Clear iSpot: A Review

I was reading my RSS feeds Wednesday morning when I came across a press release. It was from Clear announcing their new product the iSpot. Clear, for those who may not know, is Sprint’s venture into the 4G wireless technology WiMax.

I had been looking into getting 4G wireless access, but did not want ot spend the $55 a month just for 4G/3G service, nor did I want to spend $40 a month on just 4G service. When the press release said it would be $25 a month, without a contract, I was very intrigued. I headed to the iSpot website and saw the introductory hardware cost was 70% off, and I jumped on the offer.

The iSpot is specifically designed to only be used with the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone. It is not designed to be used with any other device like a MacBook, Wii, Xbox 360 or anything else, just the Apple iOS-based devices.

The iSpot allows up to eight devices to be connected simultaneously. Therefore, if you’re like me and have a bunch of iOS-based gadgets, or want to share your iSpot with your friends, it will allow you to do so.

The iSpot looks a lot like a Magic Mouse. I placed it next to my Magic Mouse and you could almost use the iSpot as a mouse if it were only curved a bit more on top.


The iSpot does have a web-based interface that works perfectly fine on the iPhone and iPod touch as well as the iPad. The web-based admin page is perfect for those more advanced users who wish to take more control over their iSpot by using MAC address filtering or port forwarding, turning off WiMax (I’m not sure why anybody would want to do this, but it’s an option), and even setting up a DMZ Host.

A couple of points to keep in mind. This device is 4G only. You must be in a 4G coverage area. The website will not allow you to buy the device unless you’re in a coverage area, so that is a plus. The billing is automatic renewal, which for some is an issue. I do not necessarily like auto-renewal but we will see how this goes.

I do have some other thoughts on the device. It works well as long as you get a signal. Inside our house I cannot receive a signal. If I do get a signal, the iSpot has to be near a window and away from electronic devices.

I attempted on a couple of different occasions to contact Clear’s tech support to get a couple of questions answered.┬áThe first question I asked was how the iSpot determines which devices can connect and get access to the Internet. None of the three could give me an exact answer. One was guessing that it was MAC Address filtering. This answer makes sense to some degree; however, there would have to be updates to the firmware to allow the changes in MAC addresses whenever an iDevice is updated. While this is possible, it seems like a logistical nightmare.

The second question I asked each rep was whether the device could be ‘unlocked’ to allow laptops and other devices to connect to the iSpot. In all three cases this was an emphatic ‘No, you will have to buy a new device’.

I do not see any ‘technical’ reason why you couldn’t connect other devices to the iSpot. I was able to connect my MacBook and surf the internet without any problems, so I do not know if Clear is turning a blind eye towards additional devices or whether they will nail somebody if they see excessive bandwidth usage which would not be commiserate with iOS-based device usage patterns.

Overall, if you’re in a 4G area and need a gadget just for your iOS devices this is a good deal. It means that you do not need to buy the AT&T-locked 3G enabled iOS devices if they are available. The current $25 a month rate is the same as AT&T’s higher bandwidth plan, plus with 4G, at the present, there are no bandwidth caps, but there are fair-usage caps. If you’re interested, give it a try.

I'm into everything technology related, particularly anything Apple related. I enjoy programming and tend to lean towards server-based technologies over client-based. You can contact me on twitter, via e-mail, or follow me on friendfeed.