On the Amazon Kindle forums, the most frequent question I've seen in connection with the new Kindles is about the wireless options -- what "3G" means and how it differs from "WiFi" -- both types are included in the $189 model while the "WiFi-only" model is offered for those who feel they won't ever need the "3G" wireless feature.
This article is written for those new to the wireless scene. I meant to make it short, but decided to write in more detail.
The word "wireless' here pertains to both 3G and WiFi networks.
If the e-reader is not attached to a computer but it can access online sites, it's using a "wireless network." I've seen that many use the term "WiFi" when they mean "3G" mobile-wireless, as it's a confusing area to most who have had no reason to even think about these words before.
As the image at the left indicates, 3G Wireless involves huge wireless networks that cover very long distances -- our cellphones access these networks. This is often referred to as 'mobile wireless' -- or wireless on the go. Coverage involves very large areas and involves cell towers.
WI FI WIRELESS
This involves very "local" and ultra short-range wireless networks -- usually in effect for a home or an office or office building, set up by the individuals using them, but increasingly, cafes and shops are offering customers use of their own WiFi networks while there.
The picture on the left is of my 7-year old Netgear WiFi network router. Mine takes a signal from Comcast's high-speed cable internet service and routes that cable-modem signal via a wire to my main computer and then broadcasts the signal "locally" around my home so that it's accessible without-wires by my printer/scanner and my laptop.
My neighbors have WiFi networks in their apartments as well, and we all use the normal security of some kind of passkey so that others can't "steal" access to our wee networks and slow us down by sharing them without permission.
If you're getting a WiFi-only reader and expect to download books directly to the e-reader without having to hook it up to a computer, you'll need to have a WiFi network set up. They're very inexpensive these days -- it costs about $40 for a good router -- but someone will need to set it up and understand how to maintain it. Friends can help. It's not difficult (except for those without experience with computers), and software that comes with the small router can make it almost automatic.
BOOK-DOWNLOADS DIRECT TO KINDLE
I think the reason that the Kindle reader 'took off' when other e-readers received much less interest is the capability that Amazon built into the reader so that owners can access the cellphone or mobile networks wherever they are (except in some remote areas) to just download a new book on the spot upon hearing about it.
Amazon has said they wanted customers to be able to use the Kindle without need for a computer.
With 3G mobile wireless, it doesn't matter where you are -- you can usually download a book you want or do a look-up online. As Amazon's pages point out, there's no need to look for a "hot spot" -- a place that offers a WiFi network that is sharable by customers, whether for a fee or for free (Starbucks and McDonald's WiFi networks are free).
Nook's implementation of the 3G wireless feature
Nook owners can use the WiFi network access that is available at Barnes and Noble stores, but they can't use that type of wireless in a bus or at the beach as Kindle users can with its 3G.
The Nook's 3G is able only to access the B&N store online. (See Len Edgerly's video demo of differences in the implementation of other features that the Nook and the Kindle share.)
HIGHER COST OF 3G+WIFI vs WIFI-ONLY
It's a one-time $50 difference between these two models.
As an example of the value of 3G access:
The iPad costs an additional $130 for the lowest-cost model with 3G capability ($629 vs $499).
To USE the iPad's 3G wireless, a monthly data plan is needed, at $15 to $30/mo. For normal smartphones, any added 3G web-data access is usually between $30-$60 dollars monthly.
There are no monthly charges for the Kindle's 3G wireless access.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOUR E-READER CHOICES? - A SUMMARY
This more basic summary is modified from one of the earlier articles here.
1. 3G - cellular or mobile networks -- this type is, as with cellphones, accessible over the air almost anywhere. You can be on a bus, at the dentist's office, or at the beach and it can work there.
If Amazon enables 3G wireless use of the web-browser in another country, you'll be able to use that feature in other countries as well if Kindles sent to your country are enabled for the web-browser.
Personally, I wouldn't give up the free 3G access for a one-time $50 savings when it normally costs $30-$60/month for this type of feature on a smart phone.
