As you probably know, Verizon rolled out an update for the HTC ThunderBolt that has seemingly fixed the random reboot issues that had been plaguing the device for weeks on end. And while that’s fantastic, there is also a dark side to the update that Verizon decided not to publicize, something that will come in the form of an “update” to other phones in the near future. And no, we’re not talking about bloatware.
The dark side that I speak of is the fact that the ThunderBolt update killed off the free mobile hotspot feature that Verizon had been advertising as a “special feature” for devices like the ThunderBolt, Droid Charge and LG Revolution. So now, in order to use tethering, you’ll need to pay an additional $20 a month on top of a tiered data plan which provides an additional 2GB of monthly data usage or $30 if you are on an unlimited plan.
Going from free to $20 or $30 a month is a shame, especially when the feature has functionality issues, but trust me, it gets darker.
As DSLReports points out:
In Verizon’s case, they cleverly pretended the functionality in a number of these phones was was a “special feature” they were offering free access to for a limited time, so it looked less crooked when they crippled the devices at a later date and forced users to pay for functionality traditionally embedded in Android for free. A number of people seem to buy this logic, not understanding that this is functionality that comes embedded in the phone and/or OS by default, and Verizon is creating a false fee layer by disabling the device’s ability to function as a modem or hotspot — then pretending they provide it as a “service.”
Blocking perfectly legitimate applications and crippling devices to make an extra buck certainly runs contrary to the “open” paradigm Verizon has been paying lip service to since 2007. With users already paying per the byte and incurring additional expense regardless of what device is connected to the network — adding an additional fee to tether or use already-existent hotspot features feels counter-evolutionary and pointlessly punitive.
What’s more is the slimy way Verizon shipped this update out. It rolled the ThunderBolt update out late at night, on a Friday, without any word of caution. In other words, if you updated your ThunderBolt, you walked right into Verizon’s clutches, possibly without even knowing it. And even if you were aware that the update would do this, you still had to decide whether it was worth giving away the mobile hotspot in order to fix the reboots. An extremely tough decision to say the least.
Rooted users probably aren’t safe for long either. It’s hard to imagine Verizon not going down the same road that AT&T took when it started sending out letters to people it suspected of unofficially tethering threatening to automatically sign them up for a tethering plan.
And it doesn’t stop with the ThunderBolt, this is something that is going to continue down the line. Verizon is going to offer similar updates for the LG Revolution and the Samsung Droid Charge that will kill hotspot functionality on those devices as well. And forget about alternative hotspot applications, the carriers pressured Google into removing any sort of third party tethering apps from the market so they could monopolize this. Verizon of course denies it had anything to do with it, but we know better.
Yes, Verizon said this was going to happen but it still doesn’t change the fact that they marketed this as a major feature on these phones, touted it as free, and then ripped it away with a beautifully timed update that rolled out to unsuspecting ThunderBolt owners. Throw in the fact that providers like AT&T and Verizon are making a killing off of a feature that, if it came down to it, they don’t need to charge for.
So, consider this a public service announcement to all Droid Charge and LG Revolution owners who will see an update touting all sorts of beneficial features but will actually with a sinister, unannounced surprise.