Frequently Asked Questions

Why not just use a my-fi, a wireless card or dongle for data communications?

Simple. Five reasons:

Data Speed. Signal strength is a major part of what dictates the data speed. Poor signal, very slow data speed. We have seen many cases where my-fi, a wireless card or dongle did not detect ANY cellular signal. In this same geographical area, the Plum Case received a very high signal strength. Click here to see a simple signal strength test page comparing a wireless router (as used in the Plum Case) to a wireless dongle. Please note the wireless router graphic does not include the additional signal strength gained in the Plum Case by using its MU-MIMO (Multiple User - Multiple Inputs/Multiple Outputs) antennas. Utilizing its World Class MU-MIMO antennas incorporated in the Plum Case, the signal strength is increased significantly as compared to the wireless router.

See the coverage differences of simply a vehicular modem (gateway) and a dongle by clicking here. This graphic is provided by Motorola not Plum Laboratories and uses a Motorola gateway not a Cradlepoint. And remember, this is without MU-MIMO or the antenna array which is contained in the Plum Case. Thus, we believe the coverage differences would be even greater. However, it does simply show the difference between a vehicular modem (gateway) and a dongle so it gives you some idea of the difference on that basis alone. Also remember, even where you have reasonable cellular coverage on your cell phone, tablet, wireless card or dongle, you get much better signal strength with the Plum Case which results in much faster data speeds.

MU-MIMO. As noted above, the Plum Case utilizes a MU-MIMO compatible router as well as 802.11 MU-MIMO and Cellular MU-MIMO. The advantages of MU-MIMO include faster speeds, greater distances between devices, less signal fading, less dead spots, better resistance to interference and more simultaneous users. Wireless dongles, my-fi, cell phones and wireless cards do not contain MU-MIMO antenna capabilities; therefore, the data speeds are far slower (if even existent) than the Plum Case data speeds.

Security. While cellular data traffic is generally encrypted, it does not connect devices via VPNs or Virtual Private Networks. The Plum Case will allow for any combination of the four wireless networks or the three wired ports to utilize a VPN. This is especially important if the data being transmitted contains highly sensitive information.

Power. While other devices may have the capacity to operate for 4, 6 or even 8 hours, the Plum Cases' power bank will charge the Plum Case from 24 to 72 hours prior to recharging. Typical usage is 36 hours - and this may be important where power is not readily available.

Mobility. Simply put, the Plum Case is not attached to your home, office, or car and its ability to deliver high speed data in broad geographical areas is unparalleled.

In essence, if data speed, wireless and cellular coverage areas, security, power and mobility are important to you - especially in critical situations, you may want to consider the Plum Case.

Can I make cellular calls through the Plum Case when the Plum Case has a cellular signal but my cell phone does not?

Yes, you can. Many of the newer model Smartphones will automatically sense that your 802.11 wireless connection is stronger than your cell phone connection and will automatically connect your smartphone through the Plum Case to its cellular connection and allow you to make the call. Actually you may not be aware that this is taking place. You simply dial the number as you normally would.

And almost all of the older smartphones will allow you, via a free application you download on your smartphone, to place calls through the Plum Case as well. Call our customer support should you need guidance or assistance in using this application. We will be glad to assist you.

What are the main differences in the four Plum Case packages offered?

It's really pretty simple. You have Plum Case Basic which is the Plum Case but does not have a SIM card installed, is not configured, nor is it activated upon shipment. Plum Case Activated is a Plum Case that has an installed SIM card (Verizon, unless specified otherwise), has been configured – and you have a year's activation at 3 Gb of data usage per month. The "Plus" on each of these (Plum Case Basic Plus and Plum Case Activated Plus) simply adds the Plum Case Accessory Package and four hours of technical project support to the package.

It is important to note that ALL of these four offerings include the Cloud Management subscription and phone support for technical issues included in their respective base price.

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Why is the wide range of 36 hours to 72 hours given on how long the power bank will power the Plum Case without recharging?

