Let’s get a little Tech-y…
Before I begin this article, I think it might be best to get some technical parts out of the way first so that you can better appreciate the later parts parts of this article.
My family and I use T-Mobile as our phone carrier. We are a part of their “family plan” and it works great for us. before this year, I also used a T-Mobile Android powered phone. It was never one of the more expensive models with all the bags and whistles – it was, basically, one of their more affordable smart phones and, for the most part, it worked great. But it was terrible for conventions. It was slow, the wifi could be extremely spotty and the battery seemed to drain real fast during a weekend show. When T-Mobile was finally able to offer iPhones to their customers, I jumped at the opportunity and got an iPhone 4s. I didn;t get the iPhone 5 because I was too afraid there would be way too many incompatibility issues between my (getting real old real fast) iMac and the phone itself. Plus, Dawn had an iPhone 4s and loved it so I figured I’d go that route as well.
Since owning the iPhone, I found there was a great improvement over my convention use. The iPhone picked up a stronger, more consistent wifi, it was faster to surf the web and it did a lot of things my old Android phone didn’t do. In a word, I simply loved it a lot more than the old phone I used to have.
That being said, getting a consistent wifi signal at certain shows could still be a hit or miss action sometimes – and that always led to missed credit card transactions at a show. Not a whole lot but enough where I wanted to do something about it.
Things you can discover at conventions…
Well, a few weeks ago, at Intervention Con, a fellow artist was sitting next to me at dinner and told me about Your Karma – a portable, wifi hot spot device. She had it on her at the time so she demonstrated to me how simple it worked and how easy it was for ME to share HER wifi connection (more on that in just a moment). Needless to say, I was so impressed (and I did so well at Intervention Con) I immediately went to the Your Karma website and bought the device with the intention of seeing exactly how well it would do at this year’s Baltimore Comic Con which, at the time, was about two and a half weeks away. Well, I just got back from the Baltimore Comic Con and I thought I’d let all the Webcomic Alliance readers know exactly how the YourKarma portable wifi hot spot fared during both days of the show. This was my experience:
If you don’t have a portable wifi hotspot and you’ve been looking for one, you simply can’t go wrong with the YourKarma wifi hot spot device. It worked like a charm both days of the the Baltimore show and helped me generate THE highest amount of credit card sales I have EVER had since I started accepting credit card sales at conventions.
You Fi, Wifi, Everybody Fi’s…
For those that are unfamiliar with what I am talking about, portable wifi hotspots allow you to access wifi where there might not be any signal – or the signal might be weak. So what is the advantage of purchasing a wifi hotspot device when you might have a great cell phone carrier already or when a conventions might offer vendors access to the facility’s wifi?
As I just mentioned, even though you may have a great cell phone carrier, you might find that carrier’s signal is too weak inside a convention hall. Or, if the facility has free wifi, you might find yourself constantly getting booted off the free wifi because too many people are using it at the same time. That happened to me this year at the Sci-Fi Valley Con.
You might also find that, for whatever reason, your phone may only get a wifi signal when you are outdoors. That also has happened to me in the past. So, a portable wifi hotspot might be just the thing that cures those ills. At least it certainly was for me at this year’s Baltimore Comic Con.
There’s also one other advantage to having a portable wifi device for those that like to stay in fancy hotels during conventions too. Some bigger name hotels charge $12 for 24 hour internet access. That was the case in Charlotte, North Carolina and at the Sharaton in Baltimore. That’s a ridiculous added charge with most cheaper hotels offer the same service for free. But that’s not an expense you have to worry about if you have a portable wifi device.
In fact, I needed to check my e-mail Sunday morning in our hotel room and wanted to conserve battery power on my phone. I also didn’t want to pay that $12 charge for something that was only going to take me a few minutes to do, so I pulled out my Karma device, turned it on and connected it with my iPad and I was reading my e-mail and checking out my Facebook page within a few short minutes – and STILL $12 richer.
So, how does the Your Karma device work?
The device itself costs $99 and comes with 1GB of data that you can use. It’s a pay-as-you-go so you don’t need to worry about paying a monthly fee for those months when you’re not at a convention. And, if you end up using all of your 1GB of data, you can purchase another gig from karma for only $14. When I ordered it, they processed my purchase immediately and I got it delivered in two days. I paid exactly $99 as the shipping was free.
Now, all of those things were very, very appealing to me but that’s not the coolest thing… the coolest thing is that if you go to shows with lots of friends and your tables are located very close to one another, you can let you friends share your wifi connection and you can earn even more data without having to worry about purchasing an additional data. When your friends share your wifi connection, they will get 100mb of data to use from Karma and Karma will award YOU with an additional 100mb for every person that connects to your device.
For example, at Baltimore, I was sitting between Charles Dowd and Dawn. Early on Saturday, I showed both of them how to access my Karma device by logging in using their Facebook password (they could have used their e-mail address as well). Once they logged in, karma set up an account for them that told them how much data they could use and I got a message that told me I just earned 200mbs. In addition to that, someone located very close to my table also found the Karma wifi signal and accessed it. Once they did, I got an additional message that said I just earned another 100MB of data, thanks to that unknown individual.
I’m not sure what the battery capacity of the Karma device is but I had it fully charged on Friday night and turned it on at 100:00am Saturday morning. I had it constantly turned on and sitting on my convention table. I didn’t start having problems with it until around 6:00pmish when i started to notice the power button light was flickering. Since I had another hour of the show, I pulled out a battery back-up that i bought for the iPhone, plugged it into the Karma device, re-established the wifi connection and I was back in business. On Sunday, the floor was open from 10am – 5pm. I again had the Karma device fully charged and didn’t experience any problems with it on Sunday so I’m guessing the battery in the device will last around six hours before it starts to drain. But that might also be dependent on constant use as well. I was only using the device for credit card transactions and the occasional jump to Google Images when i needed reference for a super hero costume here and there.
Also, Dawn had no problem finding the Karma connection and logging in to it using her iPhone. I’m not sure how the Karma wifi connection worked for her. I’ll get her response and add it to this section of the article. Charles Dowd and I had trouble trying to figure out how to get his Android phone to access the Karma wife. We could both see the Karma device was showing up in his wifi settings but every time we tried to actually log in and connect to it, we couldn’t. However, when Charles pulled out his iPad, he connected to Karma just as easily as Dawn did with her phone.
That was the only negative thing I found this weekend while using the device at the Baltimore Comic Con. For me, personally, it was a fantastic investment and I can’t wait to use it at other shows. The device also helped me complete the highest amount of credit card sales I have ever had at a single show. I don’t know if it was just the show itself or the fact that I could quickly and easily process credit cards without having someone say the dreaded “never mind… let me go to the ATM and I’ll be right back” and never show up again. I’m extremely happy that I bought it and would recommend it to anyone that is thinking about getting a portable wifi hotspot for their convention business.
It won’t work if you don’t have coverage…
There is at least one thing to be concerned about though. The biggest thing is you need to make sure that Karma is available in whatever area you are traveling to or attending. Karma is not available in all places. For example, they have no coverage area in my own city of Woodbridge, Virginia but they do have coverage in an area 10 minutes away from my house.
Before I made the commitment of buying the device, I went to their website and clicked on the “Coverage” link. I then typed in the zip code of every convention that I attend and in every instance, Karma told me they had coverage in that area. That was the ultimate sigh of relief and why I ultimately decided on purchasing the device.
I will keep a long and update this article as my usage with Karma increases but for now, I couldn’t be any happier with my purchase.