To 3G or not to 3G
May 22, 2011 7:17 AM   Subscribe

Buying a Kindle as a gift for a new high school grad going on to college (Yale). To 3G or not to 3G? I would imagine that on campus WiFi is ubiquitous, and so 3G isn't required? Personally, I love my WiFi-only Kindle, but I'm a techy who swims in WiFi waves 24/7. This grad is a non-techy classics major.
posted by schrodycat to Computers & Internet (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would go for wifi. Oes this person read anything other than classics? I could see him perusing AMZN on the quad and wanting to download a book immediately. But then perhaps a classics major is not as impetuous as I.
posted by dfriedman at 7:26 AM on May 22, 2011

Me and my boyfriend both have kindles (he is more techy than I) and the 3G seems to be pretty unneccessary. We would have no use for it. But then, we do all our downloading on computers and only use the kindle to actually read. Thats what everyone else I know does too actually.
posted by stillnocturnal at 7:35 AM on May 22, 2011

I have the 3G model because Randall told me to.

Its worldwide and free
posted by handybitesize at 7:35 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

If the cost difference isn't an issue, go with the 3G. It's more convenient.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:45 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a New Haven resident with an iPhone that is constantly asking me if I want to join the Yale wifi network all over the city I would recommend just going with wifi.
posted by trishthedish at 7:48 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

The G3 is wonderful. She will continue to use it well after leaving Yale, I am sure... and surely she goes home for holidays?
posted by strixus at 7:49 AM on May 22, 2011

There are lots of places that have wifi, but will charge you for it (airports, hotels, conference centers) where the 3G is nice. Campus wifi sometimes has onerous device registration mechanisms, but I don't know about yale. 3G is nice for long car trips.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:49 AM on May 22, 2011

Wifi at Yale (speaking from firsthand experience) is everywhere.
posted by andrewesque at 7:49 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

3G 3G 3G. It's not that much more expensive up front, the service is free,
and opens up a range of new potential uses for the device. It consistently makes me happy, but then again I'm fresh off of 18 months overseas where wifi was very tough to find.
posted by adamk at 7:53 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

3G 3G 3G. It's not that much more expensive up front, the service is free, and opens up a range of new potential uses for the device.

Agreed. I don't have a smartphone, though; if I did, I probably would have opted for the wifi model.
posted by danb at 7:57 AM on May 22, 2011

3G. Plenty of places have free wifi but only for an hour with purchase of something. Even if she's around Yale wifi all the time at school, she'll want to travel occasionally, and if she takes care of it her Kindle should last her until past graduation.
posted by Mizu at 8:03 AM on May 22, 2011

3G. Because sometimes you're in the park with friends and want to check wiki.
posted by Casuistry at 8:09 AM on May 22, 2011

I love having 3G on mine. I've used it in all kinds of weird places.
posted by Akhu at 8:10 AM on May 22, 2011

I agree with having the 3G. For the initial upfront extra cost, the convenience is great. I took mine to Mexico for a week and did not lack for reading material. WiFi was hard to get once I was out of the country. It was also a great, though slow, way to check my email when there was no Wifi around.
posted by rsclark at 8:13 AM on May 22, 2011

3G. If you're already spending the money for a thoughtful gift, spend a little more for a more helpful gift.
posted by chrisinseoul at 8:15 AM on May 22, 2011

3G because you can actually access the internet with it (in the "Experimental" section) and check your email, Facebook, etc. Which has served me very well when I'm travelling and I have to check my email. The interface is a bit slow (the keyboard is very awkward) but the constant access is pretty great.
posted by mammary16 at 8:25 AM on May 22, 2011

I have the 3G model because that was all they offered when I got mine, and I like it, but I don't think I've ever actually downloaded a book anywhere where I didn't have Wi-Fi access if my Kindle had cared about that.

Used the Kindle in remote places, to be sure, but I find I almost always do my actual e-book browsing and buying from my PC and download it to the Kindle because it's just so much more pleasant and straightforward to do that on a real web browser. Short form: if I was going to buy one for myself today, I don't see any reason to pay extra for the 3G.

