Last Wednesday I was fortunate to be invited to a sneak preview of the next generation Three MiFi unit, the Huawei E585. Many thanks to all those who posted questions both via this blog or via @westleyl on Twitter. I think I made sure I asked every question posed to the MiFi product manager from Three UK, and so here's the answers you were after.
What is a MiFi?
For those who are wondering, a MiFi unit is a 3G broadband modem combined with a WiFi access point, providing 3G broadband data access to up to five devices simultaneously via standard WiFi connections.
What is different?
It appears the prime task of enhancing the MiFi was to improve the user experience and user interface, both in terms of the device hardware and within the management software to configure the device. I think this was a very sensible decision as these areas had substantial room for improvement.
- Single button operation to switch on, enable WiFi and connect to 3G
- Improved OELD display (see below), replacing the multi coloured LEDs; including signal strength, SMS notifications, the number of connected clients and data usage
- Management is via a web based dashboard accessible from any web browser. This is a big win for those running Linux, Mac OS/X, iPad users and, for me, as I can now configure the device from Windows 7 64-bit
- Charging is via micro USB, the new standard for small USB devices; you cannot use your old charger for the new MiFi unit
- Automatic reconnection when regaining a signal
- Improved charging time, which should allow recharging of the device when in use
- Although subjective, the black and silver design does look more classy than the silver and white plastic of the original MiFi
What is the same?
- Virtually the same size and weight
- The battery is the same unit as the original MiFi so you’ll have a handy spare if you upgrade
- Data plans remain the same as the current MiFi, so cheapest price for upgraders will be £49 pay as you go
- Still only works on 3G networks, with no fallback to GPRS or EDGE
- There is no specific upgrade path for existing three customers, either from dongle or from the original MiFi
I think three have concentrated on the correct areas of usability and user experience rather than trying to add new whizz bang technology features which aren’t of interest to mainstream users. The one button operation and the improved device display will make it much easier to use when out and about.
If the automatic reconnection proves reliable that will remove a major bugbear that I experienced the previous evening when travelling on the First Great Western line from Paddington to Didcot Parkway. The signal was repeatedly lost as we sped through tunnels and cuttings, and without automatic reconnection is was a real pain to keep pressing the data button on the MiFi to re-establish my data connection.
And finally, the web based dashboard will mean I no longer need to resort to my XP based netbook to configure the SSID and password. My everyday laptop runs Windows 7 64-bit which appears to confuse the older 3 WiFi manager which cannot locate the MiFi when connected.
I will personally be very tempted to upgrade, especially as I will be able to take the battery from my old MiFi unit to double my battery life when on the road.
Links to other sites, and other images of the device
Good first impressions from Ben Smith, http://thereallymobileproject.com/2010/06/3uk-announce-a-new-mifi-with-a-screen/
Also, a round up of other sneak preview posts, http://www.3mobilebuzz.com/2010/06/11/mifi-round-two-your-view/
Here is a comparison of the old MiFi device next to the new device, complete with OLED display and the Huawei logo now being a prominent feature on the front of the device.
One of my fellow bloggers had a Linux based netbook, showing off the web based dashboard complete with Text messages panel to manage SMS.
And finally, I never thought that my blog sub title would ever end up printed onto a cup cake,
... and here's some of the other cup cakes ...