The launch of the new iPad highlighted one thing in particular to UK consumers: the country's continued lack of LTE, which is now unlikely to arrive before the end of 2013. LTE remains a dream for many smartphone and laptop owners, but even more so for those suffering fixed line broadband woes all over the country. So bad are these for many that a high quality 3G network could actually still be a relative saviour.
Step forward the Web Cube. Made by Huawei and sold by data friendly network Three, it aims to improve the lives of those either a) hindered by slow fixed line broadband speeds, or b) looking to break dependency from a fixed telephone line completely. The concept is simple: plug the 'Cube' into a power socket, connect to the WiFi hotspot it creates and enjoy the 'up to' 21.1Mbit HSPA 3G speeds it provides. So is the reality any more complicated?
Life would be boring if we dealt in absolutes, and once again we fall back on a familiar answer: yes and no, but it does make a super first impression. Unpack the Web Cube and two things immediately draw attention. Firstly the Web Cube almost exactly lives up to its name measuring 100 x 100 x 95mm, and secondly it pays a stylish homage to Apple's legendary iMac G3. Much like Apple's transparent racing helmet-esque desktop, the Web Cube also offers a cloudy look through to its internals and is finished off with a tasteful white top and bottom. In short if Web Cube stands out against your home furnishings then it is your decorative skills that are at fault.
Beyond the styling the Web Cube is well thought out. Away from a tattoo-style Three logo and branding on the top, this surface also doubles as a signal indicator showing one to three bars of network signal strength. Two removable slots on the sides of the white top pull away to expose a reset button and a sim card slot.
Things get no more complex when it comes to setup. For novices the Web Cube simply plugs into a power socket, flashes to show network status (on = connected, flashing on and off slowly = an absent sim card, on without signal strength = no signal) and then allows you to connect using the wireless key printed on the bottom of the Cube and you are away.
More advanced users do have other setup options available. Once connected type 192.168.1.1 into a web browser to access speed and data usage statuses plus connection settings (automatic/manual connection, connect on-demand) and the ability to switch off the Cube's status light. Three also sends text messages to this portal to deliver service updates and warn of approaching data limits (which cannot be passed without payment). Yes it can be a pain to check these, but email alerts can also be requested.
Ultimately the Web Cube is so simple your granny could use it, but will she enjoy it? As with any review of a 3G data based product a definitive answer is impossible to say because we can't test it everywhere. Interestingly Three is targeting the Web Cube initially at customers based in Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow where it has its most advanced HSPA network and touts reliable download speeds of 2 - 5Mbit, but from what we witnessed it has the potential to help customers on a far wider scale than that.