The internet is old enough that we shouldn't have to constantly worry about gaining access to it. We just shouldn't. I mean, it says something that during the brief two days we've been working here at CES, internet scarcity has already jumped to the top of my extensive, crippling list of phobias.
This frustration and fear seems to be the impetus behind the Karma, a tiny, portable WiFi hotspot with the ingenious addition of pay-as-you-go data. It's simple: Instead of purchasing a data plan that either turns out to be insufficient or just goes to waste, you pay for the Karma device up front and then buy single gigabytes of data as you need them.
If you're bewildered by that arrangement, don't be. While it runs counter to virtually every mobile data arrangement in the U.S., Karma's a la carte solution makes good sense for certain users. When it comes to data, one size doesn't fit all, and Karma knows it.
Here's a bit more about the device: It costs $99 and includes 1 GB of data to start. After that, you simply add data at the rate of $9.90-$14 per gigabyte, depending on your location. Individual Karma hotspots can feed data to up to eight devices, and last 8-10 hours on a single charge.
Karma hotspots are also open by default. While that might sound like a security risk to the privacy-conscious, it has a neat side effect: Anyone can log into your Karma, and when they do, you both get 100 megabytes of free data. And while they're on your hotspot, they don't use your data—just the connection. It's a neat advertising scheme for Karma, because the random users who drop in on your connection have to sign up for a Karma account to get at that sweet, sweet data.
While Karma drew plenty of interested onlookers at Monday night's Digital Experience exhibition here at CES, the company has been around for well over a year. Since its launch in 2012, Karma has expanded to more than 80 major U.S. cities—all operating on Clearwire's 4G WiMax network. Reports have indicated the company will introduce a 4G LTE unit early in 2014, following Clearwire's acquisition by Sprint, but we weren't able to get our hands on it or confirm details at the show.
If you're a traveler or on-the-go professional, we imagine something like this would come in handy. If you mostly rely on the typical cable connection, perhaps you can at least sympathize.