Friday, February 09, 2007

Sprint EVDO and Macs - February 2007

This is an update to explain new developments for Mac users who want to use Sprint's EVDO mobile broadband service.

Yes Virginia, some things have indeed gotten better, but its not as good as it should be.

With the obvious help of Novatel Wireless, Sprint recently made an installer package available that provides the drivers necessary to allow certain Macs to connect onto Sprint's EVDO network with their Merlin S720, Ovation U720 and the forthcoming ExpressCard EX720.

The drivers work on all Macs running with OSX version 10.4.8 or later. The S720 needs a PCMCIA slot, so this helps owners of the venerable PowerBook G4 series (except 12"). The U720 needs an available USB slot, which means just about every Mac can use it. The forthcoming EX720 needs an ExpressCard slot, so it is destined for use with all MacBook Pro laptops.

While the arrival of official drivers is welcomed by the Mac community, Sprint still doesn't offer a native 'Connection Manager'. This is a problem because without it, Mac users cannot tell which flavor of Sprint network they are on - am I in Rev-A? or is it Rev-0? 1xRTT? Oh well... has to be one of those 3 so your odds are 33.33%

Without a true GUI for connections, Mac users also cannot easily tell what their connection's signal strength is like. Do I have only 2 bars? 3? ... Not knowing signal strength means a user also won't know how likely they may benefit from a booster antenna or an amplifier... unless they just buy 'em and try 'em. Sure, they can use one of the online speedtests... but those can't take into account the load on a cell tower, or congestion over the internet.

Overall, we Mac users should be happy. At least Sprint has sourced and provided drivers in an honest-to-goodness installer package.

But... hello... hold the phone.

Do you think the average Mac user can now simply walk into a Sprint store, buy an *720, download the installer from the Sprint site, and merrily get online via Sprint EVDO?

Folks... we are the Mac + EVDO Experts and we can tell you right now that Sprint's "Mac Solution" is far from complete. What they've got now will certainly entice many more Mac users to take a chance that Sprint is really Mac-savvy. But many of them will be sadly disappointed and frustrated when the "solution" turns out to be more like "snake oil".

If you are a Mac user, and want to get online with Sprint's EVDO Mobile Broadband... we can help you keep the hair on your head, the smile on your face, and your faith in the Mac.

Just give us a call, and we'll keep you from finding out the missing pieces in Sprint's Mac Solution, before you step in it.

Sprint Releases Mac Drivers for U720 S720 EX720