Mobile hotspot feature coming to all iPhones with iOS 4.3

Jan 12, 2011
Tech

Not to take the steam out of the Verizon (VZ) iPhone even more, but it turns out that that we’re all getting that new mobile hotspot feature. Mobile news site BGR.com is reporting that, after having talked with an unnamed source, it confirmed that along with the Verizon iPhone, Apple (AAPL) is releasing the newest […]

Not to take the steam out of the Verizon (VZ) iPhone even more, but it turns out that that we’re all getting that new mobile hotspot feature.

Mobile news site BGR.com is reporting that, after having talked with an unnamed source, it confirmed that along with the Verizon iPhone, Apple (AAPL) is releasing the newest version of iOS. The new software makes the hotspot feature available not just for Verizon customers, but potentially, for all iPhone owners.

The question is, will AT&T (T) cover it? The company is a little finicky about data, and the current tethering option isn’t exactly priced to move.

According to The Business Insider, AT&T is at least looking into it:

An AT&T rep says the carrier is “evaluating” Apple’s new mobile hotspot feature, which was announced today as a new feature for the Verizon iPhone. (The mobile hotspot lets you access the iPhone’s 3G Internet connection via up to five wi-fi connected devices, including laptops, iPads, etc.)

But potentially, the five-device mobile hotspot Verizon iPhones are supposed to be getting is no longer a unique feature, and that factors into whether people will switch to the device from AT&T. And, the more talk that goes on, the more that — despite years of complaining about AT&T’s service and network — switching seems like a bad idea, at least early on.

Will there be apps?

There are a few things that will be unique to the Verizon iPhone, however: apps. Verizon is known for creating some pretty savvy branded apps of its own, and up to now those have been off-limits to iPhone owners, obviously. Unfortunately, we’re not yet sure what those apps will be.

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Yesterday, on its Frequently Asked Questions iPhone site, Verizon had detailed that it would provide a mobile hotspot app for every iPhone it sells. Two other apps it mentioned as being available in the iTunes App Store: VZ Navigator and V Cast Media Manager. I should have taken a screen shot, though — that FAQ question is no longer part of the site, and I can’t find mention of Verizon apps on the iPhone anywhere.

Android owners currently enjoy VZ Navigator and V Cast, and I would expect them to be available to Verizon iPhone customers eventually. Navigator is a turn-by-turn GPS feature — which isn’t that interesting — and V Cast is a media manager offered by Verizon that lets you save movies and music to phones. This app is probably the reason the FAQ bit got pulled: V Cast does a lot of the same things iTunes does, plus it makes Verizon money by allowing the company to sell videos and music. Apple isn’t the kind of company that likes to share.

That probably means that current Verizon customers who have V Cast accounts and stuff they’ve bought on them are outta luck. That’s another huge bummer — this Verizon iPhone thing is getting kind of depressing — but it certainly doesn’t count out Verizon making more apps that actually will be approved by the App Store.

What about CDMA?

In fact, I’d expect Verizon to have cool features on the way, especially if it wants to compete with AT&T for new customers and for AT&T’s customers. I can cite plenty of anecdotal evidence of people who were clamoring for a Verizon iPhone in order to leave AT&T, but problems like the CDMA data and voice exclusion issue (only one works at a time, unlike on AT&T) are all over the Internet right now, and certainly informed potential iPhone customers are thinking twice.

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We do know that Verizon is searching for a workaround on that CDMA issue, although it’s unclear if any such workaround is possible. And with the hotspot feature potentially gone from its corner, the company needs something more than an unlimited data plan to differentiate it from AT&T. The best, cheapest and quickest way to do that is with apps.

Obviously, we’re all waiting for more details. As Verizon and Apple get closer to the launch of the new iPhone, I’m sure they’ll start to answer questions, and hopefully Verizon will start providing more compelling evidence other than just telling us all how many fewer calls its network will drop.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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