Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

AT&T to launch Mobile Hotspot app, double tethering capacity Feb. 13

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February

One of the features some folks with Android phones have had for awhile is the ability to use their phones as mobile hotspots. With this feature you can use one data connection for your phone, laptop, tablet, etc...up to five devices. You can even share your connection with a friend. att-logo.jpgI do this with my iPhone 4, but I had to perform a frowned-upon jailbreak and use an unapproved app to get it done. I'm a Gadget Guy, what can I say?

Well, when Verizon announced they will have the iPhone 4 on Feb.10, they also announced it will have the capability to be a mobile hotspot. That wasn't a big deal to me because I already have that capability. But I knew for some people it would be a big "us vs. them issue" in the continuing AT&T vs. Verizon debate

Yesterday AT&T announced that their Mobile Hotspot Android app will be available on Feb. 13 for select Smartphone customers, beginning with the launch of the HTC Inspire 4G. Because they know the hotspot feature will lead to an increase in data use per account, they also are doubling the cap on tethering from 2GB to 4GB, at no extra charge. They also know this makes them more competitive with Verizon. Existing plans will stay the same with the only difference being that tethering customers will get double the data usage.

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Use of the Mobile Hotspot app with the Data Pro plus plan will cost $45 per month for 4GB of monthly data usage. Those who were grandfathered-in with unlimited data plans (like me) still have to pay $20 extra per month for tethering, for a total of $50 per month.

In comparison, Verizon iPhone customers will pay $30 a month for unlimited phone data usage, tethering included, and $20 extra for hotspot usage with a 2GB cap for attached devices.

This is not only a smart thing for AT&T to do but it's also the right thing to do. They may lose some business because of it (like with month-to-month tablet data plan users who realize they can connect through their phone), but with so many people using multiple online devices it's not right to require customers to pay for separate data connections for each device. This move also puts them in a position to compete with Verizon and maybe retain the customers who currently use tethering and want hotspot capability, since their data limit will be double that of the 2GB limit Verizon has currently. Competition is a good thing for the consumer.

And if they really want to steal some more of Verizon's thunder, AT&T will make the hotspot app available for the iPhone too, as soon as possible.

Tune in tomorrow for the next episode of "As the iPhone Turns."

[Last modified: Friday, February 4, 2011 3:21am]

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