This morning I got my monthly emailed congratulations note from AT&T, notifying me that they had successfully charged my credit card for another month of 3G network service for my iPad. I have never fully understood why congratulations are required.
Congratulations that my credit card took another US$29.99 hit from them? Congratulations that I signed up while unlimited data service plans were still available? Anyone who figures out what the basis for those AT&T congratulatory letters is, please email me, so I can fully appreciate my good fortune.
When I asked an AT&T representative why I was being congratulated every month, the customer service guy was just as confused as I was. By the way, AT&T has still not given me an official response to my submission to them of my original advertising slogan "AT&T, no bars in more places." My relationship with AT&T is perplexing indeed. My advertising career aspirations have been put on hold due to their slight.
Verizon is finally going to carry the iPhone -- and along with it an interesting feature that AT&T has doggedly refused to allow. You can call it tethering, data sharing or hotspot WiFi capability, but it is a killer feature indeed. The feature allows you to hook up your Verizon iPhone to their cellular network and then use the Wi-Fi feature of iPhone to bring hook up another WiFi device -- actually, up to five devices such as a laptop or iPad to the Internet.
While the feature has been announced it is not clear yet, in what I have read, if the unlimited data plan allows tethering or if there is an additional charge. As we have seen in the past, "unlimited data" means something different to lawyers and cell phone companies than it does to us civilians.
I currently spend $29.99 per month to have my splendid relationship with AT&T to have my iPad connected to the Internet when I am not near a Wi-Fi source. Could I cut off my month-to-month cellular contract with them, switch to Verizon and get iPad internet connections for free? That will soon be known.
I tested the Clear HotSpot device that runs on 4G whenever you happen to be in the shadow of a cell tower. The network coverage and amount of bandwidth are critical to the hotspot concept working worth a darn. Clear's HotSpot may work once their system is built out, but they are not there yet. I would consider the Clear HotSpot device when their 4G network is built out enough to not revert me to the 3G ugly siamese twin sister of Clear, Sprint.
The issue for me is: will having Verizon's, hopefully free, Wi-Fi Internet provide service for iPad that will run GPS maps? There may have to be an app that will allow the GPS function of iPad to work with a Wi-Fi signal that is tethered from a 3G source. If anyone knows the answer to that question let me know. Certainly, once the 4G networks are up and running, tethering iPads and laptops will be a great solution. Running them on any 3G network may remind you of the old dial-up modem days, as it takes forever for pages to load.
Frankly, until my contract is up with AT&T I will wait to see if enough people abandon AT&T's clogged 3G network to not drop my calls so often. Once my contract is up, there is certain to be some discussion with the two cell phone companies to determine who I sign up with for my next iPhone. That discussion is what the free market is all about.
Competition will certainly cause both AT&T and Verizon to be more sensitive to the customers who pay them for service. If AT&T won't provide free tethering and Verizon does, and iPad GPS maps work with the Wi-Fi hotspot feature inherent in Verizon iPhone service, AT&T can kiss my monthly congratulation letters goodbye.
That's Greg's bite for today.
(Greg Mills, is a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup, www.CottageIndustrySolar.com using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's art web site at www.gregmills.info ; his email is firstname.lastname@example.org )