AT&T iPhone Could Get Hotspot Feature Soon

There is convincing evidence that the new Hotspot Tethering feature that debuts with Verizon’s iPhone release will be coming to AT&T as well as part of their recently announced hotspot plans.

Much speculation has surfaced about AT&T getting the hotspot feature. For their part, the company has not officially announced anything, but two reviewers of the Verizon iPhone who are often “in the know” about all things Apple, let slip the idea that this feature would come to AT&T on Feb. 13. Add to that some pretty good arguments from Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, you have what looks like a good case.

Apple opened up the availability of the Apple iPhone 4 to Verizon and in doing so they also added a nice new feature to entice those still on the fence about switching either to the iPhone from another phone or to Verizon from another carrier.

The Hotspot Tethering feature is a coveted capability because it allows users to share their 3G network access to up to five other devices through the iPhone’s Wi-Fi signal. Such a feature can save users some money on their AT&T bills if they already have the MiFi, a device which offers the same feature. It also offers convenience. So it is not surprising that AT&T customers might be tempted to take the leap.

There has been no firm evidence other than the feature showing up in the beta version of iOS 4.3, which has been released thus far only to Apple developers. With the feature built into the iPhone’s OS it is entirely possible that AT&T could add it. But will they? Now two reviewers who have a reputation for knowing future Apple plans are David Pogue of the New York Times and Walt Mossberg of All Things Digital. Both let slip that AT&T would offer this feature as they reviewed the new Verizon iPhone. Pogue has since changed his online review to say it is “coming soon” instead of offering the Feb. 13 date.

John Gruber, who likes to make wild claims, but sometimes gets it right, made the following argument. Verizon got limited exclusivity with the feature. They get it first. But the new iOS has to be shipped soonsince it includes one important feature – in app subscriptions needed to make the new news app The Daily work. The Daily was released Feb. 2 and has a 2 week trial. Users will have to be able to buy a subscription in the app, something currently released version of iOS are not capable of handling. So the newest version must ship within 14 days of Feb. 2.

With the two reviewers slipping and these facts, Feb. 13 or sometime close to that fit. AT&T has already revealed they will offer this kind of service on Feb. 13 through the HTC Inspire 4G. Why not offer the same feature to the iPhone on the same day or close to it?

Until there is an announcement from AT&T this is still conjecture. If you were planning to jump ship to Verizon from AT&T only for this feature, then wait two weeks before deciding.

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