Karma - the "just works" pay-as-you-go mobile hotspot

by Thomas Brady in ,


My mom has one of those Clear hotspots. You know the one. It comes with any of a number of logos on it. Looks like a tiny Apple TV with three green lights on the front—if you're very lucky. It's usually on a table in front of someone who's doing the Jerry Seinfeld posture—the one that says "Who's the genius who…"—and cursing profusely.

Enter Karma. I heard about them when someone—sadly, I don't remember who—tweeted about having received there's around Christmas. I did a bunch of reading, and, despite being incredibly wary of the hardware, more on that in a second, I placed an order.

The Karma is the very same hardware, by the looks of it, as that nefarious Clear Spot, though in Storm Trooper white to the Clear/Sprint/et al's Darth Vader black. The big—no huge—difference is the software. You don't do any configuring with the Karma. With the spot, or similar, there are lots of hoops to jump through, typically, to secure the modem—setting your own encryptiong method, password, etc. With the Karma, you simply login with your Facebook credentials. As much as I dislike Facebook, this makes for a superbly easy, works-right-out-of-the-box experience. They're so sure of it, and so proud, that this is the instruction card that comes in the box:

Karma instruction card

Karma instruction card

That's pretty much it. There's more on the back, but with just that, you'll suddenly see a WiFi hotspot in range called, "Thomas's Karma," if your Facebook account is for a person whose first name is Thomas. It's already secured. Much like a coffee shop WiFi setup, you are greeted by a web page when you attempt to connect to the Karma, where you are asked to log in via Facebook.

This is all just icing, though. Even if the zero-configuration experience weren't a part of this offering, I would have likely ordered the Karma anyway because of the business model/pricing structure. Your Karma serves up pay-as-you-go data. Fifteen dollars gets you a gigabyte of data. No expiration dates. Dead simple, and fairly priced.

If you're paying attention, you may be asking yourself, "Wait a minute… what happend if some freeloader with a Facebook account logs in to the modem?" That's another interesting thing about their pricing/model. If this happens, that person is invited to use or create their own account with Karma, and purchase their own data at $15/GB. They're using your infrastructure to get there, but they're not using your data plan. And for the effort of lugging around and charging the modem you're both connected by, you get 100 MB added to your account when they connect.

So far the Karma has performed beautifully. I get great speeds (usually around 8 Mb/second), the battery lasts longer than I've ever needed so far, and I'm quite happy with the pricing.