July 3, 2011

Finally, Tethering the Way it Was Meant to Be

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 11:27 am

…Overpriced, and with a data cap.

I’m just giving AT&T a little (well-deserved) shit there, but mostly I just want to say that finally, after way too many years of not offering the option at all, AT&T has gotten it right. Or, more accurately, has allowed Apple to get it right, since all AT&T is doing is collecting my money and allowing me to use the data I pay for legally. So, thanks for that.

The Tethering Plan Doesn’t Suck as Much as It Originally Did

First of all, if you missed the news, over the… well, I don’t know when, but it was when I was on tour… AT&T doubled the data cap on its limited data plans, which, if my math skills serve me, means that doubling 2GB to make 4GB is still infinity-times less value for your money than infinity-GB, which was the previous plan. But hey, it’s like 5 or 10 bucks cheaper. Anyway, this happened back around the time that Verizon got the iPhone, which was smart on AT&T’s part, but for one of the first times in my life, I genuinely felt warm-fuzzies toward the Evil Empire for giving me a data cap that at least sort of approaches the 5GB that most “unlimited” plans actually were in the fine print. I mean I’m locked into my contract with them anyway, and they gave it to me for free. Being on the road and having to sometimes use my phone data for things that really should have been able to be done at a hotel or venue’s wifi or ethernet, I could go through a GB in a day if I ran into a total internet fail when I needed to download large files, so suddenly having twice as much room for hotel/venue fail in my month was really great. And at home, forget it. I’d have to work really hard to ever approach that much usage.

So Today on the Train

I’m on the Long Island Rail Road right now. This brings me to the inspiration for this post. I took out my laptop, intending to blog about something else. I opened the lid, and the weather icon on my desktop immediately changed from cloudy to pouring rain. I was like, “how does it know that, it’s not connected to the…?” and then, right above my weather icon, I saw that my wifi was connected. And very carefully I moused over to it, thinking, “It can’t be… is it?” and opened the drop-down menu, showing that it was connected to my phone.

So basically what happened is, without any preparation or action on my part, I opened the lid of my laptop and pretty much as soon as the screen turned on, it had internet access.

Now what’s going on here is that Personal Hotspot and wifi are on on my phone. I generally leave both on by default, unless I’m worried about battery life. Also, having tethered over wifi before, my computer already is familiar with my phone’s network, and will join it by default when other networks it knows aren’t present, the same as it would do with any network it knows. Since wifi tethering became possible within the past year, I still use bluetooth a lot, mostly out of habit, and because I often have my wifi off when traveling to save battery life.

For whatever reason, all these factors have never come together for me before to create this beautiful effect of an instantanous, completely no-click tethering process. I’ve spoken before about how much I love the way Apple implemented tethering because it was previously a two-click process (pull down bluetooth menu, click “connect to network”), which equalled my previous favorite on the Treo 700p. This is fucking no clicks. Now, that may not always be what you want, but in this case that was exactly what I wanted, and it did it for me. It was one of those “I’m living in the future” moments, and tethering has been my wireless pet peeve for about 10 years, so to see it finally working as well as the technology is capable of (and legally, at that) is really heart-warming.

So, rock on, Apple, — and AT&T, I suppose you can rock on, too.

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