June 25, 2010 by Cynthia
When I said I wanted to be tethered, I meant “use my iPhone to connect my laptop to the Internet when I’m out and about.” I did NOT mean tethered as in “chained to AT&T in a weird kind of neverending technological bondage.”
AT&T obviously thought I meant the latter.
I’ve just upgraded to the new iPhone operating system, iOS4, in part because it included tethering. Tethering is something that most other web-connected phones offer as a matter of course. It’s available for iPhone in other countries, wherever AT&T doesn’t have the monopoly on subscribers. (I swear, AT&T is the single best reason I know to jailbreak the iPhone.) AT&T says it doesn’t offer tethering in the US because everyone would try to use it and swamp the network. Given AT&T’s crummy network, that’s probably true.
iOS4 took some doing to install (more on that later), but once it was, tethering was the first thing I tried. I clicked over to the General Settings folder, found the (oh-sweet-mysteries-of-life!!) tethering option, and turned it on.
Up pops a message: “To enable tethering on this account contact AT&T…” I called and, after the usual voicemail hell, the sales rep seemed bewildered. “Tethering? Let me look that up.”
A couple minutes later, she returned. “Yes, ma’am, we can enable tethering for your phone. You will have to choose a new data plan, however.”
Now, my current data plan, which gives me unlimited data downloads on my iPhone for $30/month, is a bone of contention with AT&T. They insist that data hogs–and not AT&T’s inadequate infrastructure–are what’s causing all the network problems. (Never mind that AT&T merrily promotes downloading iPhone apps and movies and anything else they can shove down the pipeline–it’s their single biggest salespitch).
But when the choice is charging more or investing in infrastructure, what do you think they’ll do? Existing users who make a change to their iPhone plan must give up the old unlimited data choice and either opt for a $15/month plan which restricts downloads to 200MB per month, or a $25 plan for two monthly gigabytes. Both have fairly hefty overage fees.
To put this in perspective, in the first 20 days of June I’ve downloaded 556MB. I average about 800MB/month, most of that coming from email and Kindle downloads. (You would have to be out of your mind to download a whole movie on AT&T’s network). So, theoretically, I could save $5/month by switching to the new $25/2GB plan, and not really be out much.
HOWEVER…”If you want tethering,” the rep continued, “You’ll need to use our new $45/month plan, which includes 2GB of data downloads per month and free tethering.”
Wait a minute. “I thought the 2GB plan was $25/month?”
“Yes, it is, ma’am, unless you want the free tethering option. Then it’s $45/month.”
“But another $20 per month isn’t free.”
“I know, but that’s what we’ve been told, ma’am. Shall I sign you up?”
I thought about it for exactly one nanosecond (or however long it takes the word “sucker” to pass my synapses) and declined.
So…still no tethering. Verizon’s offering the HTC Droid Incredible for the same price as a new iPhone, at half the monthly rate of my iPhone. With voice-controlled GPS, a faster processor and free tethering that really is free.
And their bloody network works. I’m weighing that against abandoning all the iPhone apps and movies I’ve downloaded, none of which are gonna work on a Droid.