Well there went the Kindle Touch 3G’s appeal straight out the window: Amazon now admits that while its upcoming touch-based Kindle will indeed be 3G-enabled, the places it’ll be allowed to visit along the information superhighway are actually not so super.
Where can the Kindle Touch go? Try the Kindle Store, no surprise, and—wait for it—Wikipedia, that fount of immaculate, always-reliable and scholarly information, and encyclopedic repository for whoever your favorite celebrities are dating.
Amazon unveiled two Kindle Touch models last Wednesday: a $99 Wi-Fi model and a $149 3G alternative. That’s right, for $50 or 33% more, you can have significantly slower “anywhere” access to a fraction of a fraction (of a fraction—keep repeating silently until you’ve not quite infinitely regressed) of the Internet.
Chalk it up to browsing’s “experimental” status on the Kindle platform (the Android-based Kindle Fire notwithstanding). Amazon advertises the Kindle Touch 3G with “free 3G wireless,” noting you can “download books anywhere” and that it “works globally.” There’s also a note about “free cloud backup.” But—perhaps misleadingly—the company neglects to mention you’ll be limited to synchronizing books, and fails altogether to mention the Wikipedia restriction. All Amazon says is that while browsing books using its new X-Ray feature, you’ll have access to “more detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari, Amazon’s community-powered encyclopedia for book lovers.”
Why put these devices on Internet training wheels? Probably because the company expects to sell boatloads when they launch on November 21, and $50 markup or no, they’re not prepared to subsidize all the extra web traffic they’d have to handle if they opened the floodgates. That’s the safe bet anyway.
Amazon’s sort-of-kind-of official acknowledgement of the browsing limitation? Here’s what the company wrote a few days ago in response to customer questions about 3G access:
We apologize for the confusion. Our new Kindle Touch 3G enables you to connect to the Kindle Store, download books and periodicals, and access Wikipedia – all over 3G or Wi-Fi. Experimental web browsing (outside of Wikipedia) on Kindle Touch 3G is only available over Wi-Fi.
Our Kindle Keyboard 3G will continue to offer experimental web browsing over 3G or Wi-Fi.
So there you have it. If you want to browse the web without restrictions on a 3G Kindle, you’ll need the old-style Kindle Keyboard 3G. If you want that on a Kindle Touch, you can’t have it. Not unless Amazon changes its mind, which I’d like to think they will, and soon.