Kindle vs Kindle WiFi

We’ve seen the $139 Kindle WiFi and the $189 Kindle 3 arrive today and one of the hot topics at the kindle forum is Kindle vs Kindle WiFi.

This Kindle vs Kindle WiFi comparison post will explain the differences between the two and help you choose the right Kindle for your needs.

Note: Kindle 3 has BOTH 3G and WiFi and you can switch between them freely. You can choose to use WiFi instead of 3G. Kindle WiFi, on the other hand, has only WiFi.

Note: You only need 3G or WiFi when you are downloading books or browsing the Kindle Store or Internet. It is NOT needed when reading. Once you have a book on your Kindle WiFi or Kindle 3 you can read it without being connected.

Kindle vs Kindle WiFi – Exactly what are the differences 

There are, to the best of my knowledge, just two significant differences -

  1. Price – Kindle WiFi is $139 and $50 cheaper than the $189 Kindle 3.  
  2. Free 3G - Kindle WiFi does not have 3G and will not benefit from free wireless via AT&T’s network. You will have to find a WiFi network/hot spot to browse the Kindle Store and browse the Internet.

There are also 3 minor differences –  

  1. Weight – Kindle WiFi is 8.5 ounces and Kindle 3 is 8.7 ounces.
  2. Name – They’re named differently and have different serial numbers.
  3. Kindle WiFi is only available in Graphite. Kindle 3 in White and Graphite.

Let’s look at Kindle vs Kindle WiFi differences.

Kindle vs Kindle WiFi – $50 vs Free 3G

The benefits of Free 3G include (provided you’re using the Kindle 3 in places covered by AT&T’s network) -

  1. Browsing the Kindle Store.
  2. Downloading Kindle Books in 60 seconds.
  3. Free Internet Access – This includes Wikipedia and Internet sites via the built-in browser. The browser is experimental and while mobile sites work other sites might not. The 3G is also somewhat slow.

The benefit of getting the Kindle WiFi is – $50.

What is WiFi?

WiFi is simply a wireless network that lets you connect your laptop or mobile device to the Internet. An example would be a wireless modem that creates a wireless network in your home which you use to access the Internet from your laptop (without needing a physical Internet cable).

Another example is a coffee shop that takes its Internet connection and creates a wireless network (also called WiFi hotspot) which its customers use to access the Internet.

Kindle WiFi depends on these WiFi networks to connect to the Kindle Store, to download books, and to access the Internet. If you have a wireless network at home or work the Kindle WiFi should work (you might need to figure out the password). Additionally, Kindle WiFi works with AT&T WiFi hotspots.

How does Kindle WiFi work with AT&T WiFi Hotspots?

Kindle WiFi works automatically with AT&T WiFi Hotspots. If a coffee shop or a mall has an AT&T WiFi HotSpot your Kindle WiFi will automatically recognize it and work -

Free Access at AT&T Hotspots
Enjoy free Wi-Fi access at AT&T hotspots across the U.S. for shopping and downloading Kindle content – no AT&T registration, sign-in, or password required.

This is a nice benefit although Internet access is not included.

Kindle vs Kindle WiFi - Cases where the Kindle WiFi is better

You don’t really need Kindle 3 with 3G in case -

  1. You will mostly use your Kindle WiFi in areas where you have access to a WiFi network. For example – If you use your Kindle WiFi mostly at home and you have a WiFi network setup at home then you don’t really need the Kindle 3. Save the $50.   
  2. If you happen to have a decent number of AT&T WiFi Hotspots where you usually head out for reading or near your house then you should do fine with the Kindle WiFi.
  3. Some coffee shops have a free wireless network. Again, the Kindle WiFi will do just fine – ask the Barista for the network password and you’re set.

Basically, if you have access to a wireless network at home and where you read outside the house then you can get by with the Kindle WiFi.

There are two qualifiers -

  1. If you travel a lot, and especially if it involves international travel, you should get the Kindle 3 with 3G.  
  2. Even if you don’t have WiFi networks handy you can go with the Kindle WiFi if you don’t mind searching for books on your PC and downloading Kindle books to the PC. You can transfer books from your PC to the Kindle WiFi via USB – It’s pretty straightforward.

