The Novatel Wireless MiFi is a small, battery powered device that creates a 3G data connection and a local WiFi field so that all your WiFi gadgets can get on the internet using that one 3G connection.
This is great if you are out and about where there is no WiFi and you have devices that can only connect to the net using WiFi. Now you have your own portable WiFi hotspot that will work everywhere there is 3G or even EDGE or GPRS coverage.
Technically speaking the WiFi is a great device. I got the European 2352 model that supports HSUPA/HSDPA at 900, 1900 and 2100 MHz as well as GPRS/EDGE at 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz. It supports up to 5 simultaneous WiFi devices. The rechargeable and replaceable battery lasts about 4 hours. You control the device using a web interface and you can configure things like WiFi encryption, port forwarding and most of the things you can configure on any WiFi base station. It also has a slot for a microSD card that turns it into a simple mini network attached storage (NAS) device so you can make files available among the connected WiFi devices.
That is all great and it works pretty much as advertised.
But it has some unfortunate drawbacks that hurts the overall impression. First of all, the plastic case makes if feel more like something you spent 25 euros bying, not 250. The battery cover is painfully difficult to remove and does not fit properly when closed. The device also gets VERY hot when used. And then there is that tiny problem regarding firmware upgrades. You can not get them. I'we Googled but all I could find was lots of other MiFi owners asking where to get the firmware upgrade. There is also, supposedly, a GPS inside this device but I am not sure and I certainly can not make any use of it. There is also an ARM processor inside the device and Novatel is trying to get people to build applications that can run inside the device but I'm not very hopefull. If I can not even get the updated firmware for the device, I'm not expecting much in terms of add-on applications.
The MiFi is a great little device that would be even greater if the plastic case was of higher quality and Novatel would support it with firmware updates.
Good summary. And you're right: Novatel is not good at updating its product. However, there are some minor firmware upgrades available. More details about this to be found here:
Do you have to pay a monthly fee to use this OR IS THE 3G free?
Also where can I buy this from?
I bought the device without any connection/subscription/contract. It had a SIM slot and I inserted my SIM card from my local operator that had a unlimited 3G plan for 10 euros per month. In countries with weaker consumer protection these devices are probably sold locked, forcing you to buy far more expensive 3G plans.
That said, this particular device is a bit outdated already. I know that Huawei have similar but more modern (with a display) mobile 3G hotspots, such as the E586.