Karma Go offers contract-free unlimited data for mobile pros

The hockey-puck-shaped Karma Go gadget generates a Wi-Fi network that provides unlimited mobile data without a contract, wherever there's Sprint network coverage. However, security-conscious travelers should be aware of a potential deal-breaker.

Karma Go

All-you-can-eat mobile data is a sweet gift for on-the-go techies, and the Karma Go gadget delivers it without a contract.

Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon offer unlimited mobile data plans, but they come with performance caps. And in some cases, such plans are available only to people who signed up for them years ago.

Karma Go delivers flexible, unlimited mobile data plans for frequent road warriors. It's a sleek, hockey-puck style device that converts Sprint's 4G LTE/3G CDMA network signal into a Wi-Fi network.

Karma Go's two data plans

Karma Go gives you two data plan options: for $50 a month, you get unlimited data with speeds up to 5Mbps and as many as three simultaneously connected devices; Karma Go also offers a pay-as-you-go option for $14 per GB, or $9.90 for each GB if bought in bulk. With this option, speeds range from 6Mbps to 25Mbps, and you can have up to eight devices connected at once.

Neither option requires a contract.

Karma Go iOS app

Karma Go is simple, but not exactly speedy

It is easy to set up and use Karma Go. At just 2.3 ounces, it's light enough to carry anywhere, and it is compact, at 2.9 inches by 2.9 inches by 0.47 inches.

In my tests around the San Francisco Bay Area, however, download speeds were sluggish at times. Using the pay-as-you-go Refuel plan, I got between 0.84Mbps and 5.91Mbps, according to the Speedtest app. Upload speeds ranged from 0.37Mbps to 2.17Mbps. Even with these relatively slow speeds, I was able to surf the Web, upload files to Dropbox, and play YouTube video clips without significant interruption.

The simple Karma Go apps for Android and iOS let you manage your account; check signal, battery life, and usage; and see the devices that connect to your Wi-Fi network.

No password protection for your Karma Go network

Unfortunately, you can't password-protect Karma Go's Wi-Fi network. That means people within range could use your device to go online; they'd simply need to have or create a Karma account. Any data the person used would not affect your allotment. And I suspect the open nature of the network is designed to make getting online as easy as possible.

That openness could be a concern for security-conscious mobile professionals, but connecting to a VPN may provide some peace of mind. And the people who are most concerned with security probably already use VPNs on public hotspots.

Most smartphones today have Wi-Fi hotspot features, of course. So those with casual mobile data needs aren't the ideal recipients of Karma Go. And, of course, it's yet another device to charge, pack, and try not to lose.

However, if you seek gifts for someone who sorely misses the days of unlimited cellular data, Karma Go is a worthy option.

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