On the other hand, I'm going to be buying a Kindle for my mom's birthday next month, and sure enough, I'm going to get her the 3G model because she doesn't have Wi-Fi where she lives, and so getting her the Wi-Fi model would also require a wireless router to attach to her lousy DSL connection. And that would be more expensive, more complicated, and (most important) way more likely to go wrong somehow when I'm not around to fix it.

So in some circumstances, I'd still recommend the 3G model, but in more normal circumstances, like those you describe, I don't think the 3G is worth the extra money anymore.
posted by Naberius at 8:27 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I recently bought Kindles for myself and my wife. Our local stores were all out of the wifi-only version (except the one "with special offers" - no thanks!) so I spent the extra for the 3G versions. Now I'm really glad they didn't have the wifi-only version. The 3G version is super-convenient.

If the $50 difference isn't an issue, that's the way to go, no question.
posted by The Deej at 8:29 AM on May 22, 2011

Obviously having the cellular connection is convenient, but having been on the Yale Campus I can say that Yale wireless is pretty ubiquitous - including in local coffee shops as well as libraries and common rooms - and not having cellular will not make much difference to their use. I barely ever used my cell phone to text when on campus, because I had chat on skype available. Of course, I'm also old and crochety and when I was an undergrad we all kept in contact by using telnet email stations (telnet was so fast & convenient for email - so much better than webmail), so maybe I have lower expectations for connectivity than kids these days.

3G may bring with it a monthly cost; will you bear this, or the student?
posted by jb at 8:43 AM on May 22, 2011

I have been corrected by the above comments and xkcd - kindle cellular data is free? Oh, then the 3G is totally worth it. If you can use your kindle to look at maps/info when you have no wifi - like when traveling - that would be invaluable.
posted by jb at 8:46 AM on May 22, 2011

I have the wifi only model; was trying to save money because I wasn't sure I would like the thing at all. If I had it to do over, I would get the 3G. The 3G is not must have but it would be convenient to be able to get new books or book samples anywhere.

I might eventually get a phone with a built in hotspot, which would make this moot.
posted by massysett at 8:52 AM on May 22, 2011

I don't have a kindle, but I have a 3g nook. I've downloaded books while stuck in traffic on I-95 in the middle of nowhere. VERY awesome.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:04 AM on May 22, 2011

I bought the 3G version for myself as a birthday present, and I love it. The extra $50 was money well spent, as it allows me to use the Kindle in all sorts of places.
posted by Telpethoron at 9:39 AM on May 22, 2011

3G. My campus wifi can be difficult to get onto. It works with my laptop just fine but I have never been able to connect to it on my phone. I've only used it a couple of times but dang have I been glad to have 3G access at those times. When you need a book you need a book.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:04 AM on May 22, 2011

Will this person never ever leave campus? The 3G is the thing that saves your bacon at the airport, on the train/bus, in waiting rooms. It's a nice gift without it, but it's a really great gift with it.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:05 AM on May 22, 2011

He'll probably need 3G when he's studying abroad at OxBridge or away from New Haven in the bowels of some dusty archives in Rome or sailing and yachting or helping poor schoolchildren in Detroit or curing cancer or skiing in Telluride or whatever kids today are up to. Basically for times he won't be on campus and won't be in New Haven.
posted by anniecat at 10:09 AM on May 22, 2011

I have had a second gen Kindle for almost 2 years. (Before you had a choice between 3G or no 3G) When people see me with it and mention that they are thinking about getting one also, they always talk of how great the wifi only version would be. My first response is that the 3G is WELL worth the initial extra cost. I additionally like to point out that where we are currently having our conversation, there is no wifi signal available.
posted by GurnB at 10:10 AM on May 22, 2011

A lot of people seem to be assuming that this gift recipient doesn't/will not have any sort of smart phone (or netbook etc). I'd be very hard pressed to come up with a reason why I'd ever use my Kindle for anything other than actually just reading since I have an iPhone. In the years I've had my (2nd Gen) Kindle I've only ever used the 3g once just to play around with it.

