Amazon’s Kindle offers free worldwide 3G web browsing

August 29th, 2010

Amazon’s popular Kindle book-reading device is currently offering free web browsing over 3G in 100 countries.

Amazon recently launched the 3rd generation Kindle e-Book reader in the UK and one thing that really caught my eye was the fact that they’re providing free 3G wireless connectivity in 100 countries with the 3G version. Combined with the Kindle’s web browser feature, this would make the Kindle an attractive device to use whilst overseas. Although not an ideal device for surfing the web, the Kindle 3G would make it possible to access information such as maps, tourist information and weather forecasts without the ridiculous roaming fees for using your mobile phone whilst abroad or the constant hassle of having to find a free wi-fi hotspots.

What’s the Kindle browser like?

The Kindle isn’t known for having a great web browser. It’s still an experimental feature and whilst features such as Javascript, SSL and cookies are supported, you won’t be able to use plug-ins such as Flash and Shockwave. If you’re looking to watch videos or play games, this certainly isn’t the device for you. The fact that the Kindle is designed as a book-reader and not a multimedia device also shows in that it only has a monochrome screen. So for photos, videos and multimedia the Kindle isn’t going to be a whole lot of use. For basic content pages such as Wikipedia and BBC News, Kindle should be just fine.

The Kindle web browser uses the WebKit engine. This is the same engine which powers Apple Safari, Google Chrome and the browser on the iPhone and Android.

See this guide on the Amazon website for an idea of what the browser looks like.

What is the free 3G wireless connectivity? What countries can I use it in?

Amazon have signed agreements with mobile networks in “over 100″ countries. The agreement allows Kindle owners to use these partner 3G networks around the world for free (Amazon pays for all of the download costs). Amazon provide this service for free mainly because they want to sell more e-books to Kindle owners.

Amazon have provided a coverage map which showing the countries and regions where you can use the 3G connectivity.

In the UK, Amazon have signed an agreement with Vodafone.

Will web browsing over 3G always be free?

Web browsing over 3G is listed as an “experimental” feature on the Amazon site and so it is conceivable that Amazon might decide to charge for this service at a later date. According to a comment from an Amazon representative which was posted at ITWriting.com:

We do not expect to introduce fees for using the 3G network. Of course, as my colleague mentioned, it might be subject to changes. However, as you probably know, Customers who purchased Kindles of the Amazon.com have been enjoying free access to the Whispernet within the US for almost 3 years.

If you were considering buying an e-book reader, I think the inclusion of worldwide 3G connectivity is a great bonus. However, given that 3G web browsing is “experimental” and could be withdrawn at a later date, you should think twice about buying a Kindle solely for accessing the web.

Will the Kindle without 3G allow me to access the web whilst abroad?

Amazon sell a Kindle without 3G connectivity for $139. Although you won’t be able to connect to the 3G networks across the world, you’ll still be able to connect to wi-fi networks.

What’s the Kindle like as an e-book reader?

Engadget recently gave the Kindle a score of 8/10. The Telegraph wrote “It’s smaller, faster and cheaper than its predecessor. The Kindle is ready for the mainstream”.

Where can I buy a Kindle?

You can buy a 3G Kindle from Amazon.com for $189.

    

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About Ken

Ken Lo

I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.

Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 30 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. pandawonka said:

    How come I have came across a restriction of web-browsing access in Singapore? But it's totally fantastic when using in Hong Kong.
    Does anyone one know why? Is it the reason of the coverage between US version vs. International version of Kindle keyboard?

  2. chay tiam lee said:

    can the 3G Kindel touch 149 usd , touch work in singapore ? any answers? please provide here , thanks

  3. Claire said:

    I have a UK 3G Kindle will I be able to browse the internet in France using 3G not Wireless as I can do in the UK?
    Thanks!

  4. Ryan Lloyd said:

    I don't want… I need a kindle!

  5. Santiago said:

    I've bought the kindle 3 in Argentina and 3g works fine

  6. andre said:

    I bought a Kindle from Best Buy in the US and the free 3G web browsing seems to be working 100% in South Africa where I live.

  7. Jodi said:

    Wondering about using a US-bought kindle in Mexico? Considering buying one to use the 3G internet to check my outlook e-mail (and not necessarily book reading) while traveling

  8. paresh said:

    @Hoski

    the prices of books vary due to distribution charges. f.ex. if some book is offered for free, that offer may only be applicable in US. other countries will have to pay for it.

    try google'ing for more info.

    btw, postd using kindle bought in US and browsing at Heathrow London.

  9. Carla said:

    I can access facebook with my Kindle 3 using the experimental web browser. I'm based in the Philippines btw.

    1. Alice replied:

      really? wow!
      i'm from the phils, too, and i'm planning to buy one.

