Palm overhauls Pre, Pixi with hotspot feature

This mobile broadband hotspot idea continues to take the operator world by storm, with US carrier Verizon Wireless also getting in on the action this week.

Verizon’s taken something of a disruptive approach to this one – it’s rolling out enhanced, beefier versions of the Palm Pre and Pixi – now adorned with the ‘Plus’ suffix – both of which have hotspot capability.

The overhauled devices have double the storage of their predecessors (16GB for the Pre Plus, 8GB for the Pixi Plus) and increased application processing power, but it’s the Palm mobile hotspot, a webOS app, that’s really of interest. This turns the device into a wifi hotspot, allowing up to five wifi-enabled devices such as notebooks, netbooks, cameras, gaming devices or portable media players to share the Palm device’s 3G connection to the internet.

Earlier this week, rival US provider Sprint unveiled a 3G/4G mobile broadband hotspot made by Sierra Wireless. The Overdrive allows up to five wifi devices to be connected at any one time and backhauls the connection over Sprint/Clearwire’s WiMAX network, defaulting to the provider’s EV-DO network when out of WiMAX coverage.

The WiMAX connectivity is the selling point in this case and Sprint’s not shy about telling users what they can do with that bandwidth referencing such connection intensive applications as HD movie streaming, mobile TV, music streaming and gaming.

The Overdrive will be available from January 10 for $99.99 after a $50 mail-in-rebate with a two-year service agreement.

The Overdrive is similar in concept to the MiFi, manufactured by Novatel, which is a pocket sized box powered by batteries or a mains supply and can connect up to five wifi-enabled devices with a cellular backhaul connection – a sort of 3G dongle on steroids.

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