My EVDO will beat your WiFi any day (well just about)

My EVDO will beat your WiFi any day (well just about)

Summary: In my ongoing coverage/review of Audiovox's XV6600 Bluetooth-enabled, Verizon Wireless provisioned, Windows Mobile 2003-based smartphone, last week, I wrote what I considered to  be the missing manual on getting a Bluetooth-equipped notebook computer to use a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone to wirelessly connect to the Internet. Why and when would you use this approach?

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TOPICS: Wi-Fi
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In my ongoing coverage/review of Audiovox's XV6600 Bluetooth-enabled, Verizon Wireless provisioned, Windows Mobile 2003-based smartphone, last week, I wrote what I considered to  be the missing manual on getting a Bluetooth-equipped notebook computer to use a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone to wirelessly connect to the Internet. Why and when would you use this approach? Well, as I once wrote before, why bother with WiFi when CDMA will do?   Finding a WiFi hotspot is hard enough, let alone what happens when you get there.  For example, is the provider one that you're already paying monthly dues to? Or, must you pony up an additional $10 for a days worth of connectivity even though you'll only need it for an hour?  Even though entire municipalities are getting blanketed with WiFi coverage today, WiFi connectivity (paid or unpaid, take your pick) is still not prevalent enough to deliver on the anytime, anywhere promise of connectivity. 

So, while you run from establishment to establishment looking for a hotspot (the Starbucks in my hometown is full of what I call "dead air"), I can take pleasure in knowing that I'm not only watching you from the park bench across the street, but doing so while connected at a speed that leaves me wanting for very little.  That's because of two things.  First, whereas the 2.5-rated CDMA network was the state of the art when I wrote that one story, today, it's much faster big brother --- the 3G-rated EVDO -- is making its way onto the coverage maps of Sprint and Verizon Wireless (and where EVDO isn't on, you'll still fall back to the 2.5G speeds of CDMA).  Second, my hotspot isn't specific to Starbucks or McDonalds.  My hotspot -- one that essentially matches the coverage area of my wireless carrier (Verizon Wireless) -- works on the downtown park bench, at McDonalds, Starbucks and the airport, on the beach, in my house when there's a blackout that knocks the lights out of my cable modem), and on the highway when the kids want to do whatever it is they do on the Internet.  Oh, and when you're at one of those conferences where the WiFi access points are so overloaded that you can't get a connection, I'm the guy sitting next to you taking gulps of HTTP without ever once bumping into you on the network. 

So, while you WiFi aficionados pay $22 bucks a month for unlimited data transfer from Boingo (as long as you're in one of its hotspots) ,  I pay $45 for Verizon Wireless' unlimited data transfer and I can go just about anywhere.   So, for $23 more per month, I get to avoid all the headaches of hunting for a WiFi hotspot, reorienting my notebook umpteen times for connecting to each one of those hotspots, and dealing with any a la carte billing.  Naysayers will say that the $23 isn't worth it.   Hang around with me for one day and you'll change your mind. 

There are downsides.  Connectivity doesn't work as well when you're deep inside a building.  The CDMA/EVDO radio in the XV6600 is not fully cranked up like the radios in some other cell phones are.  But this is a double-edged sword.  While the downside is weaker connectivity, the upside is that, at a measly rating of .12, Audiovox's 6600-series of phones have the lowest specific absorption rate (SAR) rating of any cell phone available in the United States.  While a bona fide link between cell phone usage and cancer has yet to be established, smart consumers can play it safe by seeking out cell phones that fall at the bottom end of the FCC-approved range rather than the top end.  Earlier this year, in a deal on Amazon.com that not only gave me the phones for free, but that paid me cold hard cash to take them,  I got suckered into taking two Motorola V265 phones only to find out later that they had SAR ratings of 1.55 (tied with Motorola's V120c for the worst rated SAR rating of any phone available in the US).   As I became more familiar with the SAR issue and the fact that it may be another decade before we know anything for sure about the potential connection of cell phones and cancer, I realized that it's definitely something I'm going to think hard about before investing in a cell phone for my children.  For example, one like the FireFly that's specifically designed for little kids, but that has a .945 SAR rating (a 688 percent increase over the Audiovox's .12 rating).

The other downside is that if you don't have access to a power outlet, the battery on a phone like the Audiovox XV6600 can drain pretty quickly when the smartphone's Bluetooth and EVDO radios are going full bore, passing data back and forth between them.   Depending on what sort of battery life you normally get out of you notebook computer, this means that your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone (which, for all intents and purposes, is taking the place of a WiFi access point), could run out of juice before your computer does and that might leave you high and dry.  Not just without Internet connectivity.  But also without voice service (on your cell phone).   Of course, if you have a couple of spare batteries on hand, which any self-respecting smartphone user should always have, then battery life isn't too much of a problem. (Although I wish that the XV6600 could rely on the same backup battery that manages the integrity of its volatile memory to sustain the device during a battery swap that should only take a few seconds.)

