Buy a USB 4G Modem or use an old iPhone (or Android phone)?

So I’ve been looking at purchasing a 4G/LTE USB Modem to go along with the GL.iNet routers I have (Shadow, Brume-W, Opal and soon Slate AX) for when I’m travelling around (I don’t have a 4G GL.iNet Router unfortunately).
I’m starting to realize that it may be more hassle than it’s worth.
Here are the Pros/Cons I’ve gathered for both options. Any additions or corrections would be greatly appreciated.

4G/LTE USB Modem


  • Less power draw.
  • Smaller footprint.
  • All data funnelled to GL.iNet Router.


  • May not cover all bands.
  • May not be as fast speed as a fairly recent iPhone (8 Plus).
  • Kind of expensive now for the ones that are compatible with GL.iNet routers.

Old iPhone (8 Plus)


  • Basically plug and play with practically any SIM card available globally.
  • Easy to set up the SIM via phone settings.
  • Decently fast when tethered or used as a hotspot.
  • Can be an emergency backup for SMS or calling (if available from carrier).
  • Has built in battery.


  • Way more power hungry.
  • Can’t stop phone from charging if using battery pack unless in Wifi Hotspot mode which effects router speed.
  • Much bigger footprint than a tiny dongle.
  • Lightning cable limited to USB 2.0 speeds (480Mbps) which is probably enough in most cases.
  • May have to do TTL trick depending on carrier limitations.
  • Phone may “steal” data for it’s own resources (may be able to delete all apps that periodically check for data or turn Cellular Data off in settings).

Is there anything I’m missing from these lists? Are there any definitive arguments for one way or the other that I either missed or am not understanding properly?

Thanks so much for any help!


I totally agree. I replace my smartphones every 3-4 years, so they become “free” modems/hotspots. LTE modems are expensive and are quickly obsoleted, whereas my old smartphones are at least moving with technology. They serve as good backups for camera, mail, other apps and if battery dies in my main phone.

I also have inexpensive Huawei E5573Cs-609 and Huawei E5573s-856 mifi hotspots, which cover most bands for domestic/international travel and fit in small pockets.

I do not work for and I do not have formal association with GL.iNet

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I bought a cheap xiaomi 5g phone and a glinet slate. Usb tethered them for fast 5g internet but the pass through rate is only 200mb even though the phone can reach 500mb+ not sure where the restriction happens.

The plus side is fast unlimited Internet for £20 a month that has no restrictions at all (provider dependent). You are not location restricted if you decide to move you’ll always have Internet, useful if you are staying somewhere without Internet so long as it gets a cell signal.

The down side is if you live in a built up area the internet speeds are often all over the place with the occasional disconnect just when you least need one. It depends how many other people have had the same idea as you…

My advice is to at least try it once because if you don’t you’ll always wonder if it was a good idea or not. But the caveat is you’ll probably spend as much if not more on the gear to do it as you would a year fibre optic package. Its for the hobo lifestyle IMHO.

If your Xiaomi 5G has Android 11 or higher, then you may be able to get faster speed via Ethernet Tethering, instead of USB Tethering that may have more overhead. You just need to enable it and have a compatible Gigabit USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet adapter (~$15) and Ethernet cable between the smartphone and router.

Wow, £20 for unlimited cellular internet?! Being in Toronto, Canada (I think wcs2228 is as well), I’m very jealous. We don’t have any true unlimited plans here. We have up to x amount full speed then throttled and they are quite expensive.

I was thinking the same thing! £20 GBP ~ $30 CAD in Toronto. My wireless provider wants $35 for 1 GB 3G data per month.

Smarty mobile in the UK. Occasionally they do deals and slash prices on the unlimited and double the other tariffs data… It’s a Virtual Mobile Network Operator using the O2 network who are more expensive…

The ethernet has a problem, keeping the phone charged. The slate keeps the phone charged at the same time. I tried that one and now have a spare USB C ethernet adapter… Along with other gadgets that failed until I stumbled across these brilliant glinet contraptions.

For my travels, the phone battery has sufficient life and my routers’ USB 2.0 ports do not output enough to actually charge my phone, only to extend battery life somewhat. I also keep the USB 2.0 open for a flash drive or external wifi adapter. There are also powered USB to Ethernet adapters and also powered hubs with an Ethernet port.

I was able to get >600Mbps through Ethernet Tethering from my smartphone.