Apple announced iPhone 3.0 software today at a press event in Cupertino. There are more than 100 new features, but the one that’s most interesting to me is tethering support. This means that millions of iPhone users will be able to free their notebooks from Wi-Fi networks.
At the press conference Apple’s Josh Quittner said:
There’s two pieces needed to support that: client side and working with carriers. We’re absolutely supporting tethering in the client side in iPhone 3.0, but we’re working with carriers around the world to see when they can add tethering support on their networks. But we are building that support into iPhone 3.0.
I don’t think tethering is the best solution for getting online with your notebook, but it sure beats paying through the nose for Wi-Fi access at hotels, airports and cafes.
A lot of notebook users simply can’t justify the high-cost of WWAN plans offered by Sprint, Verizon and AT&T, especially if they live and work places with solid Wi-Fi connections. But if AT&T’s able to offer tethering at a reasonable cost I’d expect the service to become incredibly popular.
I’m not sure AT&T’s network is ready for millions of customers to start tethering their notebooks to their iPhones though. AT&T’s 3G is spotty in many metro areas. I have trouble getting a clean 3G signal at home, downtown San Francisco, parts of Silicon Valley and Manhattan. On a recent trip to New York I found out that the SoHo Apple store is a 3G-free zone.
The problems with AT&T’s 3G network are bad enough to cause some people to switch away from the iPhone, even though they love the device. Just ask Om Malik, who got so fed up he switched from an iPhone 3G to a Blackberry (t-mobile) for his data needs and a Verizon voice-only plan.
I use my Sprint Compass 597 USB enough to justify its costs and won’t be giving it up, even if AT&T offered tethering at no additional cost.
Apple says it’s working with carriers now to make tethering a reality. My guess is there will be a 5GB cap and a $30 surcharge.