Three UK announce Web Cube – Broadband in a box

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Although the MiFi is a fantastic device, it’s designed for use on the go, and anything with a battery risks damage if left permanently on charge. So, for people who want the benefit of the MiFi (3G available to up to 5 devices via WiFi), but want a more permanent solution, this may well be the solution you’ve been waiting for.  3UK also suggest it’s useful for students or people renting where committing to a new landline contract (often 18 months nowadays) is either not an option or not worthwhile.

Although it’s been available in other countries (such as Ireland) for a while now, 3UK seem to be the first UK Mobile Network to offer a realistic “Broadband in a box” solution with the Web Cube.

The Web Cube comes on a Mobile Broadband tariff, and the SIM is already inserted, so it really is a case of plugging into the mains and you’re ready to go. That’s one of the key points about the Web Cube; it’s powered from the mains, so for some people that’s a downside (and for those a MiFi is a better option), but for others that want a permanently on option or can live with only having access whilst near a mains power socket, then this is for you. To show that’s it’s a little bit less convenient than a MiFi, it’s also a little cheaper per month for the same amount of data.

Data? Lots! You have two contract options:

  • For a rolling 1 month contract (ie no long tie in period), you can get 10GB of data each month for £15 per month, but there is a £60 upfront charge for the device.
  • Alternatively, and what I suspect will be the more popular option, you can get 15GB of data each month for £15.99 per month, with no upfront charge, but instead you will commit to a 24 month contract.

15GB is a lot of data; that’s approximately 500MB per day, which is the limit many network place on handset tariffs for the whole month. Of course, the main reason for the extra amount is things like Security Patches and viewing full web pages, but even so, 15GB is a lot of data. The device is HSPA+ compatible, so (where it’s available), 3UK could provide speeds upto 21.6Mbps download and 5.76Mbps up; even at a quarter of those speeds that’s more than many of us can currently achieve on our landlines; in fact, 3UK carefully market their network as “in excess of 10 Mbps, with typical speeds of 2-5 Mbps”.

Of course, with all good things, there has to be a downside, and I’m afraid this device does have a downside; for many people it’s simply not available 🙁 3UK are launching it in 3 cities to begin with; Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh – if you are outside of those cities, it’s not yet available, but you can put your name down to be informed once it is available.

I expect as the year goes on and the device becomes available across the whole of the UK, and especially as students set off in September, this is going to become a well selling solution.

Although 3UK have also talked about adding a Mobile WiFi docking station for existing Mobile Broadband dongle customers (see here), I think this is a nicer cleaner solution.

Head to 3UK‘s website for more information on the Web Cube.


3 launch Mobile Broadband Wi-Fi Hub

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

3 have announced they are launching a Mobile Broadband Wi-Fi Hub, which will allow users who have selected Mobile Broadband USB Modems to be able to share them (to up to 5 devices) via Wi-Fi, in a similar way to the newer 3 MiFi.

This, I guess, is similar to the original D100 USB Router they released a few years ago now, and like that device, only works from mains power; ie it has no battery (again another plus for the 3 MiFi).  However, one very positive aspect is that it covers many of the recent and not so recent USB modems 3 have sold.  The list includes:

  • Huawei E122, E1550, E156G, E169, E1750, E1820, E353u, E367u
  • ZTE MF112 and MF627

This list does include the latest Huawei USB Dongle that offers HSPA+ speeds (up to 21.1Mbps).

It’s 88mm x 66mm x 25mm, gives you around 30 metres range, and is only available in Black (unlike the 3 MiFi, which now comes in White too); pricing and exact availability will follow in time.


3UK release Huawei E586 in White

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Although already announced, 3UK have confirmed that they now have stock of the White version of the Huawei E586 White MiFi device, which offers the latest HSPA+ speeds where available on the 3 network (they’ve confirmed to me they already have 40% coverage across their network, and will aim for 70% by the end of the year).

