Why LTE Chromebooks as Mobile Hotspots Make Sense

9to5 Google reports new ChromeOS feature in the works but not everyone will have it. You’ll need one of the few LTE Chromebooks available, as this feature turns your ChromeOS laptop into a giant hotspot. This is still big news since Chromebooks need all the connectivity they can get. More importantly, it makes sense that some people use LTE Chromebooks as mobile hotspots.

Before I explain why, let me share some background.

Before LTE Chromebooks and mobile hotspots

It was 2006 and I had only been blogging for about 12 months. 5G didn’t exist back then. Neither LTE nor 4G, although projects were underway. And 3G was just getting bigger where I lived. So, when I was on the move, I used an EVDO smartphone, running Windows Mobile, and that was my access point.

Boy, was I ahead of the curve. Everywhere I worked, people looked at my mobile office and wondered about the technologies I used.

Of course, EVDO and its 1.5 Mbps connection (I had EVDO Rev. A for those who remember the standard) is laughable now. My phone acts as a hotspot and connects to a 5G network that consistently delivers 100x faster speeds.

Oh, and there were no regular Chromebooks yet, let alone LTE Chromebooks back then. My full time computer was a $2,000 Samsung UMPC, or ultra-mobile PC. Yes, this image on the right represents my full-time office at the time.

The awesome foldable Bluetooth keyboard really made all the difference. The Samsung had a 7-inch 1024 x 600 resistive touchscreen, so typing really required a keyboard.

I used the phone as a hotspot even though I could bought an EVDO USB dongle for the computer. Why? Because I learned something then and it’s still true today.

Pair a large battery with a mobile hotspot for best results

It is best to use the device with the largest battery capacity or with interchangeable batteries as an access point.

With barely 3.5 hours of battery life on this small PC, adding the power consumption of a mobile broadband radio would not be effective. It’s the same reason I bought the cellular version of iPads over Wi-Fi models. I’ve used a 4G iPad as a hotspot for Chromebook connectivity all day.

Going back to the new LTE Chromebooks as a mobile hotspot feature, my mantra above holds true. And while just about any 4G LTE or 5G phone can be a hotspot today, I’ve been in scenarios where using a Chromebook to share mobile broadband makes sense.

A perfect example is the weekly study group in my computer class a few years ago.

We often met at a Starbucks where we absorbed the free Wi-Fi faster than the expensive coffee. Then something happened because for several months the Wi-Fi was spotty and sporadic. I never knew why. So we shared a phone hotspot between a few Macs, a PC, and my Chromebook. And no one wanted to share because he would be the one leaving with a nearly empty phone battery. If I had an LTE Chromebook that could have been a mobile hotspot, I would have volunteered more often.

LTE Chromebooks as Mobile Hotspots

It is best to use the device with the largest battery capacity, or with interchangeable batteries, as an access point.

My mantra since 2006

It’s one thing to have a Chromebook out of power, but it’s another thing to have a truly mobile device, like a phone, with a drained battery.

Think about it. A phone is more than a Chromebook. Mine is my car key and my wallet, for example. This is how my family can reach me instantly by voice or SMS. This is how I can call 9-1-1 in an emergency. And more. I would definitely live if my Chromebook’s battery died, so I wouldn’t mind using it as a mobile hotspot. In 2006, I had spare phone batteries because…wait…phone batteries were easily replaceable back then.

Of course, I don’t have an LTE Chromebook these days.

Chromebook Pixel LTE

The last one I had was the Google Chromebook Pixel. I tested the Acer Chromebook Spint 513 with LTE last year and figured you’d pay mostly for mobile broadband. The last LTE Chromebook I used is the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook Review Unit although I did not activate the LTE service. And when I last checked, there were only a handful of LTE Chromebooks available, though I might need to update this list. I think we’ll see a few more options before the end of the year.

Over the years, many readers have told me they want an LTE Chromebook. If you are one of them, do you think you would ever use it as a mobile hotspot?

Casey J. Nelson