This photograph was taken at the SFMTA Customer Service Center, the 7th level of bureaucratic hell. I was working there, but I don't work there, feel me? I was using Clear's Mobile USB WiMax Adapter. Mobile connection dongles aren't particularly new; hell, 4G mobile adapters aren't even new. But six months ago the technology was straight-up nascent, hardly worth investing in unless you lived in one of the few markets where 4G coverage existed. Well, I've been on Clear for more than half a year now, and things have changed dramatically.
San Francisco. New York. Las Vegas. Chicago. Minneapolis. Los Angeles. Washington. Maryland. Virginia. There's probably more. I've taken this thing all over creation and mostly enjoyed broadband-level speeds. My data even soared above the filthy, CES-clotted airwaves of Las Vegas. I've shared the connection with friends in airports, and used it as a supplement to the pathetic dribble of bits that passes for WiFi at my mother's house. (Sorry mom, it's not personal!) Even now, stuffed in a bunker-walled municipal building, I have enough bandwidth—though I've been busted down to 3G—to upload images.
And it's not just what the thing does that I love. Beauty is more than just stuff that's more than just skin deep. Does that make any sense? What I'm trying to say is, this thing is a looker too: elegant, functional, and extremely portable—a small disc that folds up and disappears into your bag. Its articulating hinge allows it to swivel out of your USB port's way, too. A wonderful touch.
Like any new-ish technology, Clear isn't perfect. The network isn't 100-percent mature yet—you're pretty much boned in the northern flyover states, for example. I couldn't get a 4G signal in Phoenix or Scottsdale, either. And the dongle Cuts the battery life of my Macbook Pro in half and gets really hot. The software can get a little cranky if you shut your notebook without quitting first, too, causeing the Clear Connection Manager to hang up for a few minutes before reconnect.
But I'm pretty OK with it, because, frankly, I'm in love. And an imperfection in someone you love doesn't make him or her imperfect; it makes them real. This adapter has stood by me and done its best wherever I've taken it. Mostly, it knocked the bandwidth ball out of the frickin park. It even attempted (limply) to grab a signal in England, when I—flight-worn and dazed—plugged in without realizing that I was in a country where Clear's 4G was a foreign language. The poor thing just couldn't speak to the local towers.
But it tried. It always tries.