Dell Inspiron Mini 9 has secret 3G card

dell_mini_9.jpg

The Dell Inspiron Mini — while not the scrotum-smasher to the Asus Eee that we hoped — is still a capable, enticing, well-made little netbook that can go feature for feature with any of its peers. But it may actually have a leg-up on the competition in a secret hardware feature that still hasn’t been announced (or activated): built-in 3G support.

According to Dell VP John Thode, the 3G support isn’t being announced yet because Dell has yet to finalize its telecom partners. “There’s an integrated 3G radio that we’ll be annnouncing in a couple of weeks… ” he said. Great! But then he worryingly continueds: “We’ll sell [the Inspiron Mini] with telco operator channels, so [customers] won’t have to make a decision.” In short? They’re only going to unlock the functionality for customers who buy an Inspiron Mini from a cell phone contractor… and sign a two year contract along with it.

Right. What a horribly burdensome choice that would be for a consumer: an unlocked Inspiron Mini, its 3G capability capable of being yoked to any carrier of your choosing. You can pick any of a thousand options when you custom order a Dell machine, but the choice of buying a 3G Inspiron Mini unsubsidized and uncontracted, to use with our current provider? Far too onerous.

I admit: I’m jumping to a conclusion here, possibly not the correct one. But we all know how the mobile phone industry works. There’s plenty reason to be cynical.

Dell launches Inspiron Netbook, Hides 3G Feature [PC Mag]

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11 Responses to Dell Inspiron Mini 9 has secret 3G card

  1. Blind Zen Archer says:

    I predict this “lockdown” will last about as long as it takes for someon to figure out the 3G card part numbers and to order the card hardware as a “spare part.” Then it’s just pop in the SIM and away-we-go…

  2. Rajio says:

    are hardware manufacturers ever going to just stick to making hardware and let the consumers decide how, when, and why to use them?

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s not quite that simple.

    In America there are two separate cell phone standards, CDMA and GSM.

    CDMA is Verizon Wireless, most of Sprint (last I checked, they still have some IDEN) and Alltel.

    GSM is AT&T, T-Mobile.

    So, there would need to be two separate cards. Secondly, the only carrier that isn’t completely paranoid about what’s on their network is T-Mobile.

    The reason they’re doing this is they have to. If you have a CDMA carrier, there is no SIM card. So, Dell can put a compatible card in, but you’re still at the mercy of the carrier.

    Also, AT&T has a history of not being compatible with all data devices. There is a fair amount of testing that goes on with that.

    So, even if they don’t go through the carriers, you pay an extra $300 for modem.. and then have to sign a contract with the carrier anyway. It’s a no-win.

  4. mgfarrelly says:

    Just curious, I can’t seem to find the info on this, does this have a full-sized keyboard? I’m possessed of bear paws so the Asus didn’t work for me.

  5. mdh says:

    You can always count on the telco’s to invent new and better contracts.

  6. BBNinja says:

    Notwithstanding the locked 3G card I see a glaring problem with this computer already…

    D…E…L…L

  7. SeanBox says:

    This is Sean over at Box.net. I just wanted to remind readers that Inspiron Mini 9 users get 2 GB of free online storage from Box.net, along with our simple sharing tools.

  8. zuzu says:

    Dell’s own repair guide seems to reveal the secondary mini-PCI-e slot and its WWAN card (i.e. for 3G) in addition to the common 802.11a/b/g/n “Wi-Fi” card.

    I share in the bitter skepticism of any Dell product, but that a repair guide is published freely online by Dell themselves (as IBM / Lenovo has long done with their ThinkPad line) is encouraging. Fingers crossed that there are no design defects or need to draw upon Dell’s warranty or technical support, and this might not be a terrible laptop to own and upgrade as time goes by.

    Now someone just needs to use “ESN repair” software (e.g. QPST & QXDM) to clone an Sprint “whispernet” card from a fresh Amazon Kindle onto an unlocked CDMA WWAN card, and bingo a netbook with unlimited internet everywhere (in N. America).

  9. Halloween Jack says:

    Jailbroken in 3… 2…

  10. dculberson says:

    Zuzu, can the Kindle cloning be done?!

    (And, “whispernet” is an awesome name.)

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