This is because if the Plum Case is simply in an idle state or only being used to send a few e-mails the router/wireless unit draws much less power than when it is being fully utilized (e.g., sending multiple video files simultaneously, active GPS is utilized, etc.).

Can I recharge the power bank from other sources than the 115V wall adaptor?

Yes, such as a car adaptor (cigarette lighter adaptor) or a solar power source. Plum offers each of these as accessories individually or they come as standard components included in the Plum Accessories Case.

How long does it take to fully recharge the power bank?

From the 115V charger, if the Power Bank is completely exhausted, approximately 6 to 8 hours.

Why can the Plum Case receive cellular signals that my cell phone can't receive?

The main reason is antennas and MU-MIMO (Multiple User – Multiple Inputs/Multiple Outputs). Basically, in a cell phone you have an "L" like shaped antenna that is very small. The reason for the "L" shape in your cell phone is basically for polarity reasons (vertical and horizontal planes). Compare your cell phone antenna to the antenna array contained in the Plum Case and it's easy to visualize why the Plum Case receives a far stronger signal.

Also, the Plum Case uses MU-MIMO which significantly speeds up the data signal, provides greater distances between devices, has less signal fading, less dead spots, and provides better resistance to interference and allows for more simultaneous users.

One of the largest reasons we see people using Plum Cases is its high connectivity factor and significantly increased data speeds; and obviously, its mobility.

You seem to be confident of the Plum Case working in remote areas where cellular signals are very weak or not even present. Why is that?

Actually, we find it a bit humorous that most people blame the cellular carriers for not having enough "coverage", or blame their device. The fact is, most antennas utilized today are very poorly designed to take full advantage of the cellular signals that are out there. What is the one thing that connects a device to the cellular tower? The antenna! And strangely enough, almost no one thinks about the quality and design of the antenna.

The Plum Case is designed to optimize or maximize the capture of cellular signals. And candidly, there is greater cellular coverage than most recognize – but you need an antenna array and MU-MIMO to maximize the usage of that coverage – the Plum Case does that.

We are a government agency and cannot purchase via a credit card. We must purchase via an approved purchase order. Does Plum Laboratories take Purchase Orders?

Yes, we take Purchase Orders for governmental agencies. Simply give us a call. Also, governmental agencies will want to be aware that Plum Laboratories is a woman owned, small business and the product is manufactured in a federally designated HUBZone.

Why do you recommend that our wireless devices that connect to the Plum Case be "n" or "ac" connected?

Only because of speed and distance. Of course the Plum Case will work with older devices that are defined as a, b, or g and we're seeing almost all wireless devices these days equipped with n; however, we're going to see almost all of the new wireless devices equipped with ac connectivity.

One of the reasons we chose Cradlepoint as our Wireless/Cellular gateway is because it already comes equipped with ac capabilities which is a nice future proofing platform. In the future, we believe that we will see speeds in the Plum Case approach theoretical wireless limits of 1Gbps, and in the real world, 300Mbps – which is screaming fast.

Does Plum Case offer the option of having a different type of Wireless/Cellular gateway device other than Cradlepoint?

Certainly not currently. We did a significant amount of research and exploration and believe that Cradlepoint (compared to its competitors) is the finest and most rugged gateway available. It is very feature rich, very secure, highly reliable and very rugged.

Other considerations were that Cradlepoint's management platform appeared to be the best of all offerings and its GOBI radio, which allows almost any cellular carrier's firmware to be downloaded without having to change out the entire unit, were huge factors in our decision on which gateway we would incorporate into the Plum Case.

If you want to do an in-depth comparison of the Cradlepoint to other gateways, simply go to the specifications page (click here) and then compare Cradlepoint's specifications to other gateway manufacturers. It will become very apparent why we chose Cradlepoint as our gateway.

In your Plum Case Activated and Plum Case Activated Plus, we've noticed that you recommend Verizon as the carrier. Can you provide this activation with other carriers?

