Apple’s latest iOS 4.3 update brings a handful of features including the ridiculously late Personal Hotspot. Jailbroken devices have been able to do this for a while now with the MiWi Cydia app. And, if you were one of the few to download Handy Light (the flashlight app with tethering snuck in) then you’ve been able to tether your iPhone via proxy to a laptop.
The latest iOS feature doesn’t require jailbreaking or a sneaky app-created proxy connection, but it does require iOS 4.3, an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4, and a new data plan. If you’re on AT&T you’ll need to sign up for the $45/mos 4GB DataPro tethering plan and give up your unlimited plan. If you’re on Verizon it’s the same cost only you can’t make phone calls and surf the Web at the same time (ZING).
Before you up and change your data plan you need to consider how much data you’re currently using, the devices you intend to use with your personal hotspot, how you will use them, and what kind of speeds you’ll get when you’re connected.
How much do you use your iPhone’s data plan? For AT&T victims, err customers:
- Log into http://att.com/mywireless
- Click on Usage & Recent Activity
- Click Analyze Past Usage
- Under Create a Report change the report to Data Usage Trend and click Submit
You should see something like this:
As you can see, in the past year there hasn’t been a month where I used over 1GB. In fact, my largest month dates back to when I first got the iPhone and even then I only used 1.3 GB. Why? Because I tend to use WiFi networks more than my cellular network. So, if you’re like me and use less than 2GB of data each month then you should be OK. Of course the “should” depends on the devices you use and how you intend to use them.
Once you’ve determined that losing your unlimited data plan isn’t that big of a deal you’ve got to consider the devices that will be latching on to your iPhone’s data plan. Don’t have any other devices? Then stop reading this post and go buy some. If you actually have other devices like a laptop, an iPad, or some other Internet-capable device you need to consider how you’re going to use them.
Are you going to: Download large files? Wouldn’t recommend it. Watch Netflix 24/7. Probably not a good idea. Update Infinity Blade and your favorite bloated GPS app? Negativo. Browse the Web, e-mail, play games, and watch the occasional video? Green light. Why? Because if you go over 4GB/mos you have to pay $10 for every 1GB over the cap <– suck!
What good is a personal hotspot if you can’t surf the net at a good quick? It’s not. When you think about how you’re going to use the personal hotspot you need to consider how your devices will impact speed. Me? I won’t be hooking up multiple devices on a regular basis, but I do plan on giving my laptop and iPad an Interweb boost when WiFi isn’t available.
Knowing that the iPhone averages 2.74 Mbps down and 1.16 Mbps up I put the hotspot to the test using the aforementioned devices and all available hotspot connection methods, and tested their download/upload speeds using speedtest.net.
|iPad||2.55 down/ 1.20 up||.20 down / .36 up|
|laptop||2.23 down / 1.18 up||.21 down / .38 up|
|Both||2.43 down/ 1.14 up||.16 down / .24 up|
*Each test was run five times and averaged
As the tests show WiFi is the way to go and Bluetooth is a disaster. Additionally, the more devices you connect simultaneously the slower your connection will be. Oh yeah, you’ll probably also want to stay close to an outlet because using the iPhone as a personal hotspot will destroy your phone’s battery life. Mine was depleted by 12% over a mere 38 minutes of testing. Still sound good? Great.
Once you sign up for the 4GB DataPro tethering option (online or in the myAT&T app) you’re ready to set up your personal hotspot. Just tap Settings –> Personal Hotspot –> ON. Once enabled you can connect up to three devices via WiFi, Bluetooth, or USB (iPhone 4) and Bluetooth or USB (iPhone 3GS).
If you have multiple devices, an extra $15/mos, use less than 4GB of data each month, aren’t planning on doing any heavy downloading, and don’t mind giving up your unlimited data plan then the personal hotspot is worth the cost. If not, you should keep what you have and jailbreak.
What do you think of the new iOS 4.3 personal hotspot feature? Chime in below or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.