Why Apple Should Not Offer iPhone Tethering

According to Engadget, iPhone OS 4.0 may offer tethering on AT&T. Welcome as the ability to use an iPhone as a gateway to the internet will be, this is a mistake. Tethering is a terrible technology and introducing it at this late date is just stupid. There’s a much better way.

Palm had the right idea with the Pre (and apparently Google has the same idea for the Froyo version of Android.) Instead of tethering, turn the handset into a Wi-Fi hotspot, sort of a do-it-yourself MiFi. The advantages are considerable: Tethering is a miserable, fidgety, error-prone way to connect. Tethering a Windows laptop to a handset via Bluetooth is a black art and doing it over a USB cable is no picnic and a nuisance to boot (Macs work somewhat better.) With  Wi-Fi, the iPhone would just behave like any other access point: find its SSID, enter a WPA password, and you’re in, no human sacrifice to the Bluetooth gods required.

Furthermore, any device that can connect over Wi-Fi, including an iPad, would be able to connect through the iPhone hot spot, whereas only devices equipped with the appropriate Bluetooth dial-up networking profile–the name alone shows its antiquity–can tether. That apparently would exclude the iPad.


5 Responses to “Why Apple Should Not Offer iPhone Tethering”

  1. Michael Janger Says:

    Great post, Steve. Is it possible to develop an app that turns the iPhone into a WiFi hotspot, or is it a feature that Apple has to integrate into the iPhone OS software in order for your idea to work?

  2. Theo Francis Says:

    Too bad. I was hoping that “tethering” was being used as a generic term for using the iPhone to get another device online over AT&T’s network. Sadly, from Engadget’s post, it looks like it’s really just the old technology with an iPhone interface. Bummer. But maybe AT&T’s trying to discourage widespread use to prevent its seemingly fragile network from collapsing altogether under the iPhone-iPad-Kindle-everything-else strain?

  3. Rich Says:

    Steve, why would Apple not approve turning the iPhone into a Wi-Fi hotspot?

    • swildstrom Says:

      First I suspect it would violate the SDK terms & conditions since I don’t think it could be done using the APIs available in the SDK. Second, even if it could, Apple doesn’t like apps that mess with what it regards a basic functions of the iPhone (e.g., Google Voice.) But the iTunes App Store approval process is so erratic that there’s no telling what might happen.

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