Amazon is conducting an experiment and you get to be the guinea pig. 3G Kindles have a well-hidden browser that you can use to access the Internet for much more than just downloading books and shopping in Amazon’s Kindle Store.
If you have a Kindle 3G, you paid extra when you bought your Kindle to be able to download your books even when you’re away from Wi-Fi. The extra cost of the 3G Internet service is a one-time fee when you purchase the device, there is no monthly fee for 3G service.
The good news is that if you have a Kindle Keyboard 3G, you can use the 3G connection to access the Internet for free through a feature called the Experimental browser.
If you’re away from Wi-Fi, even outside your home country, and want to surf the web, check your email, connect to Facebook, post on Twitter or search on Google, you can do that for free using the Experimental browser. If you tried to access the Internet outside your home country on your 3G/4G iPad or smartphone without Wi-Fi, you would quickly rack up expensive international data charges.
You can access 3G on your Kindle from many countries in the world. Check out this coverage map showing where you can get free 3G coverage for your Kindle in Europe.
How to Use Kindle Experimental Browser
Using the Experimental browser is easy, but you have to know where to find it. Here’s a video showing you how to use the Experimental Browser feature on your Kindle 3G.
- Go to the Home screen on your Kindle Keyboard.
- Click the Menu button.
- Toggle down to Experimental and press the center button.
- Toggle down to “launch browser” and press the center button.
- You will be shown a list of pre-loaded bookmarks.
- Toggle down to the bookmark you want or click up to the address bar at the top of the screen and type in the web address.
Once you arrive at the site you may see a square with a magnifying glass with a plus sign in it. Click on that to enlarge a portion of the screen to make it easier to read.
The Kindle Experimental Browser won’t make you regret buying an iPad or a Kindle Fire. Think of it as a resource when you’re traveling internationally or in a spot where you can’t access the Internet otherwise because there are some downsides to using the Experimental Browser.
1. Black and white. There’s not even a hint of color on a Kindle. eInk screens are strictly shades of gray. If you want a color Kindle, get a Kindle Fire (though the Fire doesn’t have an Experimental browser because it’s Wi-Fi only and uses the Silk browser).
2. Slow. If your area only has EDGE (2G) coverage (shown in light purple on the map above), your time to load a site would be painfully slow. Best to wait to use the Experimental browser until you get to an area that has 3G or where you have access to Wi-Fi.
3. Limited sites. You won’t be streaming YouTube or Netflix on your eInk Kindle. Some sites don’t format properly on the Kindle, making them illegible.
4. Navigating challenges. Since you don’t have a mouse or a touch screen, toggling around a screen can be frustrating.
5. Battery. Surfing the web uses a lot of power. If you’re not connected to a power source, you can run through your battery very quickly as you load websites. If you’re counting on using your Kindle for reading, you could be frustrated when the battery runs out because you were using the Experimental browser too long.
My Kindle Experimental Browser Story
Even with the downsides, the Kindle Experimental browser is a very handy resource to have. The Kindle Experimental browser was a huge help to me one night when I was visiting New York City on my way back to my home in London. I needed to get in touch with a friend of mine I was supposed to meet for breakfast the next morning, but all I had was her email address.
I checked into a hotel that had “complimentary Wi-Fi,” but when I got to my hotel room, I read the fine print about the Wi-Fi service. The “complimentary” Wi-Fi was 25 kb of data (not enough to check email), after which they charged $30 per mb, making international data charges seem cheap. I was desperate to avoid this trap for the unwary, but it was late at night and pouring rain so I didn’t want to venture outside in search of free Wi-Fi.
I remembered my Kindle Experimental browser, launched it and logged into my email account. I sent my friend an email and arranged to meet with her the next morning before I left for London. Without the Kindle Experimental browser, I either would have spent a lot of money to send one email or would have missed seeing my friend (though since then I have been more careful in finding out whether a hotel has free Wi-Fi)!
If you’re debating which Kindle to purchase, make sure you consider the Kindle Keyboard 3G. If you want free 3G Internet access around the globe and don’t mind the downsides, paying the extra to get the 3G could come in very handy. If you’re debating between the 3G Kindle Keyboard and the 3G Kindle Touch, factor in that the Kindle Keyboard will allow you to access the Experimental browser over 3G while the Kindle Touch will only allow you to use the Experimental Browser on Wi-Fi.
Did you know about the Kindle Experimental browser? Have you ever needed to access the Internet when you were away from Wi-Fi but all you had was a Kindle? Let us know in the Comments section below!
Amazon has imposed a 50 MB monthly limit on browsing using 3G outside the US for Kindles purchased in the US. Amazon