Engadget: “Exclusive: Barnes & Noble phasing out the Nook 3G”

Engadget: “Exclusive: Barnes & Noble phasing out the Nook 3G”

Engadget is an important tech website.

In this

Engadget article

they say that Barnes & Noble may be phasing out the NOOK 3G.

As always, I recommend you read their article.

I’m going to treat this as a hypothetical…and drat, maybe I should have seen this coming as a possibility!

Currently, there are three NOOKS:

  • The E-Ink wi-fi only NOOK at $149
  • The E-Ink wi-fi and 3G NOOK at $199
  • The backlit wi-fi only NOOKColor for $249

One of these things is not like the others: the 3G NOOK is the only one with the cellphone style way to connect to the internet.

Oh, wait…the NOOKColor isn’t like the other two..it’s the only one that’s backlit.

Yow!  The wi-fi only isn’t like the other two…it’s the only one that’s under $150!

As you can tell, I was never very good at that game.  ;)  Actually, I was…but unless two out of the three are completely identical, I could always find ways that each of them was different from the other two. 

Anyway, back to this.  :)

It does matter that one of them has 3G.

Why?

When we used to describe our Kindle 1s to techies, one thing blew them away…free 3G.

How much do you pay for your cellphone’s dataplan?   Yes, yes, I know many of you have 4G, but it’s the same idea.

I just got my first Smartphone, and though it drives me crazy, I’m paying $25 a month.  That’s $300 a year!  It’s more than the phone cost!

How much do we pay to go to websites on a Kindle or a NOOK with 3G?

Nothing.

How is that possible?

Amazon or Barnes & Noble pays the fees.  They charge $50 more to get a device with 3G (remember, we didn’t have a wi-fi choice with the Kindle until the Kindle 3), and then they pretty much eat the costs.

Pretty much…outside the US, you may pay something, and you pay for sending documents to you Kindle via wi-fi, but you can go to Fandango all you want for free.  You can check your e-mail for free (laboriously, but free).

The NOOKcolor, which is “a reader’s tablet”, is apparently doing well.  No 3G costs there.

It makes sense to keep an entry-level device…with no 3G costs to Barnes & Noble.

If B&N does phase out the 3G and wi-fi model, does that mean they’d phase out 3G?

That’s a tough one to figure.

You see, the original NOOKs didn’t have wi-fi.  If you cut off 3G, you force those people to go to “sideloading”, cabled to the computer.

That wouldn’t make people happy.

However, what if they offered a trade-in?  A single-time payout might be worth it to B&N…a wi-fi NOOK and $100 gift certificate, maybe?  Alternatively, you keep your original 3G NOOK and sideload.

Wi-fi is becoming more common, so more people may be willing to go for that.  The FCC wants to get wi-fi all across the US, but that’s not the only thing.

Businesses are providing it.  I went to a Fresh Choice with my laptop, and the greeter asked me if I was hungry, or just there for the free wi-fi.  Both, actually.  ;)

Another thing is that some Smartphones can serve as a wi-fi hotspot.  I think that will become increasingly common.  That means you could have wi-fi for your NOOK any place your phone is connected to its network.

To be clear, I don’t know that this is happening…but I think it could.

What would that mean for the Kindle?  Would Amazon drop the 3G?

I think that’s less likely, but possible.

One of the main differences is that the Kindle is international.  Wi-fi may not be as common in other parts of the world.

Also, there is just a much larger base of 3G Kindles than there were of 3G NOOKS, presumably.

The other thing is that 3G is easier to use than wi-fi, and Amazon likes selling “easy”.  A lot of people don’t know their home wi-fi network passwords for example…you just turn on the Kinde and 3G works, if available. 

Still, it is something to consider.

I think we’ll find out about B&N’s plans for the 3G NOOK shortly.

Now, lest you think this report means Barnes & Noble is in trouble and thinking of dropping the NOOK altogether, I don’t think that’s it.

They’ve recently released an important update, for one thing.  It’s

NOOK software update 1.5

It gives the NOOK (not the NOOKcolor) three things the Kindle already had:

  • Syncing your place across devices (like the Kindle’s Whispersync)
  • My Shelves, so you can organize books…somewhat like the Kindle’s Collections
  • Password protect your NOOK

However, the password feature on the NOOK has a huge advantage, and one of the most wanted features for the Kindle.  You can password protect the purchasing of content.  In other words, your kid can read your NOOK, and not be able to buy anything.  That’s not exactly full parental controls, but it’s a step in that direction.

If you are a NOOK owner, I’d get the update.  You can read about the new features in the new User’s guide, also available on that page.

Oh, but if you have the 3G, they aren’t sending the update over 3G.  You can get it by wi-fi or sideload it.

It begins… ;)

What do you think?  Will B&N drop 3G?  Will they offer it only if you pay for it?  Will Amazon follow suit and drop 3G for the Kindle?

Is this all a rumor and nothing will happen?

Feel free to let me know what you think.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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5 Responses to “Engadget: “Exclusive: Barnes & Noble phasing out the Nook 3G””

  1. Tom Madsen Says:

    Hey Bufo, I think B&N 3G isn’t selling all that great with the ‘wow’ factor of color. I think Amazon’s 3G is probably the most popular for the reason you bring up. Ease of use and it’s always been the Kindle claim to fame. I’d hate to describe to my dad how to find a connection enter passwords etc. for a wifi network. That’s why 3G is so perfect you really don’t need to think about it. It’s just there!
    Another thing about the B&N 3G people are most likely holding off. I know a few folks that are waiting for the next redesign. Hmm so did I answer you not really I guess I don’t know. But I think with Amazon 3G or a variant will always be available as the kindle’s techie stuff should be hidden for most. I think it will continue to be more massaged, so that the technology becomes invisible and just is.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      I think you are right about Amazon sticking with easy. When you are in an open wi-fi spot, it’s usually as easy as 3G. If, and that’s a big if, we get to the point where that is…oh, as easy to find as a gas station, 3G may not matter very much at all. However, we are certainly not there yet. FYI for everybody reading this:

      http://www.openwifispots.com

  2. becca Says:

    3g will always be a plus with me and people like me- I live way out in the country, and the only way we can get the internet is through a satellite connection, which tightly meters our usage – if we use too much (the kids surfing youtube, for example) we’re cut down to less-than-dialup speeds for 24 hours. We even have to download our audible files at my husband’s office. Anything that doesn’t use my home wifi for downloading (even though ebooks are fairly small) is a plus for me.

  3. Louise Says:

    I bought the kindle 3 with 3G for my mother because it’s easy (she’s technophobic) and wifi is not available in her senior apartment complex. And to everyone’s amazement, she loves her kindle! I knew she would. I think the free and easy 3G is what made the kindle famous and will continue to be a major factor keeping it at the front of the pack.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Louise!

      I agree, I think ease of use (and that includes the 3G) was a big factor. There were more than ten EBRs (E-Book Readers) in the market when the Kindle was introduced in 2007. However, I think they all had to be tethered to get books….

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