The Truth Behind The Nokia Booklet 3G Pricing

I’ll admit, it’s tough to understand the concept of a netbook, for some. I mean, it’s *almost* the regular cost of a low-end notebook, but it’s smaller, and tends to be less capable in terms of processing power and that sort of thing. However, there’s tons of inaccuracies floating around out there, specifically in regards to the pricing setup for Nokia’s Booklet 3G, which was detailed yesterday. Tony Bradley, on Yahoo! Tech News, spews forth some complete nonsense in his diatribe about why the Nokia Booklet 3G has ‘hidden costs’. Let’s break his article (which you can read in full here) down a bit:

That subsidized price comes with some strings that affect the total cost of ownership though. The $299 price tag is based on a 2-year wireless service commitment with a mandatory data plan requirement. So, $299 isn’t just $299. It is $299 plus $60 a month for two years which brings the total cost up to over $1700.

But wait, there’s more! The data plan you get for $60 a month has a limit of 5Gb of bandwidth per month. Even moderate netbook users could easily surpass the bandwidth cap and end up hit with steep overage charges that add even more hidden costs and increase the total cost of ownership for the Booklet 3G.

Ok, so, he’s got the pricing right – $299 with a 2-year contract on AT&T at their $60/mo Laptop Connect package, which has a 5GB monthly limit. For starters, something that Tony *doesn’t* point out is that currently, across all four of the major carriers (Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint), if you want a monthly data package to get your laptop (netbook or not) online, it’s going to cost you $60/mo and has a 5GB monthly limit (update: T-Mobile’s is only $50, but still has the 5GB limit). Tony makes it seem as though the Booklet’s monthly plan is device-specific – it’s not. It’s the industry standard for connecting anything that’s not a phone or PDA to the internet via 3G. It’s the same plan you would get with a USB dongle, the MiFi, or any of the other embedded-3G netbooks that the various carriers offer.

Let’s continue, because Mr. Bradley has some other information quite incorrect, as well.

To be fair, all netbooks are little more than glorified calculators without some sort of wireless network service. But, just keeping things within AT&T, I could buy an un-subsidized Acer Aspire One netbook and get DSL service from AT&T for $19.95 a month without the bandwidth limit. Granted, I would have to spring for the $40 to add a wireless router to my network, but the total cost for the netbook and Internet access over the same two years is about half the cost of the Booklet 3G contract (not including charges for going over the data limit).

You can forego the AT&T subsidy and purchase the Nokia Booklet 3G outright for $599 without the contract. That brings the total cost over two years down significantly, but the device is still almost double the cost of comparable devices.

This part actually has two main points, so I’ll take them on separately:

The Acer Aspire One netbook that Mr. Bradley mentions is *not* comparable to the Nokia Booklet 3G. For starters, there are several different models of that netbook, each with varying display sizes (8.9″-11.6″) and storage capacities. We’ll use the 10.1″ model, since size-wise, that’s the closest to the Booklet 3G.

The Acer is powered by the Intel N270 Atom processor at 1.6GHz, while the Nokia is powered by the newer Intel Z530 Atom processor, also at 1.6GHz. Both computers have 1GB of RAM. That is roughly where the similarities stop. The Acer, admittedly, has a 160GB hard drive, while the Nokia only has a 120GB, so there’s one for the Acer.

However, the Nokia quickly overtakes the Acer in nearly every other category. The Nokia has WiFi b/g/n, whereas the Acer only has b/g, and the Nokia comes with Bluetooth built-in and a GPS receiver integrated into the machine. The Nokia’s display, while still 10.1″, has a resolution of 1280×720, while the Acer maxes out at 1024×600. The Nokia Booklet 3G has an HDMI-out port, while the Acer only has a VGA output.

Case in point – the Nokia Booklet 3G has quite a few features that the current crop of netbooks don’t have. You can’t compare the Booklet 3G to an Acer Aspire One (or an EeePC, for that matter), as that’s similar to comparing the Nokia 5530 XpressMusic to the Nokia N97 – sure they’re both touchscreen smartphones, but with a number of important differences.

Second, and worse yet, Tony says he could buy the Acer and get the $20 AT&T home DSL plan and get a similar experience to the Booklet 3G with AT&T’s data plan. Part of the draw of netbooks is that their size and weight and battery life make them *much* better for portable computing – NOT having to be within range of an outlet to get work done. Buying a netbook and using it with a home DSL line completely defeats the entire purpose.

My favorite part of Tony’s…..article……is the next to last paragraph:

The Nokia Booklet 3G faces an identity crisis. It has the price tag of a high-end netbook– eclipsing the price of much more powerful notebook computers– with the features of a middle-of-the-road netbook device. The subsidized cost may lure in some users who want the prestige or are willing to pay twice as much over time in order to spend less today, but compared with other netbook and notebook alternatives the Booklet 3G is just not a good value.

So, given the direct comparison of the Booklet 3G’s features – newer, faster, more energy-efficient processor, higher resolution display, bigger battery, more features (WiFi n, Bluetooth, GPS, etc), and sleeker design against the Acer Aspire One that he mentions, Tony somehow sees it as a ‘middle of the road’ netbook. I’d be interested to have an example of a ‘high-end’ netbook – which Tony says is how the Nokia Booklet 3G is priced as.

Basically, no matter what netbook you purchase today, if you want 3G access for it, you’re going to be paying *someone* an additional $60/mo, and you’re going to have a 5GB monthly limit, regardless of which carrier or netbook or notebook it’s on. Given that, the $299 pricetag of the Booklet 3G doesn’t seem so bad.

Of course, you could still tether your phone to any netbook (Booklet 3G included) for cheaper (though not exactly within the Terms and Conditions of your cellular service), but assuming you use the correct plan (which the majority of consumers will do), you’re still going to be facing a similar monthly bill. Saying the Booklet 3G costs $1700+ while other netbooks are similar and *much* cheaper is simply not factual – not for the same experience.

**To be clear, I’m in no way saying that I think $60/mo for 5GB of 3G access is a fair price, nor a good deal. I’m only stating the facts based on pricing and plans currently available from the major carriers. My overall point is that saying the Booklet 3G is overpriced because it comes with a $60/mo limited 2-year contract is absurd – you’ll pay the same monthly price for 3G on a computer (netbook or notebook) whether you get the Booklet 3G subsidized or not.

Disclaimer: I own an Asus 1000HE EeePC and tether it to my cell phone when necessary. I paid $425 for it.

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