Boingo Bombed

My family and I just got back from a 10 day adventure across Germany, Austria and Poland. Since each of us had our iPhones, my wife and I are iPads, and my daughter her Macbook Air 11″ (the latter needed for homework as college started during the trip), I researched and we signed up for multiple Boingo accounts in order to access Wifi on the trip.

Boingo is a hotspot “aggregator” who apparently partners with providers all over the world. Marketed as a magic “launch app and get connected” service, it does nothing of the sort. Boingo bombed for us and was incredibly frustrating. My wife, daughter and son continually complained that, “Boingo is a total waste!

The Boingo app itself is flawed: you first have to access a Wifi hotspot (or what Europeans refer to as a “WLAN” hotspot) before you launch the Boingo app! The Boingo app cannot seek out and connect with various hotspot providers. The only place it worked were places where we either already had access (e.g., Marriott hotels; Starbucks) or had already logged in with credentials at the hotspot (e.g., our Sheraton hotel in Krakow, Poland). 

But this is what is really bizarre: in order to find other hotspots you had to be connected! It had no internal directory; didn’t have one to download to our iPhones (so we could, for example, download Munich, Berlin, Salzburg and the other places we were visiting); and the app couldn’t be placed in to “seek” mode like others I’ve used on my iPhone to find Wifi hotspots (e.g., JWire) so it was useless for locating places where Boingo could connect. Sheesh.

So what’s the point of having the Boingo service? It’s useful in the USA since we could get on at the airport for no charge. Since my wife is a Delta club member we had free wifi regardless.

The only way this service could be made worthwhile overseas is if:

1) You launched the app (or left it running in the background) and it would notify you of an “approved” Boingo hotspot

2) Performed ALL of the handshaking, credential input and negotiations so launching the Boingo app enabled one to get on instantly.

Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and money.

While I appreciate the challenges a Boingo has with all of the protectionism in Europe (and that countries like Germany, France and Poland ensuring their own, respective mobile and WLAN providers can protect their service revenues) the way Boingo is positioned, marketed and delivered means people like us—ones who’d be lifelong customers if the service worked as advertised—are instead cancelling the service today.

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1 Comment

  1. Lauren Sanyal on September 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    It helps a lot! Thanks again for sharing more details about your experience. We definitely hear your frustration and will continue improving on our service.

    To clarify, many operators list the same SSID for all of their locations, which may not be the case for BT Openzone. So, you only need to manually select the signal you wish to connect to once per SSID name. Do you know the precise locations in which you received errors? This will help us uncover what happened and improve the experience in these hotspots.

    When we design our products, we try to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes, ask ourselves what features we’d want, make it as easy as possible to use, and include helpful information about how to use the service. Sometimes, we find that we haven’t answered 100% of the questions that customers ask us, so we try to post videos and blog posts that help answer these questions.

    We totally hear what you’re saying about the iOS app’s inability to discover hotspots, and we’ll definitely continue to work with Apple on adding the features our other platforms currently enjoy!

    Let us know the next time you plan to travel overseas, and we’ll set you up with your gratis account then, no problem.

    Thanks again for reaching out to us. We really appreciate your candid comments and suggestions, and we’ll also send them along to our Product Team.

    Warm Regards,
    Lauren Sanyal



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