It's a great device for reading, but while the Kindle interface for downloading reading material works, it is utterly terrible when compared to the user experience on a real computer.

If they don't have anything else to access the web on the go with, then perhaps maybe it's a reasonable stopgap solution until they get something that actually has a decent wireless connection/interface, but otherwise it will never get used. Ever.

Also, Nthing that New Haven is pretty much totally blanketed by Yale wifi.
posted by teishu at 11:14 AM on May 22, 2011

I have a Kindle with 3G. I've visited Yale. WiFi is sufficient.

They're probably going to move on to another device in four or five years post-campus. Save ~$50 and give them a gift certificate for eBooks instead.
posted by zippy at 11:21 AM on May 22, 2011

If the grad has got a smartphone you don't need 3G because no sane person would prefer the Kindle's internet features to those of a smartphone. If not there may be benefits to 3G. There may also be benefits to 3G if college is the only place with ready wifi access - just because I, all my friends and family have wifi at home that does not mean that's true for everybody.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:21 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree -- go with 3G! It's a relatively small investment for free unlimited 3G access anywhere, (ostensibly) forever. I am a university student but find the Wifi to be so sketchy that I use 3G all the time. PLUS it's wonderful to be able to google stuff, read or check my email when I'm roaming around, on the train, etc.

(Disclaimer: I do not have a smartphone with internet access, so my Kindle is my main hub for getting online when I'm on the go.)
posted by Zephyrial at 11:29 AM on May 22, 2011

Another vote for 3G. The 3G is super convenient if you are traveling or in areas where wifi has pay-only access. Presumably your student will not always be on campus (vacation breaks, trains, airports, internships, etc.) and the extra access is great to have, even if you have a smartphone. Every wifi-only person I've met wishes they would have done the 3G instead.
posted by mochapickle at 12:15 PM on May 22, 2011

I do have a smartphone with Internet access, and I live in a place blanketed with Wifi. 3G on is priceless on my Kindle because:

1. Why worry about whether my Kindle can get on the non-broadcast, secured Wifi system that requires a keyword, user verification, and agreeing to some bullshit TOS? Yeah, it will work theoretically or eventually, but why put myself through the headache?

2. 3G means I never have to think about whether I've moved a certain book onto my Kindle from the computer, whether I've brought enough reading for the trip, whether I might get bored with this book halfway through, etc. I can just throw it in my bag and know I'll be entertained. It's eliminated not only being bored, but the prospect of being bored.

3. It's perfect for commuting. I never have to worry about my bus showing up before the book is done downloading from the slow-ass, pirated Wifi that I'm stealing from a coffee shop two blocks away.

4. Magazine subscriptions. The New Yorker is only $3 a month on my Kindle, and it seamlessly and automatically shows up on my Kindle every Sunday evening. No muss, no fuss, no worrying about whether I'm in Wifi zone, no worrying about whether the post office/post office person/lightfingered or lazy dorm mates took it.
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:20 PM on May 22, 2011

I live in New Haven and my boyfriend is a grad student at Yale. Yale wifi really is everywhere on the main campus and I can sometimes access it where I work, which is 3 or 4 blocks away. It does not stretch much farther than that (though there are other access points in other parts of the city where Yale has buildings/offices). Thanks to the boyfriend, most of my devices are registered by MAC address with the "yale wireless" network so if I'm in range I'm automatically connected. Realistically though, Yale wifi does not remotely blanket New Haven as Yale is a pretty small part of the city. However, Yale undergrads don't tend to venture into the rest of New Haven so the lack of Yale wireless coverage in the other 95% of New Haven shouldn't really be an issue.

Ironically, the only device that I have not registered on the Yale wireless network is my Kindle, because I can't foresee a reason to need to do so. I have an iPod touch and a smartphone so if I need to check a website, I'm all set. My Kindle is also loaded with more books than I could possibly read in the next 5 years so I'm all set on that front as well.