At $139 Kindle WiFi is a great value and if you don’t need the 3G (or can do without it) it makes sense to get it.

Kindle vs Kindle WiFi – Cases where the Kindle 3 with 3G is better

If you fall into one or more of these categories -

  1. Don’t understand WiFi at all and don’t have home Internet. Note: WiFi is quite simple. So do give it a shot before deciding Kindle WiFi isn’t good enough.
  2. Can’t be bothered to learn how to set up WiFi at home and how to find WiFi hotspots. 
  3. Really value the fact that Kindle 3 with 3G is much more convenient.
  4. Travel a lot and don’t want to keep looking for WiFi networks.
  5. Travel internationally or move around internationally and don’t want to bother with WiFi.  
  6. Will use your Kindle a lot on commutes where WiFi networks will not be available.
  7. Don’t think $50 is a big deal.

Then please get the Kindle 3 with 3G. The $50 is worth it since you get free Internet and it’s very convenient.

There are a few qualifiers -

  1. Keep in mind that AT&T network isn’t available everywhere. If you read mostly at home and have a WiFi network at home but AT&T’s network doesn’t cover your home – Well, it makes little sense to get the 3G Kindle 3.  
  2. If you plan on moving to a different country or different state it makes sense to get the Kindle 3G – You might find that you no longer have any free WiFi hotspots nearby.
  3. $50 isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things. Kindle 3 with 3G will pay that back in many ways – perhaps just the convenience of using it on a vacation, perhaps through higher resale value, perhaps when the 3G saves you (at a time when WiFi isn’t available or is very expensive).

If $50 isn’t a deal-breaker consider going with the Kindle 3 with 3G. Kindle vs Kindle WiFi should tilt towards Kindle 3 – unless you always have a WiFi network around when you’re reading. Also consider taking a look at this Kindle vs Kindle WiFi discussion at the official Kindle Forum.

39 Responses

  1. Just to be clear: Doesn’t the $189 version have 3G ~and~ WiFi? If so, I think that would be considerable to reiterate.

  2. Yes, per the Amazon website, the $189 model has both WiFi and 3G.

  3. The basic thing for me is that while 3G is much more convenient, I can’t say as I have often been in a position when I really needed (or even wanted) a new book fresh from the Kindle store that very instant. I tend to preload books, often via my PC, and have never lacked for reading material this way. I think the one use case where the ability to wirelessly download books has been especially relevant has been when I had only purchased some subset of a series, had finished the last book in the series that I owned, and craved more immediately. But that really does not come up often and WiFi would not be a significant step down when simply taking advantage of the convenience of direct download to the Kindle when pre-loading reading material. Actually, it’s possible that it might be more convenient – does the WiFi allow you to connect to your PC without a USB cable connection?

  4. This is much closer to a device I would carry with my iPad, rather than leave home. Smaller, lighter, better contrast. Still no glare inducing touchscreen. And at the price for the WiFi only version, I’ll just grab one… there’s no question that the $100 price reduction from what it cost to get in a couple of months ago is HUGE.

    I don’t see it as an all-or-nothing proposition. I think Bezos is smart enough to see that as well. If you buy dedicated hardware, buy a Kindle. if you use a multifunction device, use Kindle software with Kindle books. If he can get his team to make the iPad Kindle app a bit less sluggish, that will help. I’d love for them to buy Zinio and integrate that as well.

  5. If the WiFi-only model had been available last Dec when I bought my Kindle, I probably would have considered it. I live in Montana which has very poor AT&T coverage. At home, my Kindle always shows as being on the “Edge” network. I’m pretty sure my 60-second downloads take a bit longer, and I rarely use the kindle store on the device — I shop on my computer and send samples to the kindle from the amazon site. I do download them via the wireless though. I also typically pre-load plenty of books before going on a trip (especially camping trips, since there is typically no signal out in the wilderness at all).

    That said, it was handy to have the wireless when I travelled to my sister’s house over Christmas, since she doesn’t have a wireless network. When I finished one book, I downloaded a new one right from my pre-loaded samples. And it was handy for occasionally checking my facebook via the browser too.

