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T-Mobile's SyncUp Drive brings 4G LTE, Wi-Fi hotspots to older cars

T-Mobile's dongle is fairly different from Verizon's Hum, despite the two seeming similar on the surface.


Multiple phone carriers now offer ways to bring your old car up to date with a single plug-in device. T-Mobile has just joined that group with the introduction of SyncUp Drive, which is a more explanatory name than Verizon's Hum.

SyncUp Drive is a dongle that plugs into your car's OBD-II diagnostics port, which is standard equipment on nearly every post-1996 vehicle. It pulls power from the car, so once it's plugged in, the driver can basically ignore it.

The dongle's main feature turns your car into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot running on T-Mobile's 4G LTE network. Drivers can use SyncUp Drive to analyze driving behavior, track vehicle locations and locate the car in a dense parking lot. It also offers additional vehicle diagnostics, and it can send you a message when it believes the vehicle's been tampered with.

Owners are likely to pick up a dongle based on their cell carriers, but all systems are not created equal. For example, Verizon's Hum offers Bluetooth phone connectivity and calling, which SyncUp Drive does not. Hum still operates on 2G technology, which Verizon is reportedly set to turn off in 2019, so Hum's connectivity becomes useless at that point.

If a driver would rather focus on connectivity for entertainment and parental duties instead of an OnStar-like safety angle, SyncUp Drive is the one to get. If a driver signs up for a 24-month finance agreement with a 2GB or higher mobile internet plan, SyncUp is free. Otherwise, it retails for about $150.