In the end I think it depends on your child. If I were to somehow run out of books while I was somewhere without wifi, I wouldn't lament the lack of 3G, I'd find something else to do.
posted by eunoia at 1:22 PM on May 22, 2011

I have a wifi-only Kindle and I never use the wifi. I just download a huge chunk of books onto my Kindle at once via USB. For me, 3G would be a waste of money. The Kindle doesn't do internet surfing well; a smartphone works better for that. So it really depends on how your gift recipient intends to use the device.
posted by Lobster Garden at 2:33 PM on May 22, 2011

I don't use the 3G on my Kindle to surf the internet. I use it to buy and download books. Is *that* why people get all sniffy about the 3G, they think it's for getting on Metafilter or whatever?

God, the browsing experience on the Kindle is awful. I'm not even sure mine (2nd gen) is capable of getting on log-on type pay wifi at an airport or pass-through at a hotel (I tried in Mexico because mine isn't international, and I just gave up and used the kindle app on my netbook and phone). But when your flight is delayed and you finish the book you planned to read on the plane before you even board, that 3G is there for you. That's why it's good.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:54 PM on May 22, 2011

The 3G option is incredibly useful; I've used it in China, Japan, and South Korea, when traveling, and it would have been somewhere between difficult and impossible to get a device with data access in those countries. At the very least I would have had to pay money, or register with the government, or whatnot.

As for the browsing experience being sucky: well, sure. But you can still do facebook or gmail or google maps on it, which you definitely better than not having access.
posted by haykinson at 3:08 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have the 3g international version and it is awesome....but I mostly use it to update twitter from the subway, it's really functional for anything more internet heavy than that, and if I had been buying it myself, I would have opted for the wifi, but it was a gift and I'm happy to have the 3g for the odd times that I do use it....I live in Seoul so I think that's why mom picked the 3g international
posted by nile_red at 5:36 PM on May 22, 2011

Well, I think the message has got across, but: 3G. I regret not getting the 3G one because navigating through "captive portal" wifi registration on the Kindle sucks. It's easier for me to connect it to my iPhone in access point mode than it is for me to get online at Starbucks.
posted by mendel at 5:44 PM on May 22, 2011

The kindle browser is horrible. Also, if the student has an android phone, it can broadcast its 3g connection over wifi, making 3g on the kindle redundant.
I have never use even the wifi on my Kindle -- I connect it to my PC every few weeks and dump new books onto it with Calibre.
posted by PSB at 8:05 PM on May 22, 2011

Definitely go for the 3G. Wifi may be "everywhere", but it can be patchy and lways having a free, constantly on connection is very handy. Honestly, a week after I got my Kindle, I was using the 3G and browser to look up maps when I was on a trip in Boston If I had to rely on wifi, that would've been an additional trek. The cost difference isn't that great, and having a backup is worth it.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:07 PM on May 22, 2011

Anybody reading this that doesn't mind having a 2nd generation Kindle, today's item on is 3G 2nd Gen. Kindle for $90. Hope that helps some of you.
posted by BenS at 10:30 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding the deal... well worth it! My wife and I love our Kindles, and honestly, for the price, you get the free 3G, which is well worth it!
posted by newfers at 11:54 PM on May 22, 2011

nthing 3G... my parents bought me the wi-fi only Kindle last Christmas, and they were under the impression that a data contract is required, like with the iPad. Athough I love it, and use it all the time, if I had bought it for myself i would have gone with the 3G version. The fact that the Kindle has a web browser and that no data contract is required would win me over.
posted by lizabeth at 9:57 AM on May 23, 2011

Didn't bother getting the 3G for mine. Only real use I see for it is buying books at the airport, and a few minutes of planning can avoid that, and $50 is a big chunk of the Kindle $140 price.
posted by smackfu at 11:09 AM on May 23, 2011

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