2. WiFi - wireless local area networks (WLAN) -- You need to be near a 'local' area network in this case, so these are usually set up in homes or offices and you can find "hotspots" at places like Starbucks, McDonald's and other cafes though some require a per-hour charge and/or a password/passkey.
While the initial cost of the WiFi-Only model is about $50 less, you give up Free 3G cell-phone-type wireless access forever with the unit.
However, those with 3G web-data plans already on their smartphones or tablets won't miss it that much. They won't be able to download a book to the Kindle on the spur of the moment from almost anywhere, but that's just a luxury and many are just as happy to wait until they have access to a WiFi network.
IS 3G WEB BROWSING AVAILABLE IN MY HOME COUNTRY?
That depends on the 3G wireless arrangements Amazon has been able to make with wireless providers in that country.
Amazon has not enabled the experimental web browser in some regions of the world (probably because the 3G browsing arrangements they could make are too costly for them), although in ALL areas that offer wireless downloads of books, Amazon features 24/7 free access to Wikipedia, which is very useful when done from a book you're reading.
New web browser on the K3's
The Kindle 3's are using the new WebKit-based browser. Amazon says the updated web browser is "faster, easier to navigate, and provides a new 'article mode' feature that simplifies web pages to just the main text-based content for easier reading."
That simplification will be great for Kindle Edition blogs when following links in stories.
3G AMAZON 3G WHISPERNET COVERAGE MAPS
Here are links to to Amazon's 3G Whispernet coverage maps for the latest Kindles:
North America Worldwide
See earlier articles on
. Accessing Google Maps site for Text-only Step-by-Step driving directions on the Kindle (quite fast access)
. A downloadable bookmarks-type file for accessing mobile-device optimized websites
. Sending a highlighted Kindle book passage to friends on Facebook or Twitter (doable from where you are if you have a 3G model).
. a listing of countries for which the Amazon country-specific Kindle-2 pages did not show the web browser as 'unavailable' and countries with product pages specifically stating the web browser was not available for those countries (June 2010) although some were able to use the web browser in those countries for awhile, especially after software update 2.5.x, but now are unable to, and the status of those may change with time.
The current language of the international Kindle product pages is considerably more vague, with the Wikipedia site listed as available on 3G Whispernet for all, while for the rest of the Net, WiFi access is at least encouraged and in some cases would be 'required,' as 3G web-browsing is not available in some areas.
Those in countries that were NOT identified as having the web browser 'not available' still seem to be able to use the web browser.
Other areas, such as The Netherlands and Portugal, which were identified in June as not having web browsing available, did have some Kindles enabled until recently but don't appear to have that capability now. Amazon doesn't seem to want to be clear on this and it may be because of contract negotiations, ongoing or unsuccessful.
In the meantime, Germany's
Updated this paragraph Oct. 15, 2010
See http://bit.ly/kwkweb2 for -some- info on countries with 3G web access for Amazon Kindles.
Amazon has voiced hopes to have web-browsing enabled worldwide and has gone further along that road faster than I'd expected. The addition of WiFi capability to the new Kindles should help a bit where 3G web browsing is not currently available.
Current Kindle Models for reference, plus free-ebook search links.
NOTES on newer Kindles.
Updated Kindle Fire Basic 7" tablet - $159
Kindle Fire HD 7" 16/32GB - $199/$249
Kindle Fire HD 8.9" 16/32GB - $299/$369
Kindle Fire HD 8.9" 4G 32/64GB - $499/$599
Kindle NoTouch ("Kindle") - $69/$89
Kindle Paperwhite, WiFi - $99/$139
Kindle Paperwhite, 3G/WiFi - $179/$199
Kindle Keybd 3G - $139/$159, Free but slow web
Kindle DX - $379, Free, slow web
Kindle Basic, NoTouch - £69
Kindle Touch WiFi, UK - £109
Kindle Keyboard 3G, UK - £149
Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB
Kindle NoTouch Basic - $89
Kindle Touch WiFi - $139
Kindle Keybd 3G - $189
Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB
Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources. Top 100 free bestsellers. Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.
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