Out And About With A 3G PS Vita

When it came to buying my PS Vita, I went back and forth on the matter of which model to buy several times. Eventually I decided to put down the extra cash for the 3G version. After all, I’d be getting Wipeout 2048 from a top-up with Vodafone, and that brought the “cost” down to £25 for the extra innards. A week after launch, do I think that this was money well spent?

Well, my first impression wasn’t so great. Setting up the 3G on day one was really quite messy and a bit frustrating. Upon getting the console, I turned it on without putting in the SIM card, and was soon told off for not doing so! How very dare I!

Once I teased out the SIM card’s little tray and popped it in, the Vita was now perfectly happy to let me carry on with setting up. A process that has its own peculiarities, regardless of the model of Vita you own.

With the set up and various updates completed, I could finally delve into the settings, only to see the preferences for the 3G connection spread all over the place. Some in the main settings under Network, but then the data usage is shown under System Information. What baffles me the most is that there’s a whole separate app called Network Operator, with the sole purpose of picking the access point name (APN) of your network and some web links. Surely these things could have been folded into the main settings app?

Frustration was piled on top of frustration when I discovered the links for topping up simply didn’t work. Instead I was directed to a web page where, upon trying to give Vodafone my money, I was flat out rejected every time with an uninformative error. Customer support didn’t have any bright ideas on day one, saying there was some form of block on my card details. This was complete nonsense, as it turned out, but even today I wouldn’t expect them to know what the issue really is at the drop of a hat.

In actual fact it requires another strange workaround within the Vita’s OS. The SIM could not properly phone home whilst there was a Wi-Fi connection, so that wouldn’t allow me to receive an activation message welcoming me to the network. That message meant that Vodafone’s system had recognised my SIM, and would finally let me top up. It wasn’t until the next day that my Wipeout 2048 code showed up.

[drop2]It’s worth noting that I didn’t even disconnect the Vita from my Wi-Fi deliberately to get this trick to work, it was purely by chance that I took my Vita out of the house for a while on day one, noticing the welcome text when I got home. This entire process should all have been easier and clearer, and the fact that it doesn’t work at all if you’re on Wi-Fi is frankly bizarre.

Whilst set up is frankly a mess, the 3G is fine after that. Although the way the Vita’s OS handles logging into PSN is a bit of a pain, but that’s common to Wi-Fi too. I would love a firmware update that could background the log in process. When logged in via 3G, all you really lose is head-to-head online play, but the developers all have this in mind when crafting their games, with the clear focus of most titles being on asynchronous play in various guises.

To see just how the 3G would hold up, the other night I conducted an extremely scientific experiment during a train journey. Rather than confining myself to offline play over the course of my trip, I played Wipeout 2048 whilst signed into PSN over 3G.

As I travelled through an area of low signal at the start of my journey log in times naturally suffered a bit, but once connected it simply sat in the background. I could retrieve and look through the times of my friends, check in on the Community section of the game, and obviously race to my heart’s content. I was happily setting new times which uploaded to the leader boards, and reignited my mini-feud with Colinbarr66 for the best time in the game’s very first event.

[drop]Time beaten successfully, (at the time, anyway) I hopped over to the LiveTweet app and told him he had work to do. I was then passing through a major station, so I decided to flip on Near and see what goodies it brought up. It failed to obtain my location at the first attempt, due to a spot of iffy signal, but on a second attempt it succeeded. Hurrah! Having submitted my exact location, foot prints trailed across my screen, and I was told that I’d discovered a new game, Everybody’s Golf, with a whopping 108 players nearby.

I didn’t have the patience for avatars of the nearest few to pop into view, but fortunately the Vita will let me revisit the Near update later on and snoop, so I headed back to the main menu to discover I’d been rewarded with four new Game Goods. Currently these tend to be music unlocks for Super Stardust Delta, but this time one of them was coincidentally a Challenge for Wipeout 2048. Challenge accepted!

Tapping on this challenge brought up more information, like the time to beat and track, and tapping the download button grabbed the relevant data from Sony. Once you’ve grabbed the few KB of data, you can then launch straight to the game and track from Near at your leisure. The challenges in game are simply beating hot laps against the ghost you’ve just downloaded. You can even, since you’re in the right part of the game, post your own challenge to Near for someone else to pick up later. I left my challenge a little way down the train tracks. It’s all quite nice and cleverly handled, with some more widespread integration possible in games yet to come.

Now at this point you’re probably wondering why I’ve just gone on about Wipeout 2048, challenges and Near, all of which are available to Wi-Fi only owners too. That’s kind of the point, though, since aside from areas with a patchy network connection, and not having any direct competition, this was just like me being sat on my sofa at home or hooked into a cafe’s free Wi-Fi for 10 minutes.

An interesting tidbit to see is that data usage was really quite low. I was online for 50 minutes, and saw 1MB of upload and 4MB of downloaded data. That’s next to nothing, really. You hardly even need a data plan for that kind of usage, and I plan on moving on once my month with Vodafone draws to a close. The prospect of £5 a month for the occasional spot of gaming leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I wish there were still companies that dealt with non-expiring data allowances for my kind of infrequent, on the go gaming.

So after my little jaunt, do I recommend the 3G model over the standard Wi-Fi Vita? No, I don’t think I can. I’m glad I have it, and I enjoyed putting in times and playing with Near, but I don’t think I’d really miss it much. It may become more relevant down the line, as Sony and their army of developers spread their wings, but for the time being it’s very much a novelty.

I’d love to hear from other people how their 3G experiences have gone down. Have you gone for a round of Everybody’s Golf on the train?

