Thursday, March 10, 2011

iOS 4.3: Personal Hotspot, and the issue of connectivity

One of the more highly anticipated features of the recent Apple mobile operating system upgrade involves Personal Hotspots. This is a feature where you can use your iPhone's 3G data connection to create a mobile WiFi network, this will enable your PC, Mac, or iPad to get online when an open WiFi network is not available.

This feature is not something very, it's just new to Apple. Other smartphones, and other carriers have allowed this to occur, so this is another example where Apple is not first to offer something, instead they offer it when they feel it is ready.

For journalists and bloggers on the road this is going to to an indispensable, and much appreciated new feature -- and absolutely vital if you want to use your WiFi-only iPad while on the road.
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If you are an iPhone 4 user here is how you activate your Personal Hotspot:

First, assuming you are an AT&T customer, you have to have the 4 GB data plan. If you currently have an unlimited data plan, and you use a lot of data you are hosed -- either you give up your unlimited data or you give up the idea of the Personal Hotspot. Big data users that still have their unlimited plans should think long and hard before giving them up.

But since I usually have access to WiFi, I don't use nearly as much data as you would think, considering that I both listen to the radio and watch Al Jazeera English on my iPhone!

Users need to go to the AT&T Wireless website, sign-in then look for their phone (if they have multiple phones on their account). The data plans are listed under "Features" not rate plans. Change your plan to te 4 GB plan and you are just about there.
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Then all that is necessary is to go back to your phone to set-up the hotspot. The setting is found under Settings > General > Network. You can also access the AT&T website this way, though it is probably easier to do it on your computer or laptop in advance of travelling.

The Personal Hotspot assigns your device a network ID and password that can be used by your iPad or laptop. Then it is pretty easy to use, just look for the right network on your iPad and sign-in. Easy.

Network speeds using tethering, as this process is called, is dependent on your 3G data speeds, with AT&T being pretty good. But even though your iPad or laptop will be accessing the web via WiFi don't expect typical WiFi speeds -- unless you are used to the WiFi found in airports, in which case you will be pretty happy.

As I mentioned the other day, getting your web connection through WiFi via a hotspot creates a weird situation on the iPad 2. The tablet from Apple will come with cameras and FaceTime software allowing users to conduct video calls. But these calls only work if the iPad 2 is access WiFi, not its own 3G. But if the iPad 2 is on WiFi, even if that WiFi is coming from a Personal Hotspot through the iPhone's 3G connection, FaceTime will work -- though it might be choppy. We'll see.

In any case, I really wish this Personal Hotspot feature had been available the last time I travelled to the West Coast. On that trip I simply did the best I could, spending far too much time at the local Starbucks. The other option, before the iOS 4.3, was to jailbreak your iPhone, but that seems like a waste of time to me now.

All this is great news for journalists with iPhones, and those considering iPads for reporting. With Apple introducing iMovie for both iPhones and iPads, a reporter could quickly shoot some video with their iPhone, edit it with their iPad, and load it online pretty quickly. Maybe we'll see some improvement in those hastily shot news videos now.

1 Comment:

golfersal said...

Again a big ripoff, what do you expect from a company like AT&T. I am under the unlimited plan and will not change. I also have a Verizon mifi card which I pay $54 a month for unlimited service. Would love to save that money but the AT&T plan would cost me $45 dollars so I might as well pay $10 a month and get unlimited service.

Again I hope everyone boycott's this greedy plan from AT&T.