Although there’s nothing wrong with the Black variant (I’ve had one on test from 3UK for a few weeks now, and it’s been terrific), a lot of people will like the White variant to match their other devices…

For more information, head to the 3Store.


Archos launch 5 new Android tablets

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Archos last week announced a range of 5 Android Tablets, running from the £99 2.8″ Archos 28 tablet to the £299 16GB 10.1″ Archos 101.  In fact, the models have quite different specs, which are worth checking out:

The £99 4GB (or 8GB for an extra £10) Archos 28 (below) has a 320×240 pixels 2.8” TFT LCD with resistive touchscreen, ARM Cortex A8 processor at 800 MHz, USB2, WiFi, Microphone, G-Sensor, is 100 x 54 x 9 mm and weighs 68 grams.

Then there’s the £129 8GB Archos 32 (below), which has a 400×240 pixels 3.2” TFT LCD with resistive touchscreen (interestingly, Archos say the Archos 28 supports 16m colours, whilst this supports 256k colours, unless it’s a misprint), ARM Cortex A8 processor at 800 MHz with DSP, USB2, WiFi, Bluetooth (note it’s missing from the Archos 28), pre-installed applications (Deezer, Ebuddy, Mewbox, Raging Thunder Lite, Touiteur, Quickpedia), TV out (again not on the Archos 28, and the cable is an optional extra), Microphone, G-Sensor, and is 105 x 55 x 9 mm and weighs 72 grams. It also has a camera on the back.

Next comes the £199 16GB Archos 43 (below), which has a microSD card, a 480×854 pixels 4.3” TFT LCD with resistive touchscreen (back to 16 million colours), ARM Cortex A8 processor at 1GHz with DSP, USB2, WiFi, Bluetooth, pre-installed applications (Webbrowser, Email, Contacts, Appslib, Twitter, Wikipedia, Weather Channel, Ebuddy, Deezer, Mewbox, Racing Thunderlight, Weather Channel, World Newspaper), TV HDMI out (again the cable is an optional extra), Microphone, G-Sensor, and is 135 x 65 x 9 mm and weighs 130 grams.  This also adds an HD camera (although whether a 2MP camera producing 720p should really be called HD is another matter), and it has a built in kick stand for when you want to watch movies.

Importantly, all devices listed (the Archos 28, Archos 32 and the Archos 43 will be available in September), whilst the following two devices are due out in October:

Moving on further is the 8GB (£229) or 250GB (£269) Archos Archos 70 (below), which has a microSD card (only on the 8GB Flash version, not the 250GB Hard Disk version), a 800 x 480 pixels 7.0” TFT LCD with capacitive touchscreen (16 million colours), ARM Cortex A8 processor at 1GHz with DSP, USB2, WiFi, Bluetooth, pre-installed applications (Aldiko, Ebuddy, Wikipedia, Avecomics, HubKap, Deezer, Mewbox, Raging Thunderlite (a 3D car demo game), WordNewspaper, Touiteur, Fring), TV HDMI out (again the cable is an optional extra), Microphone, G-Sensor, and is 201 x 114 x 10 mm and weighs 300 grams for the Flash version, with the Hard Disk version is 4 mm thicker and 100 grams heavier.  This doesn’t have the rear HD camera, but does have a front facing VGA camera instead, and it also has the built in kick stand.

Finally, there is the 8GB (£269) or 16GB (£299) Archos 101 (shown at the top of the article), which is pretty much the same spec as the Archos 70, except the capacitive touchscreen is 1024×600 pixels with a 10.1″ TFT LCD, and is 270 x 150 x 12 mm and 480 grams.

All devices will have access to Archos’ AppsLib App Store for downloading (and purchasing) additional applications for these tablets, but if you don’t need 3G capability (or you have a MiFi device) then many of these may well suit, especially with all featuring Android v2.2 as standard.

There’s much more information, pictures, and full specs over on Archos’ website here, where you’ll notice the 8GB Archos 32 (£129) is already available for sale.  I will also add there appear to be a number of other standard apps included with each device beyond those listed.


