Big news from Barnes and Noble today as they announced a new Wi-Fi only nook, a price change for the current 3G + Wi-Fi nook, and an upgrade to the nook’s software. The nook Wi-Fi will cost $149, while the price of the nook 3G + Wi-Fi drops from $259 to $199. Both models have the same eReader capabilities, the difference is that the lower cost model will only work on Wi-Fi networks while the higher cost model works on both Wi-Fi and AT&T’s 3G network.
Both models will have free access to AT&T’s Wi-Fi hotspots, which is a feature that is included in the nook software upgrade. Two other subtle differences is that the Wi-Fi only model has a white back, to make it easier to distinguish from the 3G+Wi-Fi model that has a gray back, and the Wi-Fi only model is a lighter at 11.6 oz compared to 12.1 oz of the 3G+Wi-FI model. While the weight difference is slight between the two models, 11.6 oz is significantly lighter than the Apple iPad, which weighs 24 oz.
The nook software upgrade adds support to access AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots, insuring that current nook owners have the same capabilities as those who buy the new nooks. Also welcome additions is a Go-To page feature that allows users to go to specific pages, and a new extra, extra, large font size. Switching to the new font reduces a page to ten lines, but makes it even easier for those with vision problems to read books.
The Go-To page feature presents a horizontal slider to move back and forward in the book that I find imprecise. In my opinion it would have been much better if a numeric keypad displayed to allow users to directly enter the page number they want to go to. I recommend that before using the Go-To page feature that you create a bookmark to make it easier to return to the current page. If you use Go-To page to move forward in a book, the page you land on becomes the furthest read page, so using Go-To Furthest Read Point will not return you to the page where you started.
I cannot end this post without writing a few words to compliment Barnes and Noble on their upgrade process. I chose the nook because I believed that because it used Android, Barnes and Noble could provide frequent updates and improve the functionality of the device, and they have not disappointed. I believe this is the forth update to the nook since it became available in November, 2009. Better yet is how Barnes and Noble has been distributing the upgrades. If you want, you can wait for the upgrade to come over the air via a Wi-Fi connection, but users comfortable in doing so can manually upgrade the nook by simply downloading a file, attaching the nook to a PC, copying the file, and disconnecting the nook. Immediately after you disconnect the nook the upgrade begins to take place with no manual intervention. In my opinion the combination of a straight forward manual upgrade process with over-the-air upgrades is how all smartphones and devices should be upgraded, rather than relying on only one official upgrade method.