The following post is brought to you by Karma. Our partners are hand-picked by the Design Milk team because they represent the best in design.
When we heard about Karma Go, your own personal WiFi device, we knew we had to get the scoop because we’re all about products that help designers and artists live and work better, smarter and faster. I was recently traveling and constantly on my phone’s data plan, hardly ever able to locate a WiFi network. Moreover, it’s nearly impossible to edit blog posts or do other substantial work on my phone… but whenever I opened up my computer to work, I could never find a network or the free one I’d connected to is slower than a snail. I can’t imagine being a freelance writer, designer or other professional who frequently travels or works outside an office. It must be even more challenging for them, and I can imagine a solution like Karma would be a welcome one.
Karma’s new Go device uses Sprint 4G LTE Network, with fallback to 3G, to make sure you’re always connected—anywhere you go. You just pay as you go, so you never have to worry about monthly fees and your data never expires. It’s a pretty sweet deal for those of us who find ourselves in the local Starbucks or airport, trying to painfully stream video.
Until October 23rd, you can pre-order the new Karma Go for just $99 ($50 off the normal $149 price).
I talked to Steven van Wel, the Founder of Karma to find out where he came up with the idea to create personal, portable WiFi:
What is the Karma story?
Along with almost one-third of the company, I’m Dutch. Frequent travels to the US sparked the idea: You go from Amsterdam to New York, and the first thing you do is hunt for WiFi. You get off a plane, and you want to get online. You want to figure out where you’re heading, figure out where your Airbnb is.
Data access for a modern traveler is painful. The first experience you have when you enter a new country is a text message from your mobile provider that you need to pay $10 a megabyte(!). That’s $60 just for sending one “Hi mom… I’m in NYC” picture. It’s embarrassing. The safest thing is to aggressively disable every feature on your phone, which might use that gold-flecked roaming data. So you pretty much end up with a brick that is useless without WiFi. Try to sign up with a carrier without a Social Security Number or a two-year contract for that matter. It’s impossible.
Internet access is controlled by “the old guys”—the ones that cannot innovate. The ones that much rather restrict Internet access than provide it. Internet access, is broken. Our ambition is to fix this.
What does Karma do that other hotspots don’t or can’t do?
Karma changes the power dynamic between you and a carrier. You don’t have a monthly data plan, you don’t have a two year contract. You own the device, and you own your data, and use them as you see fit. When you only pay for data you use, instead of some arbitrary monthly “cap,” you save money. But you’re also freed from the typical lock-in and sneaky practices the major carriers rely on. You’re in charge.
Karma Go’s also designed for sharing: other people can connect to your Karma, but they all pay for their own data usage. It’s another way we’re reorienting the business model around people and data instead of devices and contracts.
What is the thought and inspiration behind its physical design?
Most WiFi hotspots look like pre-iPod MP3 players: ugly plastic shapes with awkward user interfaces. Karma Go is very similar to our original device — the biggest change is under the hood, with faster speeds and nationwide coverage — but we’ve tweaked almost every aspect of the design to make it cleaner and simpler. We’ve focused on putting information and control inside our mobile app and online dashboard where it belongs.
Who is Karma designed for?
Anyone who needs to get something done that requires the real internet. Many of us rely on constant connectivity for our jobs, but WiFi is often out of our control as soon as we leave the house. At the airport it’s slow or expensive or non-existent. A coffee shop’s free WiFi might work one day and be down the next. And there’s all the spaces in between.
How can Karma change the future of commuting, work travel and freelancing?
When what you do no longer requires you remain in a specific spot just to get internet connectivity, and when your devices that can connect to the internet are no longer limited by contracts with mobile carriers and having the right chipset built into your laptop or tablet or phone, suddenly a whole lot of options open up. Our goal is to make connectivity something you never have to think about, it’s just everywhere. What could you accomplish if that were the case?
Preorders for Karma Go are currently available for a limited time offer of $99, (MSRP $149), with the device shipping in early December. Find out more about Karma Go here.