Vodafone launch their MiFi competitor

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Launched last week, this is the Vodafone Mobile WiFi R201, which is designed to rival 3UK‘s MiFi device (or Novatel’s Intelligent Mobile Hotspot (also called MiFi, but outside of the UK).  The Vodafone offering, being brand new to the market is currently only available on a contract, but I suspect it will be released as a PAYG option in due course to provide true rivalry to the 3UK MiFi.

The unit will currently cost you £15-£25 per month on an 18 month contract (with most tariffs having a small upfront charge too), offering 3-5GB of data per month, although unless the Vodafone network is key to you, the 3UK MiFi has more competitive pricing (you could nearly buy the 3UK unit on PAYG for less than the upfront charge on the cheapest contract, so if you don’t need a lot of data every month, it can work out a lot cheaper!).

The Really Mobile Project have managed to get their hands on one of the devices, and have written up their opinion (especially useful as it compares it directly to the 3UK MiFi v2), so head here to read it.

Overall, it’s interesting to see true competition in this market with a choice of 3 key units now, and all offering a similar one button experience to use.


3 MiFi – Final Looks

Monday, August 9th, 2010

I’ve already covered many of the key benefits to the new 3 MiFi unit (in my first looks), although I will restate that it’s a joy to use now it’s a single power button to set everything up, and the wireless encryption key being only numbers makes it easier to quote to people to share the connection.  For the full review, click on the full article below.



Kindle 3 released with a proper UK variant

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Last week Amazon released (a little earlier than everyone was expecting) a new Kindle model, the Kindle 3.  Not just is the device better in many ways (and cheaper!), but Amazon have also launched a UK Kindle Store, and a UK Kindle 3 directly using a UK mobile SIM.  Currently, a Kindle 2 International or Kindle DX International will have a US mobile SIM built into the device, and hence will roam onto the UK networks (although it could roam onto multiple networks, the Kindle does seem keen to stick with O2), whereas the Kindle 3 will have a UK Vodafone mobile SIM built into the device (which is still sealed, so there’s no access to the SIM or the battery).  What’s interesting is that with the release of the v2.5 firmware, all International Kindles in the UK have had access to the “full” internet experience (as opposed to the launch wikipedia-only access), so actually this internet access isn’t that different to the experience available to existing users.

So, what’s new and different with the new device…

  • Firstly, it’s available (from 27th August)
  • 21% smaller and 15% lighter, and has a 20% faster refresh of the e-Ink screen
  • There are two models, the Kindle 3 WiFi, and the Kindle 3 3G/WiFi, which uses Vodafone as already mentioned
  • The Kindle 3 WiFi will only come in Graphite, whereas the Kindle 3 3G will come in White or Graphite
  • The same 6″ screen size of the existing Kindle 2, but with the better contrast of the Kindle DX screen
  • Storage up to 4GB
  • Prices are £109 for Kindle WiFi and £149 for Kindle 3G, with neither having any ongoing costs
  • Minor changes to the keyboard (improving the 5 way cursor), and providing “previous page” buttons on both sides of the device
  • The buttons (especially the next / previous page buttons) are quieter
  • Updated web browser technology, to make every element faster
  • Whereas before numbers were accessible from the top row of keys, you can now use the Symbol feature (which doesn’t turn off after the selection of the first symbol).  There are rumours that you can also use Alt-Q (for 1) etc., although the numbers are not marked on the keys
  • Battery life now listed as 10 days for 3G version, and a month for the WiFi version
  • There’s a microphone at the bottom, marked as “for future use”

Another interesting feature; a light for reading at night! No, not included with the Kindle 3, but the all new leather cover from Amazon includes a built in light (and what’s more, it gets powered directly from the Kindle via contacts in the hinge mechanism); personally on my Kindle 2, I have an M-Edge case with the M-Edge e-Luminator light which works well, but building it into the case is even nicer (and cheaper).

