AT&T ZTE Mobley review

If you can't afford a 4G LTE car, the AT&T ZTE Mobley is the next best thing

The ZTE Mobley is the best mobile hotspot you can buy for your car
The ZTE Mobley is the best mobile hotspot you can buy for your car
The ZTE Mobley is the best mobile hotspot you can buy for your car

Highs

  • Easy setup
  • Ready to connect when car is started
  • High speeds and consistent connections
  • Built in GPS

Lows

  • Towards higher end of data costs

DT Editors' Rating

It seems like every device wants, or needs, an Internet connection these days, but it’s not always easy to come by. AT&T — with the help of ZTE — have thrown their hat into the ring with the new Mobley mobile hotspot. The Mobley will plug in to any modern car with an OBD-II system and help make a connection between your  mobile devices and the powerful AT&T network.

Out of the box

The ZTE Mobley unit can be purchased from AT&T and is free with a two-year contact to their DataConnect plans starting at $20 for 1GB or $30 for 3GB. You can also add your Mobley to any Mobile Share Value/Mobile Data plan for an access charge of $10/month. Without the two-year contract discount, you can plan on paying $100 for the ZTE Mobley unit. Inside the box is the ZTE unit itself with instructions on getting connected. Once you activate the SIM card with AT&T, you simply plug it into the OBD-II port in your car.

We were able to stream music and video with minimal buffering.

At around 3 x 2 inches, the unit should only stick out slightly and may require special modifications if your car has a plastic cover over the port like I did in my 2012 Lincoln MKZ. For me, the unit simply required I keep the hinged cover open to allow the unit to remain plugged in below the steering wheel. According to the folks at AT&T and ZTE, the OBD-II design is the best way to keep the device powered and ready to go when you turn your car on. The system is not powered when your ignition is turned off, and shouldn’t drain the battery of your vehicle.

Connecting to the network

Once the SIM card is in and the device is connected to the OBD-II port, you should see two green LEDs to signify that the device is powered on and that the AT&T network is connected. You will then be able to search for the Mobley’s Wi-Fi connection on your device and connect to complete the setup. Once connected, navigate to the home page url (http://attwifimanager) and log in with the standard “attadmin” password. You can then update the name of the network (SSID), password, and security settings. The Mobley also allows for a guest network to be setup for passengers you don’t trust with your password.

ZTE Mobley
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Altogether, the Mobley allows five separate Wi-Fi devices to be connected at a time, including any guest connections. This is less than the eight devices allowed by devices like the Karma Go, but five should be plenty unless you regularly hosting an internet cafe out of your Suburban.

Speed and reliability

The competitive advantage the ZTE Mobley has over other devices is the strength of the AT&T 4G LTE network. Where a hotspot like the Karma suffers from being strapped to a Sprint’s troubled network, the Mobley has consistently fast connections. Your mileage may vary depending on the strength of the signal in your area but driving around Los Angeles, we were able to stream music and video with minimal buffering.

The speeds quoted by AT&T are listed as a max of 100Mbps download and 50Mbps upload. We experienced average speeds at around 10-15Mbps download and 9-13Mbps upload. Our highest result was a solid 48Mbps download and 20Mbps upload in one open area. Generally, you will only see the advertised maximum speeds in the most ideal of situations, but that’s typical. The Mobley is certainly up to task for most of your browsing needs as the connection speed remained strong even with four devices connected and streaming video.

Conclusion

After spending time with the ZTE Mobley, we find this may be the best way to incorporate a fast 4G LTE Wi-Fi service in your vehicle. The system is easy to setup and connect without the hassle of worrying about a charger or complicated login procedure. It simply works like any of the newer 4G equipped vehicles on the market today and will reliably keep your devices connected on the road. If you already have an existing plan with AT&T and your family will consistently use the data, it may be an easy decision to add on the Mobley. For those who may not have any existing ties to the AT&T network and may use a hotspot less often, something like the Karma Go may work better.

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