Photo credit: tobym (Flickr)

Like many other people dotted around the globe, yesterday’s Verizon iPhone announcement wasn’t particularly of interest to me.  Sure, it’s great to see that there’ll be some competition within the U.S. iPhone marketplace but the main point of interest that sparked interest for other iPhone users around the globe was a sneak peek of an upcoming iOS 4.3 feature – personal mobile hotspots.

The premise is simple: with a few taps and swipes on your iPhone screen you can quickly enable up to five devices to wirelessly share your iPhone’s internet connection  This isn’t an entirely new thing because most iPhone users have been able to tether previously; the difference with the iOS 4.3 offering is multiple device support and the hotspot becomes wireless.

I can’t see this becoming a revolutionary thing for the majority of iPhone owners.  Many of the world’s network providers consider tethered data to be excluded from any standard or included data plan.  In fact, looking at my own provider Vodafone UK, their tariff for tethered data is extortionate (£5 per Gb last time I checked). The small print that accompanies the announcement of iOS 4.3 hotspots highlights the need for carrier support of the technology and at this time we don’t really know who will support the provision; there are no guarantees much like how many operators don’t provide Visual Voicemail (which is considered to be a core service to many).

Whilst at my day job I have a USB mobile broadband stick which I connect to my MacBook for unrestricted Internet access.  I specifically know the USB stick is there for Internet provision.  Sure, I can share that service wirelessly with other devices, but only because I’m technologically minded and know the steps and processes to go through in order to set something like that up. The average Joe doesn’t have the knowledge or the inclination to do the same and therefore the iPhone hotspot makes the appeal of quick Internet hook up for wireless devices very appealing.  It concerns me how many people will update to iOS 4.3 and assume the hotspot data will be included in their bundled or pre-purchased data plan.  I’m sure Apple will place a pop up on devices before enabling services, but how many people will actually heed the warning?

I won’t be using the hotspot service – mainly because as I mentioned above, I’ve got alternative provisions; however the main reason is I’m simply not prepared to pay twice for data.  Instead, I’ll continue to jailbreak my iDevices.  Those in the jailbreak community have already been able to enjoy wireless hotspots on our iPhones by using applications like MyWi.  It’s a simple application that makes your iPhone a hotspot, but with the added bonus that it masks all those additional devices connecting through the hotspot so that they look like iPhone Internet traffic (therefore incur no tethered data charges).  Of course, the application comes with a warning that they don’t guarantee operators can’t detect it’s tethered; however there is yet to be reported anyone having been “called out” for such usage.

MyWi comes with a $19.99 price tag, but when you consider the cost of a month or so paying for tethered data charges it more than pays for itself.  With this in mind, do you think you’ll use the iOS 4.3 hotspot functionality or are you looking into other alternatives?

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