The back thin lid can be pried off to insert the miniUIM (aka "micro SIM") – that is located underneath the battery – by prying the clipon back from the microUSB port. You will need long nails and a little bit of strength and practice to open it up. The IMEI, serial number, factory default SSID (which will be in the form "L04D_XXXXXXXX" where X is a hexadecimal digit, and factory default WPA security key (another different eight digit hex string) are printed.
The actual device is SIM-locked, and will only take SIMs that MNC and MCC set to "Japan" (440) and "docomo" (10), respectively. I do not know if there is an official (or unofficial way) to unlock the device. Furthermore, when the device is in Japan, you cannot select the carrier APN; it is locked to Docomo's data "moperaU" based network. When you are overseas, however, you can select the network provider.
L-03D device that plugs into your USB port) device. The spec sheet says you should be able to get 4 hours of continuous use on LTE, five hours on 3G, and I've used the device hard with a tablet, and I can confirm that I'm hitting that number doing moderately heavy web activity — downloads but no video streaming. The specs claim 160 hours of idle time, but I didn't test this, and it's unlikely you'd ever hit this due to the default auto-idle power off of wifi and the fact that most devices these days are always doing some sort of minimal network activity in the background.
When the device is operating, either in 3G or LTE mode, the whole device will get very warm. In winter it could double as a hand-warmer, especially with the felt pouch.
The microUSB 2.0 port serves three functions:
- charging, either while off or while operating
- providing a read-only mass-storage USB drive to provide a tethering/"modem" driver for Windows. A driver is not needed for MacOS.
- providing tethering/wired internet capability for Windows OS, which is used to access Japanese-carrier mail (@mopera.net)
I did not test the Windows driver or its tethering capability or mail capability, but there are instructions for setting up the virtual dialing on both Windows and Mac (sorry, no Linux) to access the carrier mail.
It's at thin as a modern smartphone (12.9mm) and much lighter (89g), and has exactly three buttons:
- a power button, which powers the unit on or off after holding it for 3 seconds. It will also "wake" the device if you've set the power savings mode (set to on by default) if you press it momentarily, and even when awake it will light the LED screen showing the status of the device for about 15 seconds.
- a Wi-Fi on/off button, which turns the access point on/off if held for 3 seconds while leaving the cell radio unchanged. The Wi-Fi defaults to turning off to save battery automatically after 10 minutes on inactivity. The timeout can be changed in the settings, including disabled.
- a WPS button. When pressed for three seconds, the device will enter "push button WPS" mode, which allows a Nexus 7 (or other Jellybean device) or anything else that supports WPS to negotiate, within a 2 minute window, the SSID and the password for the device. This is pretty handy, as although you can change the SSID of the device, you cannot change the hard to remember password, which is a 8 letter hexadecimal sequence. The Jellybean-based Nexus 7's WPS function works like a charm here. The extra security concious may change from push-button 2 minute window based WPS to PIN code based WPS through the settings, or disable it completely.
The Wi-Fi access point does 11b/g/n (you can force it to 11b only, 11b/g, 11g only, or 11n only), but Japanese style, which means 2.4Ghz only (5Ghz is not permitted for use outdoors for 11n or 11a in Japan). You cannot select channel 14 for 802.11b. Japan mode gives you 13 channels, but there is also a U.S. mode (11 channels) as well as a mode for Korea and Canada. You can force it to use a particular channel but the default auto mode will do its best to pick the least congested frequency range. The default encryption is WPA2/PSK/AES256 but you can set it to weaker protocols for devices such as the Nintendo DSi. The DHCP server gives out 192.168.2.0/24 addresses by default, and allows a maximum of ten (10) simultaneous connections. It supports IPv4 only. UPnP support can be enabled. WAN ping is disabled by default. Like most consumer routers, the IP address range, the default address, etc., can all be changed in the web configuration.
The status screen is mostly icons, but with some Japanese. The most interesting things on the screen for most people will be:
- whether you're connected to a cell yet, if it's 3G or LTE, and the signal strength
- how many clients/devices/laptops are currently connected to the device
- the battery life left
- the amount of data you've sent/received. This odometer resets every month. While the recommended data plan is unlimited, you can look at this and tell if something is weird with your consumption. You can also set a hard cap via the web Connection Manager.
|One Wi-Fi client connected|
|shutdown screen; a couple seconds|
|boot screen; lasts a few seconds|
|finished booting, trying to find cell|
|Connected to cell with 0 Wi-Fi connections|
|power off and charging|
|Connection Manager in English on Chrome|
If you've ever used a consumer Wi-Fi router, most of the (non-advanced) features and functionality you expect will be in this interface, including an extremely primitive firewall, MAC address restrictions, etc. 99% of L-04D customers will never need to touch this stuff to make the device useful.
In conclusion, the L-04D delivers what it claims to do, and pretty much stays out of sight / out-of-mind, which is exactly what it's supposed to do. I can now travel to work, with the access point hidden in my bag, using my Nexus 7 to read the news and surf the net while I travel in and out of midtown for work. The performance is as good as it gets speed wise for Japanese LTE, even during peak periods (rush hour). Overseas the performance was not as nearly as fast (3G), but the speed was more than adequate. While I only tested in the 23 wards of Tokyo, I received a LTE signal over a 3G signal 95% of the time (I can force a 3G signal by going underground in my home). If a pocket Wi-Fi device at LTE speeds is what you're looking for, you could do far worse than the L-04D.