They aren’t cheaper than a pay as you go plan on AT&T or similar but as I’ve mentioned, there are always all kinds of hoops to jump through to be able to use those cheaper plans. The nice thing about the Liberty is also that it doesn’t require an unlocked phone to work…although you’ll only get data and not voice/txt if you go this route. If you have an unlocked phone, you can also get a SIM card from Roam and they also have complete phones you can buy that give you voice and text support.

My only beef with the service is that there is no way to determine how much data you have left other than calling or using their online chat feature (which works really well as I’ve used it a couple of times).

I was loaned a hotspot for SXSW but I liked it so much I bought my own when I got back. I’ve used it many times over the course of the year and it has worked great every time.

Update (April 23, 2013): Roam will have nano SIM cards available this May (perfect for an unlocked iPhone 5) and they can found in over 400 retail stores (now including London Drugs) across six provinces. See their Where To Buy page for more details

8 Comments

  1. LOVE my liberty hotspot, and not surprisingly, my sole beef with the device matches yours. Beyond that, it’s been great and saved me a bundle. I also use one of their phones too, it’s been equally good.

  2. Michael Kwan says:

    It’s exactly the same device as the one sold by T-Mobile, since Roam is an MVNO on their network. I’ve used the T-Mobile version and it’s easy, fast and reliable. If you’re willing to jump through a few hoops, getting it direct from T-Mobile and skipping the middleman (Roam) can save you some money.

    • John says:

      People like us are willing to jump through hoops but the average person isn’t, Michael…that was my point. They usually just end up getting robbed by ridiculous roaming fees because they can’t be bothered to jump through the hoops for a trip they might make a couple times a year. Most of the US carriers offer a similar device but they don’t all accept Canadian credit cards.

  3. Is the 8 hours of battery on stand by? The specs say 4 hours. My concern about this is if you are on the go, how do you get around the recharging?

    Also, does it come with a car charger?

    • John says:

      The battery life far exceeded my expectations…8 hours is just an average based on my experience…using and on standby. I just bring the USB cable with me if I’m going to be out longer than a few hours…just like my smartphone.

      No car charger, just a usb cable included. I just have a usb plug in my car cigarette lighter port.

  4. Ok. Good to know. My GF and I do a lot of city exploring in the US, so charging on the go would be more difficult.

    I’ve been using the Roam Mobility service on my jailbroken iPhone 3 but I’m finding it far too slow and unreliable (and I knew that going in). In fact, during a trip to NYC this summer I resorted to purchasing a travel data plan from Rogers. The RM data was that slow.

    We rarely use talk or text. At least with the Liberty we can both use our iPhone 4’s.

  5. Chad says:

    Hey Randy,

    I was wondering how did you change your APN setting on your jailbroken iphone 3. I have a 3GS and use unlockit.co.nz to change the APN, but Roam
    is not in the list?

    Can you offer me any help?

    Chad

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