I've been waiting for this.
I grew up taking long road trips. On vacations, my family rolled in a 1989 Chevrolet G20 conversion van. Explorer Edition, of course, because the Markoviches are hard-working leaders like that. My pop was always at the wheel, my mom in the passenger seat, my sister took one of the captain's chairs in the middle, and I always claimed my domain in the back, so I could spread out and take a nap whenever I damn well pleased.
This thing was decked out, especially from a kid's perspective. I mean, it had little personal lamps all over the place, it had real wood trim, it had privacy shades and curtains, it had a fold-out card table, and it had an electronically folding rear seat that turned into a bed with runner lights along the top trim (why do you think I momentarily drove it in high school?). But the best part was that it had a TV and a VCR. Mind you, the TV was about seven inches, but that was big enough to have one of those red/white/yellow three-pronged auxiliary inputs. Which meant we could watch movies with the VCR (later DVD player), and I was the big boss who decided to bring my N64 on trips. Shorties were definitely loving the way that I flossed out.
TV and video games were how I plugged in back then. That's what I was most digitally connected to, and the ability to take that with me on 3-, 4-, 8-hour drives seemed like a gift from on high. Today, my connection is through my computer. Since getting that first MacBook Pro for my freshman year of college, I've been increasingly attached. I work on my laptop, I write on my laptop, I find all my music on my laptop, I watch all my movies and TV shows on my laptop, I get all my news on my laptop, I check weather on my laptop, and I'm heavy on Twitter on my laptop. Can I monitor and maintain a lot of those things on a smart phone? Yeah, but my fat fingers and those compact keyboards are in a constant tussle, and I'd just much rather look at things on a screen 25 times the size. It's simply easier and more pleasant.
Since I copped my first Macintosh, the immaculate blessing of mobile Internet has also created a constant source of frustration: Slow connection speeds, or, even worse, the lack of a connection altogether. Some smart people who ran into this same problem created what are known as hotspots, which are small devices that can act like the routers you have in your house. They wirelessly connect to the Internet and provide you access to the web on your phone, tablet, or computer if you pay a wireless company a monthly rate.
Around the same time this WiFi revolution was expanding and developing, cars, too, started to become more connected and aware of our generation's technological obsession. Bluetooth brought phones and cars together, USB ports started becoming standard equipment in cars, and OnStar (which has already been around for almost 20 years!) brought drivers information and safety features at the touch of a button.
Looking at hotspots and looking at our technological situation for cars, I've been wondering for quite some time why the two haven't been adequately put together yet. Sure, there have been some attempts. A few 3G packages have been offered in cars, or people have tried using their phones as hotspots, but the connections were always terrible, and those connections always racked up data charges and quickly drained battery power. By partnering with AT&T, General Motors is changing this by rolling out 4G LTE services in their cars. When I found this out, my inner child was doing cartwheels. Finally, I could once again take my connection with me. That's my extremely long-winded and probably unnecessary introductory way to say that Buick let us borrow a 2015 Buick Regal GS for a weekend in order to test out the new service. Here's what you need to know:
First things first, how much does it cost?
C'mon, you thought it was going to be free? After your three-month trial runs out, this is the pricing
Or, if you're already on an AT&T plan, you can add plan-sharing data to your car for $10 per month.
How easy is it to set up and access?
Once you know that it functions through the OnStar button, it's extremely simple. I didn't have any hiccups connecting:
How many devices can you connect to the hotspot?
Seven. 7. Siete. VII. That includes smart phones, tablets, phablets, and computers.
Do streaming services work well?
I watched an entire episode of The League while sitting in the car (parked), and it only buffered in the beginning like it always does.
Does it still work well while multiple devices are active?
While I was streaming on my computer, I also connected to my phone and was browsing through Instagram, Twitter, and the web without an issue. Like any network, the more people on it, the slower it goes, but I can't comment on the performance of seven devices, because I didn't actually try that many.
Does it work everywhere?
Just like phone services, there's going to be spotty connections in certain locations.
But Buicks are for old people, why would they be using all this tech?
This car completely cuts the cord on that narrative. The Regal GS is by far the best car Buick has made in years. The GS trim is far more aggressive than the base trim and gives a sportier feel. The car looks quite handsome, in my opinion. The acceleration isn't for dragging, but it provides an element of ability that I think would surprise a lot of people. Plus, the turbo whistle makes it even more fun off the line. Even the interior is an extremely comfortable, relatively simple and quaint place to be. This is not that slushy boat you're probably thinking of when see the Buick badge.
What's really the point?
Many people will look at this as an excess piece of tech that's just going to cost them more money, as well as something they could already do with other devices, but this is really all about convenience. No, it's not necessary, but it's an overall better product than what you'd be using otherwise. You don't have to carry around another device with you, the connection is going to be stronger, you don't have to worry about battery life, and more people can use it. If your job requires that you have constant access to a connected laptop or tablet, this is perfect. If you're a family person who semi-frequently takes long trips in your car, this is perfect for streaming movies or shows and keeping passengers entertained.
This sure would have been nice when I was doubling speed limits to get to a McDonald's so I could use the free WiFi to write high school sports gamers on deadline for my local newspaper a few years ago.