New ZTE Mobley hotspot brings WiFi to your car with an elegant power solution

Cars these days are available loaded with more tech than ever before, as we see through growing support for interfaces like Android Auto and Apple Car Play. But for those of us still making do with older vehicles, getting access to modern tech means add-ons: GPS receivers, phone mounts, dash cams, and all manner of other devices, including cell-connected WiFi hotspots. The problem’s been that hooking all these gadgets up can quickly leave your car looking like a mess of tangled wires, all fighting for limited access to never-quite-convenient cigarette-lighter power outlets (or maybe USB if you’re especially lucky). Today AT&T and ZTE announce the new Mobley WiFi hotspot that sidesteps those power and wiring concerns altogether, plugging directly into your car’s OBD-II diagnostic port.

Your what? The OBD-II port lives under the driver’s side of the dash, and you may have seen technicians connecting readers to it when taking your car in for service or having emission inspections performed. The important thing for the ZTE Mobley is that the OBD-II port provides power, so you can plug it in and leave it there, without wires draped all over the place, and freeing your car’s 12V outlet for other uses – or not having to worry about keeping a battery-powered hotspot charged.

Sales of the Mobley begin this Friday, when AT&T will offer the hotspot for $100, or free on-contract. The unit supports connections to up to five devices, which should satisfy even a car full of passengers.

Update: Worried about possible security issues with an OBD-connected device? After all, this is the port that those little plug-in vehicle trackers insurance companies offer use to gather data about your driving habits. We reached out to ZTE to double-check just how Mobley makes use of the OBD-II interface and the company’s initial response indicates that it’s just using the port for power and to tell when the ignition is on – no access to driving data at all.

Update 2: Here’s a formal statement from ZTE:

The ZTE Mobley has no telematics interface with the OBD port and it cannot access any other pins outside of the power supply. Utilizing the OBD port delivers a semi-permanent solution that provides a more embedded Connected Car experience.

Source: AT&T

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About The Author
Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bits Read more about Stephen Schenck!