  10. Hoski said:

    Hey, I have been testin the so called free 3G and depending on my country of residence, the price of books vary. For instance, the free Dracula costs 2$ if I'm based in Iceland, 2.30$ if I'm based in Iceland but 0$ if in the US or UK. That is not free 3G if I ever saw one. Do you know why this is?

  11. Marie said:

    I have a kindle 3G that I purchased in the uk. I have travelled to south east Asia, hong kong and singapore and have been able to access the Internet fully from the comfort of my hotel balcony!!! No signing up to wifi spots or pass codes and it's been brilliant!!!.. I was sceptical at first thinking I was going to come back and check my amazon account to find charges but absolutely none!!!! I have told all my colleagues to buy one, I'm a flight attendant, and I consider myself now to be a true kindle ambassador!!!… Do you think they will pay me royalties??? Hahaha

  12. Jen said:

    i am about to take a trip to the US and trying to decide whether to have a kindle shipped there for me to return to the UK with… its difficult to figure out if this will cause any problems in future.
    More specifically, I am about to go travelling in South America and whilst i appreciate its not a key feature Amazon wish to sell the kindle on, the ability to check email without having to wait in line at a hostel or internet cafe is hugely attractive and influences my decision to purchase the 3g version. If it works every now and then, it would be a huge bonus. My dilemma is, if I purchase in the US (via a friend) are there browser limitations on the US version that are not there in the UK version? Any advice appreciated!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jen,

      I would personally buy the Kindle in the UK – your device would come with access to the UK book store, you'll pay for your books in Sterling rather than US dollars, you'll have a UK charger, etc. With regards to the browser limitations on the US version… some readers have reported success whilst others say it doesn't work abroad. Check some of the comments above for more info.

      Ken

  13. Ron said:

    Actually Ken, Amazon DOES NOT offer worldwide free 3G web access.
    Outside the US the only access you'll have with the browser on 3G is the amazon store and the english version of wikipedia.
    All other sites result in a onliner telling you that browser access is restricted in your country.
    So in essence, the whole promise is just marketing crap, other than it is a great reader.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Ron,

      Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure if the deal is the same for US and UK visitors (we are a UK-based blog). I've read some comments from Kindle owners in the UK who have managed to use the web browser abroad with no problems… whether this is a feature, a temporary feature or a mistake on Amazon's part I don't know.

      Do any UK-based readers have any experiences to report?

      Ken

      1. kriss replied:

        just bought a kindle at heathrow and the web browsing work fine here in helsinki

    2. Chaz Fausel replied:

      My girlfriend studied abroad this summer across Europe and her main means of checking e-mail (gmail) most of the time was with her Kindle. She had no issues in Spain, France, England or Italy as long as there was 3G network availability where she was.

      1. Ken Lo
        Ken replied:

        Hi Chaz,

        Thanks for your comment. I assume (based on your IP address) that you purchased your Kindle in the US?

        Ken

  14. Vania said:

    Hi ken , I'm from Singapore and I'm deciding to get a kindle 3g or wifi . May I ask if they will charge me by my local mobile service provider?

    1. jamesheng replied:

      there is no sim card tray in kindle.

      1. Ron replied:

        Actually there is one inside, but it is not easily accessible and holds an AT&T lock sim

  15. Singaporean said:

    Just curious! For someone in Asia to buy the device, does the free global 3g access still apply? how is amazon going to pay for the 3g service? individual contract with telco to waive the charge or reimburse the buyer? appreciate your reply! Thanks!

    1. jamesheng replied:

      amazon will pay for 3g usage. because u use it to buy books from Amazon

    2. bibico replied:

      I am from Macau and the 3G service is not available (only works in wikipedia and shop at amazon), but if i go to Hong Kong it is totally free 3G access! What about in Singapore?

  16. Ken Lo
    Ken said:

    Updated the article above with information for US & UK readers.

  17. Irv said:

    is it possible to get at the sim card so it can be used in other devices?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hey Irv. Not sure but I strongly doubt it. Even if it was technically possible to remove the Kindle SIM, I suspect this would break every one of the terms and conditions of use and Amazon would disable the SIM incredibly quickly. The SIM is designed for use primarily with the Amazon bookstore… and I think the webbrowsing is just one of those extra features they've added on. Not sure whether it works in the standard way. Ken

  18. ze7v7en said:

    For some reasons the Kindle costs more in the Amazon’s UK store. Do you know if there is any difference if I buy it off the US store instead? What is the advantage of having a UK store anyway when all is done over the web?

    I’m a big fan of your blog btw. You are so thorough and always answer all the right questions. Thank you!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Thanks for the kind words :) consumer electronics always seem to cost more in the uk! If you decide to import, bear in mind the shipping costs (free from UK), US sales tax (added after), UK import duty and your banks charges for foreign currency. You'll also need a UK-US plug adapter. Usually after including these things, it's not worth importing. Hth ken

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