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Sprint and Verizon are both carrying the Ovation U727: It’s got a microSD slot, too, that can handle up to 4GB of storage. Kind of a neat addition as the device can work with handhelds that use USB as well, but might lack storage or could use an extra storage device. Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X are supported by Novatel Wireless; carriers vary on platforms they support natively. It also has GPS built in.
Sprint will charge from $80 with a two-year commitment to $280 without for the device; Verizon, $150 (including a $50 rebate) for a two-year commitment. Monthly charges are, as always, $60 or $80 with each carrier, depending on voice plans and term of commitment.
Tim Higgins notes that it might not be smart to connect for cell data to your smartphone via Bluetooth: Bluetooth 1.2, the version most likely found in any given smartphone, tops out at a little above 700 Kbps, well below the top download burst rates available with EVDO and HSDPA. Higgins found in testing that connecting a smartphone via USB provided substantially improved throughput—in one case a best rate three times higher than with Bluetooth.
Bluetooth 2.0+EDR closes in on 3 Mbps, but as a newer flavor, it’s less available due to chip expense. It’ll eventually become the standard, even as EVDO Rev. A moves to over 3 Mbps of burst download speed and HSDPA hits similar marks. (Power usage, may be less of a constraint, because 2.0+EDR “talks” less to achieve the same throughput, thus being more efficient per bit.) [via JiWire]
Another day, another EVDO Rev. A modem announcement: Verizon Wireless will sell the USB modem that supports 1xRTT, EVDO Rev. 0 and EVDO Rev. A with both Windows and Mac OS X support. It’ll cost $150 with a two-year commitment; $200 with a one-year contract. Verizon is the only US carrier to offer full support for Mac OS X users, but this appears to be changing in the near term.
JiWire gives the Sprint Nextel release of the Novatel Wireless U720 USB modem for EVDO Rev. A high marks: The USB device works on computers that lack PC Card and ExpressCard slots, including desktop machines. In testing, JiWire found that the modem worked well on both Windows PCs and Macs, despite any official support yet for Mac OS X. (A modem script can be downloaded from EVDOInfo Forums.)
On Rev. A networks in San Francisco, the reviewer saw average speeds above 800 Kbps downstream; they topped 1 Mbps consistently with a five-bar signal strength. Upstream speeds were more modest, averaging 150 Kbps with no speeds above 180 Kbps, far below the top end of the range that’s expected with Rev. A. The modem works with the more prevalent Rev. 0 networks, too, which run somewhat slower.
The modem’s downside is a bit of awkwardness in its form factor. JiWire writes that it’s three times thicker than a PC Card with nearly the same width and length. It’s quite large to plug into a USB jack. A supplied Y-cable, with two USB plugs, can draw more power and locate the modem further from the computer. But it doesn’t work with a MacBook Pro, which has one USB port on either side of the computer.
Sprint offers the modem for $50 with a two-year contract, and, as with other EVDO plans, charges $60 per month for unmetered use when coupled with a Sprint voice plan and a two-year commitment, or $80 per month without.
The cell operator releases USB to serve new those without PC Card slots: Vodafone is addressing the needs of desktop users, laptops with ExpressCard, and Apple MacBook Pro owners. Vodafone is specifically offering support for Mac users, which is almost always lacking. Vodafone started rolling out 3G in the UK in June. This is an HSDPA modem, so it’s not an entree into the U.S. market where Verizon Wireless, 45 percent owned by Vodafone, uses the incompatible EVDO standard for 3G. The USB modem will ship in the fall.
JiWire reports that cellular data adapters for a new laptop card slot will be coming later this year: The ExpressCard form factor relies on the faster PCI Express bus found in newer laptops and desktops. The slot is shaped differently from CardBus and supports as much as four times the speed. The ExpressCard/34 slot is what you’ll find in laptops (34mm wide along its insertion point), while some servers can take the ExpressCard/54 (34mm at insertion point, 54mm on external portion). While a /54 card fits into the same /34 slot, there are different requirements for support. A laptop that supports /34 cards will probably also support only 1.5 volts of power output, too; a higher-voltage option is 3.3V.
Dell, Apple, and other companies are already pushing many laptops out the door that combine the Intel Core chip series, PCI Express bus, and and an ExpressCard/34 slot. Which means that you’re sunk if you want to use advanced Wi-Fi instead of built-in or use a 3G cellular data card for EVDO or HSDPA.
Fortunately, JiWire determined at last week’s cellular trade industry convention, the ExpressCards are coming. There was no doubt as to “if,” just “when.” Dell says EVDO in May or June for its laptop line, largely transitioned, and HSDPA in August or September. Dell sells laptops with either standard embedded using mini-PCI adapters.
Interestingly, Mac drivers appear to be on the agenda for adapter makers. Because Apple’s ExpressCard-bearing MacBook Pro models use Intel chips, this might make driver development simpler, and thus a more front-of-the-line proposition than for CardBus-based adapters.
JiWire also noted that cards that handle EVDO Rev. A—a 30% faster version of EVDO—are due later in the year. Sprint plans to introduce Rev. A widely by early 2007. They also point to a USB-based EVDO modem (supporting Rev. A) that Novatel hasn’t officially announced but was being flashed at Sprint’s booth; that operator will sell it. A USB form factor with Mac and Windows drivers means almost any computer could handle EVDO.