    One thing in the review, might it be worth pointing out that you don’t need ANY connectivity WHILE you are reading…you only need it for getting new books. I keep my wireless shut off all the time and only flip it on when I need to download a sample or a book. Some of the statements in the review about considering whether you have a wifi available where you typically read makes it sound like you need to be online in order to actually read a book. But I might just be a little nitpicky :)

    Nice review, I do enjoy your blog!

    • thanks – it’s a good point.

      • Sara, I agree. Living in Maine I don’t have access to G3 at all where I live and its sketchy in much of New England. I’ve had to download everything to my computer first. The new Kindle wifi would be perfect for me.

  6. One thing I noticed about the wifi only version is how it could be a whole lot more child friendly for concerned parents. IE My 11 yearold bro could have one of these for 139 easy, we would be able to control all the content he’d see and wouldn’t have to worry about him stumbling into something unsuitable for his age or accidentally purchasing a hundred dollar book. Christmas present maybe?

  7. Nice comparison. You did a good job of remaining “neutral,” though I would take one exception…

    You commented that the Kindle 3G would be the better choice “perhaps when the 3G saves you (at a time when WiFi isn’t available or is very expensive.” Granted, you said “perhaps,” but in this case only, the wi-fi use would have to exceed $50 for this to matter. For example, if McDonald’s charges $2 for Wi-Fi (I don’t know, do they?) and you absolutely must. have it. now. You could do that 25x before the 3G version would break even. I would suggest that the idea of “emergency 3G use” is a bit of a red herring unless you run into so many emergencies that you spend over $50. Which brings me to point #2: do people really have “Kindle emergencies”? :D

  8. I have questions about the experimental web browser included in the 3g model. The web site mentioned that it works with moble-friendly websites. Would this device work with flash content or other web-centric technologies used today (Silverlight, etc.)? I’d like to know that I could check my web-based email, checking account, pay a bill, etc. using this device as well as for the main book reading functionality.

    • Al, you can use the major email sites using their mobile websites. That works.
      I doubt it supports Flash and Silverlight – would have to try it out and see. A lot of sites have mobile websites to support iPhone and Android and Kindle’s new Webkit browser should be able to support them. Were you thinking something like Bank of America? Let me know a couple sites and I’ll see how they are on the Kindle 2′s browser.

      • It almost certainly does not, considering that even smartphones – which have much more capable browsers – do not support Flash or Silverlight.

      • In another review, it mentioned that Flash and Java would not be supported so some web access will clearly be hampered. However, my impression is that most web-based email will probably work since they generally use basic HTML code.

        Bottom line is that I’m just going to have to get my hands on one and find out for myself.

      • Yup. All the major providers have mobile sites that work even with the current Kindles. With the new improved WebKit based browser don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

  9. Excellent review.

    I had a hard time choosing between the wifi / wifi plus 3g models but finally decided that by getting wifi only I could also afford to get the snazzy new case with pull up light!

    I am a big fan of the k2. I tried the Sony Touch reader and the glare on the screen made it too hard to read comfortably. So I sold it and got a k2 instead.

    • glad to be of help. Have to agree with you on the case being delightful. I read a lot in bed and being allergic to batteries the case is a savior.

  10. [...] amount of people trying to decide on Kindle 3G vs Kindle WiFi is ridiculous. In the linked post have put down a lot of the points to consider – Please do [...]

  11. I am a frequent (business) traveler. WiFi is nice BUT it isnt always easy to find! I stay usually at Hilton hotels, sometimes WiFi is free, sometimes it isnt, sometimes it requires keys, sometimes it doesnt.

    Even recently at the Denver Airport WiFi is free, BUT before you get to the free wifi you MUST logon to a screen first and input data BEFORE you get access to the free stuff… THIS IS almost impossible if the WIFI is trying to connect to the Kindle store… (actually I was on the Nook) and it kept failing, finally I had to turn the WiFi off and use the 3G so I could get the recently ordered books. (I was ready to throw the Nook across the room).. My Kindle DX never has this problem.