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24 Comments

  1. A very imformative read, thanks teflon. I’m getting my Vita this Friday and am going through the same dilema you were pre-launch. I just cant decide! I think I will go for the 3G even though i dont think i should because of the extra money. Saying that, I’ll only hate myself if i dont get every feature and as a cause of this i will suffer 3G envy of everyone else that has one

    • Same. I figured that a net cost of £25 for something I might use very infrequently was better than saving £25 now, and then thinking “Damn, I want that!” a few months down the line.

      BUT, as I conclude in the piece, right now, I can’t really recommend the 3G Vita over the Wi-Fi model. There’s the tech geek side of wanting the best of everything, but aside from a few nice little on the go features…

      • Yeah I guess, but they can only improve upon it. Another reason why i want to go for the 3G is what if they get rid of it on later models down the line like they did with the PS2 playback on the 60gig phatty PS3.

      • I feel exactly the same, but i don’t think i can shell out the cash for it right now. I really like the thought kf Near and receiving gifts and challenges from randoms, but i mainly play games at home anyway; i don’t think i could risk taking my Vita for a trip

  2. yeh I argued weather to get the 3G or wifi vita, ended up with 3G meaning no Rayman, getting the wipeout was pain in my ass, I went to a voda shop asked them how do I go on about receiving my wipeout game, they told me you only get it if you buy the vita from them (liars!!) then I called voda & registered my sim & they said no you can’t get the game & I thought to myself you mofo’s then I went online to register and I wondered how the heck to I get the msg if I have no fone for the 3G sim then I saw a notif saying welcome to voda, I then went & bought a £5 voucher (after reading the terms & co for getting wipeout) you have to top up online no matter where you bought the vita & finally I got wipeout!!!

    That is strange that you cannot receive msgs when you using wifi, I receive msgs on my one even if wifi is on.

    Overall the 3G was waste of my extra money that could have got me Rayman & I dont even like wipeout cause I suck at it

    • Oh man, that sounds like an even bigger joke! It’s somewhat baffling how there wasn’t a team meeting or memo to briefly explain exactly how the Wipeout deal and set up had to go.

      Sorry to hear you don’t like Wipeout. It is a stunning rendition of the game, and really shows off the Vita’s power, but it’s an acquired taste.

      • They should have made more clearer on how you get wipeout, they just said if you top £5 you get it without explaining the process or informing their stuff..

        Its not that I don’t like wipeout, its the fact my girlfriend is better than me at it & I hate every game she is better than me at & thats just only fighting games, til this day I still dunno how she does some moves with certain fighters in mortal kombat (smh)

    • oooh, so I have to top up online and not in-store. Right, that helps, thanks. Via the Vita or nay method?

      • It directs you to the standard Vodafone top up pages, so I believe you should be fine to top up on a computer (which is much easier).

        I think when it came to it I actually did it in the Vita’s browser… Which was interesting…

    • *any

  3. just thought i’d point out that my vodafone activation went fine while connected to my wifi, got the network message without a problem.
    my only issue was i swapped the sim with the sim in my wife’s ipad (better service) and didnt realise the wipeout code would be sent via network msg, i was waiting for an e-mail lol. so just briefly swapped back for the code

    • Hmmm. Perhaps it’s just one of those old wives tales, and Vodafone’s system was just really slow to react? It was roughly 6-8 hours after I’d put the SIM into my Vita, and after 3 or 4 hours of me being away from Wi-Fi that I noticed the welcome message.

      Anecdotally, it seems to have helped some others to get the welcome message too. So I guess it’s worth a shot if the message isn’t showing up, and you’ve been hooked up over Wi-Fi the entire time.

  4. Yup great read teflon! :)
    I haven’t taken the plunge yet, though I am tempted after trying Wipeout on one of the demo stands. I like the sound of being able to download ghost laps etc that have been left in certain areas by other gamers! Sounds very good!

  5. Perhaps the Network Operator app/link will be used for more in the future and is there with things in mind….?

    • I think it will. My Network Operator also contains link to the Wipeout deal, information about the data plan, link to tech support and a big fat TDC logo (danish telephone company) :P

  6. Getting Wipeout almost for free with the 3G model, makes the price difference between the non-3g and the 3g model so low, that the obvious choice is the 3G model. Unless you don’t care about Wipeout off course :)

    I’ve gotten quite a bunch of gamegoods for uncharted, motorstorm, stardust & unit 13, so I like that near can use the 3G connection when moving about.

  7. Well, I’m still an idiot and buying a 3G one next week, expect those wipeout times to be challenged teflon!

  8. An interesting read, i just have the Wifi Vita and can’t obtain my location data at home and there’s a distinct lack of free wfi spots in my area but i’m able to update near when i’m at work so that works out ok for me.
    It would be handy to be able to update on-the-go sometimes though, especially when travelling. I’ve seen some comments elsewhere from people who said they were hooking their Wifi Vita up to their phone and using their phone’s 3G but i don’t know how to go about setting that up.

  9. As a wi-fi Vita owner, I have wondered about my choice of model a couple of times. With Google Maps and 3G, can the Vita operate as a sat-nav system? Also thought it would be nice while out and about to have internet access. Have yet to find an open wi-fi connection which should have been encrypted; damn people wising up!

    • I havent actually tried using it as a satnav. You can set plan a route, from a seleced spot or your current position, and get directions. But I don’t know if it will update the route as your position moves.

      I think it easily beats a paper map, but not a dedicated satnav or a smartphone with a decent nav program.

  10. Some advantages not covered in the article
    – 3g model comes with a gps on the chip GPS too, so you will have more accurate positioning than with the wifi only model. (for maps, near and games that may make use of your location)
    – The browser is ok for the sites i’ve tried it with. And with a bigger screen than on my phone it might be better for browsing on the go. If you intend to do that then it’s convenient not to depend on finding a wifi hotspot.

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