More MiFi

Image courtesy Slashgear We’ve talked recently about MiFi, which is a WiFi hotspot + a modem that connects to the Verizon network (or Sprint for its MiFi). However, both Verizon and Sprint are CDMA networks. If you’re instead on a GSM network like AT&T or T-Mobile, no MiFi love. Well, still no love. But maybe there’s hope, from both Novatel and Huawei. Novatel makes the MiFi Model 2200 used by Verizon and Sprint. Huawei is a Chinese telcom not well known in the US (yet anyway) but with a major presence in Asia.

First up is Novatel, which now has a model, 2352, for European GSM networks. MiFi 2352 Personal 3G / Wifi Hotspot Video Demo and MiFi 2352 HSPA Intelligent Mobile Hotspot video unboxing (source of the picture) both have a video and plenty of pictures.

The 2352 is for European GSM networks. Therefore, it likely would not support US 3GSM bands. But Novatel seems bent on cornering the MiFi market. And US GSM is a big market. So I suspect a Novatel MiFi for US GSM networks isn’t far behind. Update: Novatel Wireless MiFi 2352 HSPA review states: “Speaking of carriers, Novatel have a GSM version of the MiFi intended for US 3G bands.  The MiFi 2372 is yet to show up on the company’s own webpages, but its been spotted clearing the FCC complete with support for the 850/1900MHz bands; that suggests we may be seeing an AT&T version sometime in the near future.”

CDMA vs. GSM is not the only difference between the 2200 and the 2352. The 2352 has a separate Linux OS, application processor with memory, and microSDHC flash storage. This means that the 2352 can host and run third-party applications (as well as files), accessible to each of the WiFi-connected clients. 

Sounds good. But James Kendrick in HSPA MiFi Appears Unboxed: Sounds Too Complicated expresses concerns. James’ first concern is that the 2352’s additional features may have added size and weight to the device. I’ve compared the datasheets for the 2200 and the 2352. JK is correct. The  2200 is 89 x 59 x 9 mm and 59 grams. The 2352 is a larger and heftier 98 x 62 x 15.3 mm and 81 grams.

James’s other concern is that more is not necessarily better:

“The feature that I am questioning is the inclusion of a Linux-based application server that hosts apps for serving to devices connected via Wi-Fi. This allows for carriers to put their apps on the device for customer use. This sounds OK on the surface, but it has obviously added an unnecessary layer of complexity to the device. One of the biggest strengths I see of the MiFi in my use is the simplicity — push a button and get busy. This app server could add a whole new layer of unnecessary complexity. What if the device hangs up while being used? It will happen at some point; you know it will.”

The comments to James’ article, particularly by Chris Davies, offer a different viewpoint. Update: Chris has his own review, Novatel Wireless MiFi 2352 HSPA review, which has a lot of information on the additional features of the 2352.

My take (and one you’ll often hear from me): Like most things life or gadget, trade-offs are involved. How you evaluate these trade-offs depends on your usage scenario. For me, I’d accept the additional size and weight of the 2352 for its additional features. But for me, it’s a moot point, at least for now. The 2352 isn’t available for the US. Even when there is a 2352 GSM equivalent in the US like the 2372 mentioned above, I have a 2 year contact for the 2200. In view of the ETF, maybe I’m making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but I’d probably go with the 2200 anyway because (at least for my area) Verizon is the better network. Perhaps if I’m lucky, in a year or so Verizon will offer another MiFi with the additional features to which I can upgrade. But I doubt I’ll be so lucky. Big Red is notoriously slow when it comes to the cutting edge. It also tends to cripple devices (e.g., its MiFi lacks the GPS functionality Sprint’s does). I guess time will tell.

imageNext, Huawei (not big in the US yet but big in Asia) has its E583X model. I don’t know how its size or weight compares to the 2352 since I can’t find detailed specs for the E583X. But even if it’s larger, it’s also cooler looking. Doesn’t the E583X look like a Star Trek phaser (or tricorder)? And those multi-colored, blinking lights just add to the cool factor!

My guess is the E583X is coming to Europe, and possibily later to the US. In the meantime, check out these articles for more information, pictures and videos:

Huawei’s E583X wireless modem turns 3G to WiFi, beautiful lights
Huawei Wireless Broadband Modem With A Difference
Huawei’s wireless modem is really wireless

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