No AT&T iPhone Tethering Because of the Apple iPad 3G?

by Michael Sheehan on April 26, 2010

in Apple, Cellular, Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, iPad, iPhone, Mobile, Opinion

Is tethering ever going to arrive for AT&T and the iPhone? Rumor has it, it will be coming soon. We are a year later after there was an announcement that tethering would be coming to the iPhone. But then various parties started dragging their feet. Could AT&T handle the extra strain on their network? Was the feature just not ready yet? Or was it something else…

I’m starting to think that we have all be led down an alternate path…on purpose, and I blame Apple’s latest product announcement…the iPad 3G.

iPhone_iPad_tether_sm

Could AT&T really be that behind on their tethering plans? I mean come on, other carriers are able to do tethering and AT&T is allows it with other non-iPhone phones. I’m starting to think that there might be a little conspiracy going on here. Perhaps Steve Jobs talked to the execs over at AT&T to tell them to drag their feet a bit when it came to the tethering functionality. Let’s think about this a bit more.

  • Apple announces tethering at WWDC 2009
  • Later, AT&T says that tethering won’t be available in the U.S. for a while (you can tether if you have a jailbroken phone though so it does “work”)
  • Apple this year announces the iPad WiFi and 3G editions
  • WiFi (and 3G) versions are delayed in Europe because of “demand”
  • Still no tethering in the US nor even a mention by Apple or AT&T, anywhere!

Follow me down this path. If there had been tethering available with the iPhone, there probably wouldn’t have been as much of a demand for the 3G version of the iPad, simply because you could have used your iPhone as a “hotspot” device that you could use to tether via WiFi (or perhaps Bluetooth). By “purposefully” delaying the ability to tether, there is artificially a demand created for a device that has 3G or wireless connectivity built into it. After a few days using an iPad, I definitely see the use for having a version that is not “tethered” to your home or office only. The WiFi connection is great, especially if you just use an iPad as a “sofa device”. But the iPad begs to be let free of the shackles that binds it to a WiFi router.

There are alternative ways to roam without a broadband router though. The WiFi version of the iPad works quite well using a MiFi (from Verizon or Sprint), but not everybody will want to shell out an extra $60 a month for the ability to connect up to 5 devices to share cellular-based wireless. For those that don’t know what a MiFi is, think of it as a WiFi router that uses a wireless carrier’s cellular data network for connectivity but then has a WiFi router built-in that allows you to connect up to 5 devices. The Palm Pre Plus or Pixi Plus, a smartphone, can act as a MiFi-type of device, essentially sharing its data connection with multiple devices via a wireless network. So, alternatives exist, but while they offer the ability to tether or connect multiple devices and share a cellular data connection, they require contracts and are costly so not everyone can afford to have one.

So, are Apple and AT&T in cohorts to push people toward buying the iPad 3G? The radio within the iPad is supposedly set for AT&T (or comparable carriers). Here’s what I think AT&T should do to make their slice of that iPad data pie even bigger. They need to make tethering available on the iPhone for say $30-35/mo (something a bit less than the going rate of a MiFi). This would give consumers a variety of choices: iPad WiFi, iPad 3G and iPad WiFi plus an iPhone tethering.

The current pricing for a 3G data plan on the iPad is:

  • Data per month Price per month
    • 250MB/month $14.99
    • Unlimited $29.99

I would think that if AT&T were to enable Bluetooth tethering for 1 device and charge $30/mo (as an additional service on the iPhone), you would see more sales of the WiFi version of the iPad and a bit less of the 3G version. However, the money would be made back on the monthly recurring data services for tethering, and would allow for Apple to potentially sell 2 devices at once, a tethering iPhone and a WiFi iPad. This would be a big win for both Apple and AT&T. Those current iPhone customers would merely have to click off a radio button on their AT&T Services contract to allow iPad (or other device) tethering for an additional monthly charge.

Or maybe Steve has another device up his sleeve…the iConnect, which allows you to network and share all of your Apple devices together using whichever high-speed network you want, all at an industry competitive device.

Hey, a guy can dream, right?

HTD says: Apple tethering delayed a conspiracy or just a smart way to sell more product? You tell me!



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