The Kindle Case should be available in Black, Orange, Brown, Pink, Blue, Green and Red (do watch out, the case will also be available without the light!) for £49.99 in the UK.

So, what about the pricing?  The Kindle 2 was roughly £200 last Christmas, so the price of the WiFi version is nearly half that, and I think that will make the Kindle 3 WiFi a plausible Christmas present, and with devices like the 3 MiFi, there’s no need to pay extra for the 3G version.


3UK MiFi 2 First Review

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Although we’ve already covered a First Looks of the updated 3UK MiFi when it launched (see here), 3UK (and 3MobileBuzz) have kindly sent me a unit for review.  Although things like the dot matrix screen are very useful to see more detail (especially the signal strength and whether you are getting HSDPA), I have to say the single biggest benefit of the new unit is actually the fact that it only needs one button to turn it on and set it up; such a minor thing, but this one thing has made trialling the device so much easier.

I’ve yet to (need to) use the web administration interface, but just the knowledge it’s there and available (unlike the old unit) again makes it a better device. I’ll continue to trial the device, especially to look at battery life and how well it performs in a marginal signal area, but first impressions of using the device are that it’s well worthy of purchasing.


New 3UK MiFi unit

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Here’s the new 3UK MiFi (v2) that was launched last night.  The device features a number of minor updates on the previous unit, and really does address many of the issues and concerns that have been raised against the original unit.  In particular:

  • The device now turns on, powers on all radios, and auto-connects to 3UK, instead of needing 3 button presses.
  • The device now features an OLED screen, with information on data usage (from that session), WiFi status (including number of connected clients), SMS messages.  When the screen turns off, the green power light on the power button still lit for immediate visibility of the fact the device is turned on.
  • The management is now all performed from a web browser interface (the old Windows management tool which only worked when connected via a cable is no more); this means Mac, Linux, iPad / iPhone support is all there and working out the box.  This also now allows access to the microSD card reader from all devices.
  • 3UK / Huawei have improved the battery life of the device, but due to the screen needing more power than 4 lights it has roughly the same usage time, although battery charging has been reduced by around 20%.
  • Also, you can use it whilst charging (as opposed to the old unit), and 3UK have moved from miniUSB to microUSB in line with most (but not all) mobile phone manufacturers.
  • In terms of the new device, it will go on sale on 2 July for the same price as the current unit.  As stocks of the old unit run out, the In Car MiFi and iPod Touch bundles will update to the new unit too.

For existing users of the current device, there are no upgrade plans, although you can simply buy the device on PAYG and move your current SIM across to the new unit. One thing though; 3UK are considering releasing a firmware update for the current device which would enable the 1 button startup (ie basically it turns on the auto-connect feature).  Experiments with this though have indicated this may reduce battery life a little.

Overall, this device has resolved the concerns of the old unit, is styled more in keeping with tech nowadays, and is well worth considering.

Finally, thanks to @3MobileBuzz for arranging the event, and even providing cupcakes…


New 3UK MiFi; any questions?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

I’m hoping to spend some time with 3UK and see their new 2nd generation 3UK MiFi device tonight.  The picture above may or may not be the design of the new 3UK MiFi (in a generic unbranded casing), although it’s quite likely, given this is the updated Huawei design.  In all respects it’s the same form factor, with the same buttons in the same places, but now features a dot matrix screen providing much more information that the 4 lights of the 1st generation device.

So, if you have any questions for 3UK or for the 3UK MiFi team, then please leave a comment on this post (they won’t be displayed but will be read before the event), or send us a tweet at @UKGadgeteer and we”ll do our best to raise your questions, and get answers for you.

One thing we will be asking about is a web interface; it appears the 1st generation 3UK MiFi was capable of having a web interface, but 3UK decided to disable that feature, and in all the feedback after the launch, the one question everyone asked about was a web interface, so we’ll be finding out whether 3UK have taken onboard the feedback…

Photo courtesy of Abul Hussain on Flickr.