Being stuck in a two-hour traffic jam is hell - unless you're connected to the internet. It could be the worst traffic jam in your life, but if you have WiFi, you can while away all that time while listening to your favourite podcast, or browsing your Facebook feed. Connectivity on the move is also useful for avoiding traffic, taking calls, staying chill with music, and even keeping the kids quiet in the back seat.
But WiFi in your car, is that even possible? Well, it is. And with the technology nowadays, it's actually simple enough to do. Read on for quick tips on how you can get your car cruising down the information superhighway!
1. Use Your Smartphone’s Hotspot
Advantage: Definitely the easiest, fastest, and most cost-effective method to get connection in your vehicle is by taking advantage of your smartphone’s hotspot feature. Most smartphones can share their mobile data connection wirelessly within a specific range. And with the added feature of password protection, users are sure that their connection is secure, and the driver in the other lane can’t use it, too.
Disadvantage: Don't be shocked when your phone bill arrives next month. Excess mobile data usage punches a hole through your pockets especially when you exceed the allotted bytes for that month. Unless you have unlimited internet usage on your smartphone's plan, we suggest you keep Youtube-browsing at a minimum during traffic jams. Also, be sure that your smartphone has enough power, or is connected to an external power source.
2. Use a Dongle or a Self-Contained Device
There are two main types of dedicated mobile hotspots: dongles and self-contained devices.
Dongles, like the mobile data on your phone, create a wireless network for you, but only after being plugged-in to the USB port of your car.
Advantage: Simplicity. Some of these dongles can be plugged into any USB power source if your car has one. Once you have a dongle in your car, it's just there all the time. You don't need to go through your phone to activate the hotspot. And it doesn't matter who's driving or onboard. You'll always have that hotspot.
Disadvantage: The device doesn't integrate itself with the car's systems. It will use your car mainly as a power source, so it must be affixed to your car to work. And you'll have to maintain your contract or a pre-paid arrangement with your data provider.
Self-contained devices work the same way as dongles, but come with their very own battery source, meaning users can bring them wherever they go as long as the device is fully-charged (or has an external power source on standby).
Advantage: Self-contained devices are more portable than dongles. Centre consoles on the dashboard of your car work well in terms of reception, and help to keep cable clutter in check.
Disadvantage: They tend to be more expensive than a dongle. Internet connectivity is limited to your plan with the internet service provider.
3. Use an OBD-II Wi-Fi Device to Your Car
Less transportable than a smartphone or dongle, but more portable than a router, this device plugs into your vehicle’s OBD-II port, which technicians use to perform diagnostic work.
Advantage: The added feature that you get from this device is that in addition to creating a network if you’ve configured it to connect with your smartphone, you can diagnose the performance of your car via an app. Factors like engine output, tire pressure, or overall performance can be a tap away on your smartphone.
Disadvantage: The risk that you might mess-up the computer system of your car sounds serious because it is. Make sure you have the basic know-how of the electrical workings of your vehicle. Otherwise, refrain from tinkering with the system.
4. Install a Modem and Router Unit in Your Car
Imagine having the power of your home internet system, but while driving down the highway. Permanently install a wireless modem and router device to your car and gain the benefits of reliable connectivity wherever your vehicle goes. You can even permanently wire a cradle into your car.
Advantage: This is the most reliable 3rd-party method of getting connection in your vehicle. The unique benefit of this technique is that the radio signal will often be strong, and the Wi-Fi signal may also be stronger, depending on the coverage of your data service provider. The other benefit is that some automotive routers include a built-in USB or ethernet port.
Disadvantage: Modem and router combos usually require a bit more digging through the pockets. Fast internet connection doesn’t come cheap. And since users permanently install the device to the vehicle, they are only as portable as the vehicle itself. This requires more (and probably professional) installation work.
5. Trade-Up to a Car with Built-In WiFi
If you happen to be shopping for a new car, you might want to consider a model which offers internet connectivity already baked-in. Most manufacturers like Audi and BMW offer at least one or more models that include a fitted internet connection and are also capable of producing Wi-Fi networks. Some brands even offer full 4G connectivity along with integrated hotspots.
Advantage: Reception and data speeds should be better since an integrated internet connection in your vehicle has access to a much better signal. Other features like HD traffic data, navigation systems, and GPS are always a plus. An internet connection can also power features like in-car maps and internet radio.
Disadvantage: Needing to buy a newer model car just to have WiFi capability seems like a costly convenience. Some companies advertise an unlimited amount of data usage, but with limited speed.
Considerations When Having Wi-Fi in Your Car
Internet speed, bandwidth, and allocation speed are important factors to look at when deciding how to add Wi-Fi to your car. You need to consider the cost of data and your usage when determining how to add Wi-Fi connectivity to your car.
Lastly, an important factor to look at is network availability, which simply means where your data provider has service and where it doesn’t. Having internet capability in your vehicle is useless if there is no reception where you're going.