    I have WiFi at home, so sure this would be easy enough, but on the road I can not rely on WiFi I would pay the extra 50 bux and get the 3G…

    This is a matter of convienence and my santity, and for 50 bux that is cheap!

  12. Interesting note about the free AT&T wi-fi access at AT&T hotspots potentially not including internet access. Don’t you think it’s possible that the product description was just focusing on buying books but all internet would work? I don’t see how they would make the shopping pages work but not wiki lookup or internet. Seems like you either have a wifi connection or not.

  13. I just recently bought the Kindle 2 global, and then the Kindle 2 us-only at the $109-refurb price. Some comparisons, living in Berkeley, CA, AT&T service is horrid, whereas Sprint is pretty awesome (always 3-4 bars, whereas AT&T is very erratic). The one thing that made the Kindle 2g more desirable, having used it first, the screen contrast is noticably sharper and better than the Kindle 2us. The Kindle 2us screen also has more glare, than the 2g screen. I ended up returning the Kindle 2g however, due to the $80 savings and 3g Sprint service.

    Now the Kindle 3 cometh! With it’s screen contrast being 50% better than the 2g screen, I am definately onboard, and will be returning my 2us-refurb before my 30-day runs out. However, because AT&T is so spotty where I live, I will probably opt for the wifi version. I’m hoping the case for the kindle 2 will fit it, as it is one with loop-elastic at each four corners.

  14. I knew this would happen. I finally buy myaelf a Kindle2 and 3 months later the Kindle3 comes down the Pike! Unless it’s some godsend to the E-Reader world is there honestly any reason why I should “trade up”? I don’t use the internet feature of my K2g as it is. I do that with my Palm Pixi when I’m out and about. And if I truly want to do the wi-fi thing, I have an adorable little pink Toshiba Netbook.

    So tell me, Switch, in all honesty, should I get the K3wi-fi3G when it’s time to re-up my audible.com acct or should I just be happy with my K2g.

    • By then you’ll get an idea of how many of the software improvements Amazon has added to Kindle 2. Just check my latest post on Kindle 3 killer features – half are software improvements that might make it to Kindle 2. In thet case there’s less reason to upgrade.

  15. [...] a bit strange that two of the top 5 questions would be – White or Graphite Kindle, and Kindle 3G or WiFi. There aren’t that many people asking for Kindle 3 vs Nook comparisons though there are [...]

  16. [...] you’d like a more technical discussion the Kindle vs Kindle WiFi comparison post should help [...]

  17. Could you please tell me if Kindle WiFi would work in Georgia (republic of Georgia, not the state)?

    • WiFi works anywhere. Kindle 3G wireless doesn’t work in Georgia. Amazon does ship to Georgia.

      Do check with a Kindle customer service agent though. They might have some strange rule because they list that wireless doesn’t work in Georgia. Logically that shouldn’t prevent WiFi. But who knows?

  18. Thank you for this great article. I have been trying to make the Kindle 3G vs WiFi only decision for a few days now, and even though I’m not 100% sure which way I will go yet I think this article was the clearest and made what I really need in what situations the most obvious out of everything I have read. Thank you again!

  19. I had two strong reasons for opting for the Kindle 3 with wifi and 3G. One is that wifi service at airports while stuck waiting for connections is spotty and sometimes expensive. With 3G I can almost always browse the internet, chk email, and use Facebook. That convenience alone is worth $50. The second reason is the ability to quickly access and purchase information and books germane to my location of travel. While traveling, I occasionally come across things that make me want to quickly get my hands on a book that addresses the topic. Kindle w/3G makes this more possible.

  20. I am making this decision right now. I realized that, as an iPhone user, I already have 3G wherever I take my iPhone , so I don’t need 3G on my Kindle (assuming I have my iPhone with me). I haven’t tried it yet, but Personal Hotspot should work.

  21. Thanks a lot for your review, I will buy the WiFi version, since I have WiFi at home and at Unversirty (I live in Spain, so I’m not even sure if AT&T 3G is available)

  22. I have a question. When Amazon says they store all of
    your amazon media in the cloud, do they also mean all
    music you have downloaded in the last few years. I’m
    thinking about getting the Kindle special 99. keyboard reader. reddy

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