Sprint’s Peel by ZTE was the perfect accessory for iPod touch. Unfortunately, it is undercut by Sprint’s own prepaid offerings, which offer unlimited data for iPod touch for only slightly more per month.
It’s the usual debate of style versus substance. Do you get the ZTE Peel with 1 GB of MiFi data for $30/month, or a Virgin Mobile MiFi for $40/month… and unlimited data.
First, what is the ZTE Peel? The Peel is a sled-type accessory that fits over a second-generation or third-generation iPod touch. It provides a Wi-Fi hotspot so that you can access the web just like an iPhone… but without the voice phone. It will also provide Wi-Fi to any other Wi-Fi device, such as your laptop or tablet. Sprint is offering the device, as we mentioned above (and previously) with a 1 GB data plan for $29.99 per month. At launch, it will retail for $79.99.
For some people, 1 GB of data is just fine… until you go over in that one rare instance. Much like on AT&T and Verizon’s metered data plans, the carriers are correct that 90 – 99% of customers each month can fit into those solutions. However, these are what we call “damn statistics”.
The one-to-ten percent of customers that exceed their data expectations each month are typically not the same customers each month, odds are, eventually you’ll be one of those ten percent. And, going over in just one month can dramatically effect the cost-per-month that you were expecting to pay.
It’s not clear why Sprint chose to price the Peel at $29.99 for one gigabyte. That is half the data that AT&T offers on their iPad data plan at a similar price-point. We were expecting a 1 GB plan that would have run for $19.99/month, giving customers easy access to casual browsing on the go. I suspect, however, that Sprint realized that 1 GB for $19.99 would give enough customers cheap data, that it would start to attack their own on-contract 250 MB data plans for laptops and aircards.
While this is Sprint’s first first-party prepaid offering in a long, long time, it misses the mark on price alone. The ZTE Peel fits great, and it gives an added boost of power that will compensate for the second-and-third generation iPod touch models feeling long in the teeth.
While opting for the cheaper and far-worse WEP encryption may seem lame in an era of WPA2-PSK, it does make sense here. First, Sprint wants people to pay for a more expensive device and plan. While the Peel creates a Wi-Fi hotspot, it is designed for low-security usage on the iPod touch. Anything sensitive that you would transmit on the iPod is likely already secured with some form of SSL. However, this again pushes people that know their technology back to the MiFi, which uses WPA by default.
The three hour battery life is also below the MiFi, but again, we don’t knock the Peel for that. The power button on the back allows for easier control, since it is physically in your hand the entire time with the iPod touch. With the MiFi, it’s much easier to forget that it’s powered on.
I suspect ZTE is working on a plastic re-arrangement that will allow Peel to work on the latest iPod touch models, without having to undergo re-evaluation by the FCC. Apple’s change of design happened too late in the evaluation process to make Peel work for the newest iPod touch. Either way, the hardware is not the problem… it’s the data pricing.
Pros: Excellent hardware sled for second-generation and third-generation iPod touch models.
Cons: Messed up data pricing that pushes people back to Virgin Mobile MiFi. WEP encryption.
Score: None – Sorry, we’re not going to score this one. We hope Sprint will fix the data pricing and we can give this a fitting score that the hardware deserves.