Want Wi-Fi in your car? EE has you covered, with a slew of new 4G devices and plans, including a tablet and a 4G dongle that plugs into your vehicle's cigarette lighter. Read on for prices and release dates of all the new gadgets.
The EE Eagle, as well as being a positive delight to say out loud, is a basic Android tablet that aims to tempt you with its relatively low price tag. It'll cost £199 on pay as you go, or £50 on a pay-monthly plan that gets you 2GB of data per month.
The specs of this slate however, are none too swanky. The 8-inch display has a resolution of 1,280x800 pixels -- not as high-res as Google's Nexus 7, which also costs £199 , albeit for a Wi-Fi-only version.
Around the back is a 5-megapixel camera, while inside hums a 1.6GHz quad-core processor. That's plenty of processing grunt on paper at least, and indeed in my brief hands-on time I didn't notice any stuttering while sliding gracefully through Android home screens. Hidden on the back is a removable compartment, into which you can stuff a SIM card and a microSD card, should you wish to expand the Eagle's built-in memory.
One minor kick in the teeth is that the Eagle is running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, and not 4.4 KitKat, which is the latest version. The tablet is a rebranded version of the Huawei MediaPad M1, and as such appears to be running Huawei's Emotion UI. This isn't our favourite manufacturer-added Android skin, because you have to have all your apps on a home screen rather than in an app dock. It could also mean it takes longer to get updated to new versions of Android.
EE's most interesting new gadget is a portable 4G hotspot device that plugs into your car's cigarette charger, flooding your auto with wonderful waves of Wi-Fi. Rather than watching Netflix while hooning around the M25, EE presumably thinks you'll be using the Buzzard to keep your passengers entertained on their own smartphones or tablets.
Up to 10 devices can be connected at once, and the Buzzard comes in a container that is, EE says, designed to fit into a cup holder. That's convenience for you.
It sounds marginally better than a family game of eye-spy, but data on the road ain't free. The Buzzard, which also goes on sale on 28 May, costs £50 up front on pay as you go, or you can buy it on contract. The cheapest contract option is £19 up front and £10 per month, which gets you a mere 1GB of data per month. If you have one or two people streaming video in the back seats, you'll quickly plough through your data allowance, so take care.
In-car Wi-Fi is an interesting prospect, but you may wonder whether it's easier to simply use your smartphone's data connection. Most modern mobiles can be turned into tethering hotspots, so if you have the phone (and plan) to do this, it could be a simpler solution.
That will depend on getting a decent signal, though. EE says it has coverage on the UK's busiest roads, including the M1, M4, M5, M6, M11 and M40, but whether this means you get a consistently good signal while travelling is something of a gamble.
EE Osprey, EE Kite and new 4G Wi-Fi plans
EE has also slapped its label on two new portable hotspot gadgets. The Osprey is a colourful, rugged little brick that EE reckons is ideal for students (though the associated monthly data costs may be less ideal). It costs a penny shy of £50 on pay as you go and goes on sale on 28 May.
The EE Kite meanwhile looks like a screen-less iPhone 4. This slender little Wi-Fi box is aimed more at business types, and costs a premium £70 on pay as you go.
EE has launched new data plans for its Wi-Fi devices. A 24-month contract will cost you £10 per month, and get you 1GB of data, while a single month's data also costs £10 for 1GB. You also have the option of paying more for EE Extra, which grants you access to theoretically higher speeds, and more data. £20 will get you a month of EE Extra, and 15GB to use. You can see the new plan info in EE's handy table, below.
EE says it's bringing its 4G network to 2,588 villages and small towns with populations under 10,000. The all-caps operator says there are more than 3 million people in rural areas with access to its network.
Finally, an interesting statistic -- EE claims 4G contract sales now outstrip 3G, even including Orange and T-Mobile, which are 3G-only. EE says it has 3.6 million customers signed up to 4G in total.
Are you tempted by any of EE's new devices? Or is 4G still too pricey? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.