While the iPod touch is a terrific little device, it would be so much better if Apple gave it a data connection. It’s so frustrating when you quickly want to check on a sports score or load up a map and you’re in an area where there’s no Wi-Fi connection. Thanks to FreedomPop, however, you can now pick up a new case for $99 that comes with built-in WiMAX.
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Earlier this year, we reported on the plans by NetZero and FreedomPop to offer free 4G mobile broadband in the U.S. over ClearWire’s WiMax network. Both companies planned to operate on a freemium basis where users get a limited amount of data each month and can buy more if they choose.
This week, a company in the U.K. called Samba joined the free broadband bandwagon with a model that’s ad-based and freemium in nature, making it somewhat similar to NetZero’s original business model from the good old days of dial-up service.
Sprint’s plans to migrate its 4G server from its current WiMax standard to the more common LTE already in use by Verizon and AT&T. The move should allow Sprint to offer LTE iPads as well as future LTE iPhones. That’s good new for the carrier and Sprint customers.
Unfortunately, there’s also some bad news. Sprint’s LTE network won’t be able to match the performance of its competitors.
While Apple announced another record-breaking quarter yesterday, U.S. mobile carrier Sprint reported a significant net loss of $863 million – nearly twice the loss that it reported for the same quarter last year. iPhone sales, however, helped increase Sprint’s overall subscriber base – making this the eighth consecutive quarter where the company reported overall growth.
Earlier this week, NetZero launched a new freemium mobile broadband service using Clearwire’s WiMax 4G network. Although NetZero is the first U.S. company to launch a “free” 4G service, it isn’t going to be the last. Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom has begun work on a similar service called FreedomPop that will launch this summer.
FreedomPop plans to offer more monthly data for free than NetZero’s paltry 200MB. It will also target iPhone owners as a major part of its user base.
NetZero made a name for itself in the late nineties by offering free ad-supported dialup Internet access before turning to a low-cost model (still available for dialup and and basic DSL). NetZero is returning to its free/freemium roots with today’s announcement of a contract-free 4G service. The service offers several tiers of data use with the first one being free beyond purchasing a 4G device.
While intriguing, the free service tier definitely illustrates the “you get what you pay for” addage. Some of the other tiers are attractive, but there are some downsides and, quite frankly, a Verizon 4G iPad may be a much smarter investment in the long run.
Short of Sprint’s WiMax, Verizon LTE has no actual competition to speak of in the 4G market. AT&T and T-Mobile’s “4G” is really just supercharged HSPA+ 3G technology, after all. So the results of PC Mag’s nationwide mobile bandwidth test shouldn’t be much of a surprise: Verizon LTE just mops the floor with the competition.
That’s not going to last though. Here’s why.
Next month, AT&T will start rolling out its LTE network in the United States, prepping the ground for the launch of an LTE-equipped iPhone in 2012. Even though Ma Bell doesn’t actually have a 4G network in place right now, though, that’s not stopping them from selling 4G phones and bragging about their 4G speeds. New legislation working its way through the house wouldn’t stop that, but would make them append a caveat: their minimum data speeds.
We’ve seen our fair share of sleeves and cases in the past meant to graft new functionality onto an existing iDevice, the most obvious example being the Peel 520, which transformed any iPod Touch into a 2G iPhone 4.
It was only a matter of time, then, before we could expect accessory makers to make a go of transforming the iPhone 4 into the iPhone 4G. Now they’d made a go of it, but sadly, it’s South Korea only right now… but expect it in the United States soon.