'BB' 3G on the MacBook Air

Using the BlackBerry Storm, there are two routes to 3G on the MacBook Air: they both have downsides, though.

In the interest of achieving faster 3G on my Apple MacBook Air while getting more bang from my BlackBerry, I've found two paths to 3G Nirvana. Well, maybe not quite Nirvana.

My first foray into 3G on the MacBook Air via a BlackBerry Storm produced satisfactory results. Here, the Blackberry served as a 3G modem via Bluetooth . The Bluetooth bottleneck, however, can be frustrating (it's closer to 2G than 3G) when there is a need for speed. So, I turned to a physically tethered connection via USB.

MacBook Air tethered to Blackberry Storm via USB
MacBook Air tethered to Blackberry Storm via USB Brooke Crothers

Let me preface this by explaining why I resisted a tethered (wired) USB connection at first. Quite simply, the idea of plugging and unplugging a clunky USB cable, dealing with the VZAccess Manager (Verizon) software, and then finding a place to put the Storm (if I wasn't sitting near a flat surface) seemed like too much overhead.

Not only that. Verizon doesn't make this easy. To date, there is no documented support or software for doing USB BlackBerry 3G on a MacBook. In short, you have to use a version of the VZAccess Manager that is specified for a Motorola smartphone. (More details here.)

(Apple could obviate all of this, of course, by providing an elegant internal 3G option for MacBooks.)

That said, it was relatively painless to set up and connect (it took maybe 15 minutes). And the best news is that this is truly a 3G connection: even the most ad-laden, multimedia-intensive Web pages loaded comparatively quickly--which is not the case with Bluetooth.

Based on SpeedTest.net, I achieved a download speed of 1.11Mb/s
Based on SpeedTest.net, I achieved a download speed of 1.11Mb/s Brooke Crothers

And, as I pointed out in a previous post, an external 3G phone/modem is a movable 3G feast. I can use the BlackBerry with any laptop as long as it has Bluetooth or a USB port (which is virtually every laptop on the market).

Internal 3G modems, on the other hand, are wedded to one computer and one computer only. Each computer requires a separate subscription and another $60 (more or less) per month.

There's the USB "stick" modem option, of course. I can't address that because I've never tried it. The way I see it is: use the existing 3G on your mobile phone. It's cheaper than the dedicated USB modem: on Verizon, about $30 per month for tethering versus $60 for a dedicated modem.

Or if that option doesn't appeal to you, opt for a laptop with an internal 3G modem option.

Which brings me to Apple's dearth of (as in zero) offerings in this department. Even with the ostensible advantage of an external modem described above, I would still prefer a built-in 3G modem option on the MacBook Air.

Apple take note: there's a modem technology from Qualcomm called Gobi that doesn't tie the user to a single service provider. Users can choose between Verizon or AT&T or another provider. This could, at the very least, be offered as an option on a high-end version of a future MacBook.

Apple, are you interested? Why do I get the feeling you're not.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Show Comments Hide Comments
Latest Galleries from CNET
The best and worst quotes of 2014 (pictures)
A roomy range from LG (pictures)
This plain GE range has all of the essentials (pictures)
Sony's 'Interview' heard 'round the world (pictures)
Google Lunar XPrize: Testing Astrobotic's rover on the rocks (pictures)
CNET's 15 favorite How Tos of 2014