Apple’s Steve Jobs today announced that the iPhone 4 will be able to double as a personal WiFi hotspot with the introduction of iOS 4.3. Currently, iPhone 4 owners must tether their laptops to their phones if they want to share Internet access. This new option will make it possible to use the iPhone 4 to get online with other devices, such as the iPod Touch and personal gaming devices.
Apple hasn’t released pricing details, but we expect it to be in the $20 range. AT&T and Verizon currently requires iPhone owners to pay $20 extra for the privilege of tethering devices to the iPhone 4, even if the user doesn’t use more than 2GB of data per month. Long-time iPhone users do have to give up their unlimited data plans to take advantage of any tethering option.
The WiFi hotspot feature is nothing new in the mobile phone space. Many Android phones already serve as wireless hotspots and virtually every ‘superphone’ we see coming down the pike does the same. The wireless hotspot feature is more ‘keeping up’ than innovation.
Owners of older iPhones will not be able to opt for wireless tethering. The feature will only be in available with the iPhone 4 and subsequent models. The feature will not be available on the iPad 2.
Apple, Verizon and AT&T have not announced if the wireless hotspot option will cost more than the current pricing scheme, but we’ll update you when those numbers are released.
The iPhone 4 hotspot feature will be likely be available beginning March 11, when iOS 4.3 is released.