Offered by AT&T in partnership with wireless systems and equipment provider ZTE USA, the Mobley simply plugs into a vehicle's onboard diagnostics port (OBD II), located beneath the dashboard of most newer cars.
Once plugged in, there's no need to turn the device on. The Mobley is activated when the car starts, and it powers down when the key is turned off, providing a continuous Internet connection, which allows users to surf the Web, play games and watch videos.
"The ZTE Mobley is our first Wi-Fi plug-in for the car. It's great for everyone — families, entertainment enthusiasts and professionals," said Chris Penrose, senior vice president for Internet of Things at AT&T Mobility, in a statement. "It allows multiple Wi-Fi-capable devices to connect to AT&T's 4G LTE network, making it perfect for anyone on-the-go."
AT&T says the Mobley provides high-speed performance using a Qualcomm MDM9215 processor operating through the AT&T network, which it notes can be customized at the company's Wi-Fi manager home page.
Of course, there are a number of other ways to get Wi-Fi capability in a vehicle.
For example, many manufacturers offer newer cars with built-in connectivity, including Chevrolet, which, as previously reported by Edmunds, is offering standard Wi-Fi on 14 model-year 2016 vehicles, including the Cruze, Camaro, Colorado, Corvette, Impala, Malibu, Silverado, Spark, Suburban, Tahoe and Volt.
And it's not that difficult to add connectivity to an older vehicle, as well, even those older than 1996 with no OBD port.
Mobile hotspot devices can be purchased from numerous brand-name electronics manufacturers and are frequently offered through popular wireless providers, such as T-Mobile, Verizon, Virgin Mobile and even AT&T, which has made the portable versions available for several years.
But the big selling point of the Mobley is convenience. While most mobile hotspots need to rest somewhere on the vehicle's dashboard or center console and require cable hookups, the Mobley plugs in unobtrusively under the dash, where it's ready to go whenever the car is running.
The ZTE Mobley is available now at AT&T stores or online at AT&T.com for free with a two-year contract or for $100 without the contact. The device can also be added to the AT&T Mobile Share Value plan for an additional charge of $10 per month or a DataConnect plan with monthly charges of $20 for 1GB of data or $30 for 3GB.
Edmunds says: Consumers interested in updating their vehicle with Wi-Fi connectivity now have a convenient new option with the AT&T ZTE Mobley.