Yes, we certainly can. However, you need to recognize the reasons we recommend Verizon for most applications. First, Verizon, more so than any other National cellular carrier, operates at a lower frequency on the radio spectrum than other cellular carriers. This means that they get greater distance in their signal propagation. Since the Plum Case is designed to be used often in remote areas, this provides us the greatest probability of acquiring a cellular signal. Albeit a bit dated, you can click here to see the test results from AllNet Labs and PCMag.com and the results they found regarding the four major cellular carriers. From this data, it is easy to see why we use Verizon as the default carrier since it delivers fairly high data speeds but much better propagation (700MHz vs. 2.5GHz) than most carriers.

See the coverage maps of the major carriers:Verizon - AT&T - T-Mobile - Sprint

Secondly, we have an API between Verizon and Plum Laboratories that allows us to directly and immediately activate a Plum Case. With other carriers we have to go through somewhat of a delayed process.

Finally, we also have an API between Verizon and Plum Laboratories that allows us to automatically notify our clients on their data usage. This is important as we do not want to catch our clients off guard in how much data they are using.

This being said, we will however activate with other cellular providers but it will take significantly longer to activate the Plum Case and we cannot provide the automated reporting that our Verizon API allows us to deliver to our clients.

Can you ship overnight?

Yes, if we have it in our inventory in the color and style you order. However, there are two constricting factors to overnight or rush shipments:

1) All Plum Case units are "burned in" for 72 hours. We have found the vast majority of unit failures (above 97%) will occur in the first 72 hours of operation. By "burning in" the unit for this length of time, it ensures us that we are shipping a product that is highly reliable.

2) In our molecular bonding and manufacturing process, it actually takes 7 days for the bonding process to be completed. This process is not like using glue or epoxy which does not work well with "polyfins" such as polypropylene, polycholoprene and polyurethane. It is a fairly complex chemical process and while we are working on it, thus far we have not found a way to shorten this natural cycle.

So the answer is, if we have it in inventory; yes, we can ship it overnight. If not, unfortunately, the order will take at least 10 days to fulfill and ship. So ordering once you already have an emergency or need is probably not the best strategy.

What are the main differences in The Plum Case and Plum Extended?

The Plum Case contains 1 cellular gateway to a cellular provider. Plum Extended has 2 cellular gateways, each of which can connect to any cellular provider. Therefore, if one wants the added protection of coverage from two different cellular providers, they should use Plum Extended. Also, should an emergency response team find in the future they wish to connect to the proposed FirstNet network, one of the gateways in Plum Extended can be utilized for FirstNet connectivity and the other gateway connected to a commercial provider. Additionally, Plum Extended is equipped with 8 antennas as opposed to 5 for the Plum Case. This is to ensure complete MU-MIMO on both cellular gateways and GPS connectivity on both gateways as well. So which one should you purchase? If you feel confident that the geographical area where you will be utilizing the case in is well covered by one cellular provider, go with the Plum Case. If however, you plan on extensive travel; or just want the assurance of having two different cellular providers in case one should fail (e.g. such as a tornado destroying one cellular provider's tower but not the other) then go with Plum Extended.

I noticed that you offer the Plum Case and Accessory Case in both Nanuk and Pelican choices. Do you recommend either one?

No, they are both excellent cases and we wanted to provide our customers a choice of styling and weight. They are almost identical in quality and size and come in all of the colors we offer. The Nanuk case is a bit lighter, a bit "softer" and has a little more "sleek" styling. The Pelican case is a bit heavier, slightly harder, and has more of a "military" style to it. They are both of excellent quality compared to many of the other shell cases we looked at. However, be careful. While Plum Laboratories offers ONLY original Nanuk and Pelican shells for both its Plum Case and Accessory Case, there are several "knock offs" offered in the market. We believe they are not nearly the quality of the Nanuk and Pelican offerings and they certainly don't offer many of the Mil Spec certifications that both Nanuk and Pelican meet.