Whereas my last missing manual covered wireless, Bluetooth-based use of the XV6600, perhaps the next one should cover use of the 6600 (and other Windows Mobile 2003-based smartphones) for Internet connectivity using the USB cable (instead of Bluetooth).   Shutting off the Bluetooth radio in both devices should preserve the battery life of each.  But what I don't see (and will be checking into) is an option that makes sure that if the phone is plugged into the PC via USB that it's not attempting to recharge itself (to 100 percent) off the notebook's battery (since the USB cable carries power).   In other words, I want the option to control how the XV6600 is connected to the PC:  For both data and power; For just data; For just power (useful in situations where you have access to one plug in the wall and both the notebook and the smartphone--by way of the USB connection--can drink from it).

As time goes by, I'll have a lot more to report on the Audiovox XV6600.  But, in the meantime,  I've been  experimenting with taking podcasts to the next level using something I'm calling a photocast.  I basically took the aforementioned missing manual and turned it into a photo essay of sorts. Perhaps it could turn out to be a revolution in documentation.  Check it out.

Topic: Wi-Fi

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18 comments
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  • If I could only have one you're right, but I want both

    If I could only have one way to access the Internet, you're right. But if I were a routine road warrior, I'd get both iPASS Wi-Fi (enterprise version of Boingo) flat rate service and I'd get flat rate EVDO service. It really isn't that much money for a road warrior considering all the other expenses you have in the course of a day. If you use a VoIP soft phone in your hotel room, you'll get all the savings back and more. You can't really use a VoIP soft phone over EVDO because of high latency problems.

    Wi-Fi will always be my preferred service if I can get it because it has much more stable response times in the 10 ms range to the base station. EVDO or any other wireless ISP technologies have erratic ping times between 200 to 2000 ms. You can't run VoIP, Video conferencing, Gaming, or anything that requires real-time interaction.
    george_ou
    • I forgot to mention that throughput is usually much faster with Wi-Fi

      nt
      george_ou
  • Availability

    I'm glad you have great service through Verizon. Don't come to NC, though, because you won't find any Verizon service in the entire eastern part of the state except for a very small area in the extreme northeast corner by the VA border.
    mhackle@...
  • How about the 'fine print'?

    I've also looked at this but the fine print for the plan SPECIFICALLY prohibits what you are doing...using the XV6600 as a modem for another machine. The language is something like...only for the native apps on the pda....no tethering allowed without the added "tethering plan". So do you have the tethering plan (if yes, how much does it add to the $49)?
    pnwbear
    • EVDO PCMCIA Cards

      Good Question. Sprint charges $80 a month for unlimited access using an EVDO PCMCIA card. It does resolve the bluetooth problems....
      az firebird
  • Where do you get unlimited for $45

    I just called Verizon and they said it was a $79 add-on. By the way I have a PPC6600 from Sprint right now. When I bought it they said it would be upgraded to EVDO automatically when EVDO was rolled out. They now say they will not upgrade the phone. I'm really angry at Sprint.
    evdo_blues
    • Where do you get unlimited for $45

      If you have a Verizon voice plan you can add unlimited data for
      $45/mo for a PDA/Phone.

      The Spint PPC6600 is the same phone as the Verizon Audiovox
      XV6600. Some models have cameras and some don't. They use
      CDMA X1 and EVDO networks. No upgrade is required of the
      phone. (Perhaps some downloaded phone reprogramming. That's
      all.) When Sprint rolls out their EVDO service the PPC6600 will be
      able to use it just like the Verizon model does on their network.
      rlawler
    • $45 Unlimited

      You can get Unlimited data usage for $45. The kicker is that you can only use it with a PDA or SmartPhone. If you want to use it as a modem with a Notebook the ante goes up to $79. How do they know? Apparently they disable the ability to do a data pass through when you have the $45 plan.

      Cingular/ATT, on the other hand, let you use your data connection however you wish. You can pay by the MB or get plans similar to Verizon's. They also do not have any roaming charges for data. The downside is that Edge is quite a bit slower than EVDO - a difference that is meaningless on the PDA or smart phone, or if all you want is e-mail in the background as you work on your notebook, but gets quite annoying if you are actually trying to "surf."
      itmhq@...
      • I'm only on the $45 plan and the

        data pass through works.

        db
        dberlind
    • NOT TRUE!!

      This is an example of poor reporting. The claim of having a $45 unlimited usage for a Notebook
      Computer is wrong! I checked with a local Verizon
      store today and was told that it cost $79.99!!
      That's about $80 folks. But then. it is Verizon,
      formerly GTE with a bad name, too! Thanks for
      wasting my time....
      olinr
  • This story if fubar

    First if you want to get connectivity using a cellular PC card its $80 per month. The $45 may must be for email access.

