Rover is a new nationwide pay-as-you-go / prepaid 4G data service that runs on CLEAR’s WiMax network. Instead of being tied down to CLEAR’s, Sprint’s, Best Buy’s or even Time Warner’s 4G wireless data contracts, Rover lets you use this network in smaller yet affordable bites. Rover offers you unlimited 4G access for $5 a day, $20 a week or $50 for the month. That includes unlimited service, without any data caps – and you can use it anywhere in the U.S., as long as you’re in an area with CLEAR 4G coverage.
Rover offers two different hardware devices to connect to their network. Their Rover Stick is a USB modem that retails for $99, then the more appealing of the two is the Rover Puck, a mobile hotspot that costs $149.99 and allows up-to 8 devices to be connected to it at a time. Both devices come with 2 free days of service and they are both Mac and PC compatible.
We tested the Rover Puck. The Puck definitely gets an award for being the most uniquely designed mobile hotspot on the market – and it really does resemble a hockey puck. Unfortunately it is also on the large size, measuring 4.25″ in diameter so that it’s almost as wide as a CD. It’s still very portable but it will not fit into every pocket either. I’ve personally used the MiFi and the Overdrive and have found both to be very buggy devices, especially the Overdrive. The Puck on the other hand has been very reliable to use. It might not have an LCD like the Overdrive does, but setting it up and using it has been easy and bug free. There is no software required to install to use the Puck. But you will need to be in a 4G coverage area to activate the device. You also have to charge the Puck for about 5 hours before using it the first time, until the power light turns green.
On the back of the device you can find the the default router password. Connect to the Rover’s wifi network and load up your web browser and you’ll be directed to your account page. The Router home page is very clean looking. You can RE-UP right from the page, check out the modem status, wifi status, and battery status as well as change settings . Overall, Rover has developed a very clean and easy to use account interface as well as the interface for the modem’s back-end. Battery life has been about 3 and half hours on average.
Along with the Puck, a quick start guide, a Rover windows sticker, a USB cable, and a car charger adapter for the USB cable are also thrown in. But no AC adapter.
As you can tell from the coverage map above, CLEAR’s 4G WiMax coverage in New York City is still pretty spotty, especially in Manhattan. We recommend reading our CLEAR 4G review if you’d like to know more about our experience with CLEAR in New York City. But to some up, so far CLEAR’S service in New York is steadily improving but it’s not quite there yet.
Beside for the spotty coverage area in Manhattan, performance has been all over the place in the city. Outside of Manhattan performance has been generally better, especially in Brooklyn. When we tested in Philadelphia, both upload and download speeds were strong.
If you ask us, it makes a lot more sense to go with Rover then to sign up for CLEAR’s service with a 2 year contract. It’s not like signing up with a 2 year contract with CLEAR will save you much money anyway, since their monthly 4G only plan costs $45 a month. That said, Clear does offer a month-to-month plan too, but you don’t get the Unlimited Day, or Weekly pass options like you do with Rover.
Overall, we think that Rover’s service is very solid and very enticing with fair pricing. Their Rover Puck is a polished device too. We say death to wireless data contracts! It’s just unfortunate that CLEAR seems to be going through some growing pains in New York.
If you are someone who travels a lot and is looking for a service that can provide you with both 4G & 3G data for the most optimum coverage, than you’re stuck with getting a contract at this time. That said, who is the nearest direct competitor to Rover? We’d say it’s Virgin Mobile with their Unlimited 3G $40 a month plan. Both Rover and Virgin Mobile seem to be marketed towards youth and 20-somethings, which makes sense since prepaid data naturally draws in students and that age-set. So anyway, if you’re someone who travels a lot, you’ll probably want to stick with a prepaid 3G modem. But if you’re someone who lives in a 4G coverage area and prefers to not have to worry about a data cap, then Rover makes sense.
Unfortunately, the CLEAR network in NYC so far has spotty coverage areas and slow upload speeds in many areas. That said, we have been testing in the same locations since they first launched officially here in NYC on November 1st, and their coverage and speed has improved over the past couple of weeks in several areas, so it’s good to see that they are working on improving the network. Fortunately Rover offers you access to all of CLEAR’s 4G WiMax network around the U.S.A., not just in New York City, and they are adding more cities all of the time. As a matter of fact, today they announced WiMax coverage in Los Angeles, Miami, Washington D.C., Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio and that coverage would land in San Francisco on December 28th. So overall, Rover’s service is solid. And while we’re not quite sure that 4G WiMax is ready for primetime in NYC, it certainly shines in other areas like Philadelphia. So if you’re someone who lives in a 4G WiMax coverage area then ROVER can be a great fit for you if you don’t want to be tied down to any contracts and you want unlimited data without caps. We have also found Rover’s tech support to be friendly and helpful. We will make sure to update this post if we notice any significant improvements with coverage in NYC and we’ll also update this post once we’ve tested used Rover in Las Vegas while we’re at CES in January.
The Good: Contract free/ no credit checks, easy to use, handles up to 8 devices once, comes with 2 free days of service so you can try it out properly, very appealing for students and people who stay inside cities
The Bad: 4g only (not 3G compatible), NYC’s network needs improvement
Update 1/19/2014: Rover’s service is no longer available, but if you’re looking for a similar pay-as-you-go service that runs on Clear’s WiMax network, check out our Karma Hotspot review.