Monday, October 30, 2006

Sprint EVDO and Macs - November 2006


This is an update on Sprint Support for Mac users - as of November 1, 2006 things have gotten much worse!

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

Last week Sprint released firmware that allowed their Rev-A compatible cards to actually use Rev-A towers that started turning on in San Diego (and now in other cities). One of the unfortunate side effects of this upgrade to the S720 firmware, is that they broke our hack that allowed the card to work with PowerBooks! Currently, there is NO way to revert the firmware and many Merlin S720/PowerBook users are dead in the water.

Neither of Sprint's newest EVDO Rev A Cards (Merlin S720 & AirCard 595 & Pantech PX-500) are compatible with Mac OS X 10.4.8. We 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, and only for cards that have not been updated with the newest firmware.

Sprint STILL does not offer an ExpressCard, which is the kind of port that every MacBook Pro has (Verizon offers the Novatel V640 ExpressCard). Sprint certified the Franklin USB device on their networks back in August, 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 (or at least only offering the $150 service credit to corporate accounts, individuals pay full price). 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 compatibility is uncertain at this time.

Sprint doesn't support Macs directly and chooses to rely on Apple to provide device driver support. We are waiting on Apple's next OS update (Mac OS X 10.4.8 and EVDO?) to see if any of the new EVDO Rev A Cards are supported.

Until Apple does provide more device support, what choices are available to Mac users who have to use Sprint?? Some companies are pushing the AirCard 580 but thats a Rev 0 card (which Macs support) and with Rev A turning on in more cities each day, buying a Rev 0 card on any contract is a bad decision. Other users will consider the Franklin USB option, but it too is only a Rev 0 device, and has occasionally required a Windows PC for secondary provisioning.

Some people will find a way to jump to Verizon - simply because Verizon readily supports PowerBooks and MacBook Pros, in some cases both natively with Apple drivers and through VZAccess Manager connection software as well.

Everyone else has to wait for Apple to provide more drivers, or for Sprint to provide a native Mac OS X version of the Sprint Connection Manager! Currently, Sprint's Mac support is a 2 page PDF - that is it, PLUS, that document only supports older Rev-0 cards that are no longer listed in Sprint's online store and that have or will soon be, discontinued. No native Sprint PCS Connection Manager software. In order to get up and running with the few cards that do work - Sprint requires that you activate them in a Windows PC before they will work in your Mac. You cannot upgrade firmware in a Mac, or update the PRL, so having a Windows PC around is just about required. That really isn't Mac support.

Note to Apple: Please deliver a Mac OS X update to support the Merlin S720 and the upcoming Novatel U720 USB Modem.

Note to Sprint: Brilliant decision to provide zero support for Mac users. Verizon thanks you :)