    Second I have been using my EDVO card with Verizon for some time and what I have found is that it degrades to the universal low speed converage most of the time because the higher speed network is only avaiable in a few areas right now. Even in SF, CA I find most of the time it will not find an EDVO network.

    So while I love the idea of high speed its just not deployed widely enough to justify the high cost.
    goofy166
    • fubar, shmubar

      The $45 rate is for unlimited internet access from a PDA-phone
      not a PCCard. You must also have a voice plan.

      EVDO is currently only available at the airports in the San
      Francisco area. They are currently testing widespread EVDO in
      the San Francisco Bay Area. Hopefully it will be available very
      soon.

      Obviously you can only get EVDO in areas where it's been rolled
      out, but to Verizon's credit they haven't been idle. They have
      EVDO in more than 40 cities.
      rlawler
  • Verizon v. Sprint

    After reading your article, I set up a cell-modem connection on my laptop with my new Sprint PPc6600. The whole process took about 5 minutes. The Sprint cd that came with the 6600 contained a directory with 3 files (cell modem .exe, the .inf install file, and a word file). The Word file contained complete step-by-step instructions with pictures. I did a quick speed test in a in the middle of a building where reception is only one bar and got 100k to 110k. I also did a Google search and clicked on some random sites. Worked fine. Also, there is no additional charge for Sprint?s Vision services and no per minute charge. Also Sprint has no restrictions using the 6600 as a cell modem to other computers. Not sure what the current rate is but I have a plan with 3 phones, 2500 min, vision, etc. for 120 a month.
    jim@...
  • VX6600 - Behavioral Changes

    I traded in my Blackberry for the flexibility and speed of the PPC Based VX6600. Though I found the battery life to be troublesome at first, it did come with a spare battery and after some time, I found that I had adjusted my behavior to account for the battery life. The combination of the cradle at my desk, and the chargers at home and in my car assures that I always have somewhere to put it when not in use. Since most of my work involves e-mail, the Outlook client built in is suffient, so an external notebook is not necessary. Plus, it is awfully nice to not have to lug a full notebook through airport security on the way to a customer site. The one thing I find perplexing. In Irvine, where I work, and in Long Beach, where I live, I have EVDO coverage. But in the heart of Silicon Valley, Menlo Park, Santa Clara, etc... where I frequently visit... no EVDO.
    michael_lyon
  • Battery life not a problem if you use a USB cable.

    One way to avoid running down the battery of your PDA-phone
    is to not use Bluetooth. Instead just use a USB cable. The USB
    cable charges to phone from most laptops when they are
    connected. You still have the problem of keeping your laptop
    charged, but it's only one device to worry about. And you don't
    need to worry about your phone going dead.

    The other problem with using Bluetooth to connect to your PDA-
    phone is that Bluetooth 1 supported by the XV6600 is SLOWER
    than EVDO. So Bluetooth ends up being a bottleneck. Again
    using a simple USB cable avoids this problem because USB is
    plenty fast.
    rlawler
  • EVDO is NOT always better

    Dan, David, love your article. nicely done... i want to add though, that you can step up the effectiveness of BOTH EVDO and WIFI to make them stronger... Wifi is free in most places... if you get a high gain wifi booster antenna, theres almost NOWHERE you CANT get service for free... i've got pics and details at http://evdo-coverage.com . BUT same with EVDO, with a 1900mhz high gain antenna.. my xv6600 can just about double the normal mortal's EVDO reach and speed. http://evdo-coverage.com so the game is at higher stakes now... :o)
    evdo-bob
  • I believe that's if you're using a data card...

    I'm not using a datacard. I'm using the phone as my "router" and my all you can eat subscription does not cost $80 per month. It may be that Verizon Wireless gives voice customers a break.
    dberlind
  • Make EVDO and WiFi work together as Friends

    A few years ago, when you hears talk by Qualcomm founder(Jacob) and Boingo/earthlink founder (Dayton), they always debate this topic of 3G vs. WiFi respectively. If you look at what happened in Qualcomm now, they are adding WiFi to CDMA. On the other hand Sky Dayton's Earthlink is partnering with Korean 3G operator to move into 3G services as an MVNO.
    There is NO REASON for EVDO and WiFi to kill each other. In fact, there are complimentary ! One is wireless WAN and one is wireless LAN. I bought one of the first EVDO/3G router (MB8000) from Top Global two years ago and used it wherever I went. It is a perfect example of how EVDO and WiFi can work together to help each other out. WiFi helped EVDO to provide connectivity to more WiFi devices. EVDO helped WiFi to provide backhaul network connection anywhere at anytime.
    Founders of Qualcom, Boingo/earthlink, and TopGlobal realized the benifits of wireless convergence. It makes life easier for the end-user who does not care about technology. They like to get easy access using WiFi in wide areas covered by EVDO.
    Please don't beat each other. Help each other to win over other competiting technologies like WiMax, UWB, etc. EVDO and WiFi are good friends !
    3GWhiz