Monday, 14 June 2010

3 Mifi: internet (almost) anywhere - improved model due out in July - preview

Three UK will soon be bringing out a new improved version of their Mifi device (which will be a Huawei E585), on 2 July 2010.

See my previous blog post on what's a Mifi, for those not familiar with it - basically it's a pocketable device which provides a mobile internet connection, via 3's mobile network, for any computer, iPad or iPod Touch etc that is wifi-enabled. And you can share the connection so that up to 5 devices can use it at the same time.

Last Thursday 3MobileBuzz hosted a demo and talk by 3's Mifi product manager Matt about the new Mifi, to which they kindly invited several bloggers including me. (I was mistaken in my previous blog post, I'd thought we would have trial devices to take away with us but we didn't, so I've updated the post.)

Above is a nice official photo of the new device, from the 3 press releases page (black front, silver-ish back).

And here's a rather wobblier photo of the new Mifi and old Mifi side by side (new one on the right), which I took at the event:

As you'll see, the size and shape of old and new models are pretty much identical.

What's new? The innards, the buttons and the screen info.

Other companies and PR/marketing firms would do well to take a leaf from the books of Three and 3MobileBuzz (run by 1000 Heads). Because they have actually listened to and acted on the feedback on the first device given by bloggers in reviews or via the Mifi Consumer Panel of which I was a member (see my post about their first Mifi model; I didn't blog all the issues with the device but gave them thoughts by email and in a feedback session.)

To try to deal with the main issues raised, which were chiefly to do with usability, they've improved the Mifi so that the E585:

  1. only has 1 button to turn it on and do all the connecting etc, yay (with the current E5830 model you have to press different buttons in order, very confusing and unnecessary) - so they call this model "one-touch", see this pic:

  2. has a much less confusing and more informative screen e.g. (if I'm not mistaken) info on SMS texts received

  3. can be used while it's being charged

  4. has a shorter charging-up time - currently the 1st charge takes about 10-12 hours, but the new device they said can be charged in only 8 hours, and subsequent shorter top-up charges again should take 70-80% the time needed for the current E5830 model

  5. allows access to its Dashboard controls and info via web browser for all main operating systems, which means Linux etc devices can now access it, see pic below which shows the Dashboard called up on a Linux notebook computer:

The pricing plans will be exactly the same as for the existing Mifi (see Three Mifi plans and tariffs). So if you were thinking of getting one, you might want to wait till 2 July.

3 do want to provide an upgrade path for existing Three Mifi users, but I don't have any info on the details yet.

No API yet, but hopefully that will come. And no hot pink or covers, either, sorry!

Added: there's no official specifications sheet yet but here's some specs info on the E585, thanks to 3 Monkeys (who deal with 3's media releases):

Form Factor Dongle-like, no external antenna connector
Weight & size 95.5mm x 49.0mm x 14.1mm, 90g
Radio Chipset Qualcomm MSM7225 (sw: AMSS7625) coupled with QCT RTR6285 RF chip.
Bands 2100/900 WCDMA & Quad-band GSM
Receiver Type 3 (Equalizer + Rx Diversity)
Power Class 3 (+24dBm)
Radio Access capabilities HSDPA cat.8 (7.2Mbps)/HSUPA cat.6 (5.76Mbps). 3G (384kbps), EDGE, GPRS class B (DTM MS-class 10)
WiFi chipset Atheros AR6002G
WiFi protocols 802.11b/g (max throughput limited to 10Mbps)
Storage memory microSD slot (up to 32GB supported)
Connectivity microUSB 2.0 High speed (480 Mbps)
Messaging support Support concatenated SMS (2048 chr)
Display OLED
Battery capacity 1500m Ah

Now for some trivia:

  • bloggers were ferried to the session from train/Tube stations via rickshaw. I have only one wifi device which I can (hopefully…) trust myself not to drop when trying to input a wireless key whilst crammed up against 2 other passengers in the back of a rickshaw that's constantly having to take evasive action to avoid being run over by buses, vans etc, but as I didn't know in advance that they were going to challenge us to actually try to use the new Mifi with a device during the journey, sadly I didn't bring it with me!

  • as well as providing some finger food, they made lovely cakes customised for each of the invited bloggers. Here's the one for ACE, next to one of the Three Mifi cakes. Tasty they were too.

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