AT&T personal hotspot on iPhone

My iPhone in Settings App
My iPhone in Settings App

I have been tied to local WIFI hot spots at most hotels and other venues for quite awhile but a recent trip to Japan where WiFi was less available, got me thinking about getting a Verizon MiFi or other personal internet device.  Some of my friends swear by the Verizon MIFI and others swear at it.

But I am sick and tired of paying $10/day for WIFI at a hotel or other venue where I happen to be at.  So I decided to go after AT&T’s hotspot for the iPhone.

I have been an iPhone user for a couple of years now and had grandfathered in an “unlimited data plan” which cost $30/month but to get the hotspot option I had to give that up for a 4GB/month which came with the hotspot option (DataPro 4GB for iPhone).

I looked back at some of my recent AT&T bills and I have been using around 250MB/month so thought this wasn’t going to be a problem. But then again, I don’t watch a lot of Netflix or Youtube video on my iPhone (at least not yet).

It turns out the iPhone hotspot has three operating modes:

  • WiFi – which allows up to 5 users to use your password protected WiFi broadcast from the iPhone.  I tried it at home and at a conference center (with lot’s of other networks active and was able to find the network without problem.
  • BlueTooth – I especially like this mode but you have to have bluetooth on for the phone and the computers you want to connect with.  Mac OSX seemed to make the blue tooth connection without problem and it was almost automatic
  • Tethered – this is where you connect your phone to the computer you are supplying internet access.  I found this approach worked great in most situations and as I looked around a recent conference hall there seemed to be a lot of laptops connected to an iPhone probably doing the same thing.

I was a little worried about AT&T’s signal strength. At home it’s not that great but I found most conferences I attend seem to be just fine.  (AT&T is offering me a free microcell for the home all I have to do is supply power and internet…).  I suppose in some major cities this can be a problem but most places I sit down to check email and other stuff on my phone AT&T’s signal strength is ok.

What about usage?

It was so easy to turn on and off (see Settings, 3rd line down from top) that I was using it only when I needed to.  My usage for the last 30days has been ~350MB received and ~60MB (according to the iPhone) sent so that is something I am going to have to watch a little more but with 4GB I seem to have room to grow.  It turns out I was at the conference for 2 nights and 3 days, but WiFi during at the convention center was free so I only used the hotspot at night or when the other WiFi was unavailable (sporadically during the day). So I seem to be using about another5 50MB of bandwidth for each night’s (probably a couple of hours) worth of work.   Which seems to say I could do this for the whole month and still have ~2.8X more bandwidth.

Well for the $15 a month extra, it seems a good deal and the best part about it is, I don’t have to haul yet another electronic device (like the MiFi) with yet another power cord/adapter. Its all tied to my iPhone which I carry around anyways.


All in all, I like the iPhone AT&T personal hotspot option.