Friday, September 22, 2006

Sprint EVDO and Macs - September 2006

Sprint is in the middle of moving their product line to EVDO Rev A, but as they move forward they are leaving Mac users behind!

Apple added support in Mac OS X 10.4.7 for the AirCard 580 and Novatel S620, but in the last few weeks Sprint has discontinued both of those cards and replaced them with the new EVDO Rev A Versions (Merlin S720 & AirCard 595). Neither of these new cards are compatible with Mac OS X 10.4.7. We do have a hack that explains how to get the S720 working with your PowerBooks, but this is only for customers that are comfortable making the changes documented on our web site.

Also, Sprint doesn't offer an ExpressCard, which is the port on the MacBook Pro (Verizon offers the Novatel V640 ExpressCard). Sprint certified the Franklin USB device on their networks last month, BUT since the Novatel USB modem is just around the corner, Sprint crippled the success of the Franklin CDU-550 by limiting the sales to only businesses. The CDU-550 does work with Macs, it is an EVDO Rev 0 device, BUT having a Windows computer around, can be important (or required) to complete some updating and provisioning. The upcoming Merlin U720 USB Modem will be available to individuals and businesses, but Mac Compatiblity is uncertain.

Since Sprint doesn't support Macs directly and relies on Apple to provide support, we are waiting on Apple's next OS update (Mac OS X 10.4.8 and EVDO?) to see if the new EVDO Rev A Cards are supported. Until then, Mac users who have to use Sprint, will have to wait (unless you jump to Verizon - where every one of their cards support PowerBooks and MacBook Pros).

You may still be able to find some of the EVDO Rev 0 cards (AirCard 580 or Merlin S620), that work - BUT getting locked in for 2 years isn't the smartest thing as the industry moves to a new standard.

Another issue that Mac users face, is that the current EVDO Rev A cards, are shipping with EVDO Rev A hardware BUT EVDO Rev 0 software. A firmware upgrade will be required to support EVDO Rev A. Since Sprint doesn't currently support Macs and the Apple drivers don't handle firmware upgrades, you will have to stick your Merlin S720 in a Windows PC to complete the future (but needed) upgrade.

So, if you are a Sprint customer and a Mac user, you have the Franklin CDU-550, but it might be smarter to "Wait and See"...