Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why would anybody ever use iPhone tethering?

Following the live feed from WWDC provided by Mac Rumors I was delighted to see that the new iPhone would allow tethering on O2 in the UK. I was less pleased to find out, when looking at the details on the O2 site the next day, that users will have to pay an *extra* £15pm for the privilege of using it!

I have been tethering on various Nokia S60 handsets first on T-mobile and then on 3 for the last 3 years. It is not something I do very regularly - more a fallback - and relatively low volumes of data involved, but it is an important safety net.

While I am still very tempted to go for the new iPhone for other reasons, though still intrigued by the Android based Samsung i7500 if they would get on and launch it, I am now seriously questioning whether tethering will be part of my future at all.

All of the handsets I am now looking at provide pretty good access to web and email, and have a wide selection of apps which can handle a lot of the tasks I used to use my laptop for, but there will still be times when I need to get online with my laptop urgently so what to do?

This has led to me having a look round at the various PAYG 3G dongle options available. I had expected them to be fairly similar to each other give or take the usual demographic differences in the operators typical users, but I was pleasantly surprised by the range of options out there:
  • Vodafone. £39 upfront with 1Gb data included. Dongle doubles as 4Gb memory stick. No time limits on using the data at all - but need to use once every 180 days to keep live. Once it runs out £15 to topup with another 1GB. Possible to use on a Mac at a push but not yet officially or well supported which is a pity!
  • T-Mobile. £24.46 for the dongle. Pay to use: £2 per day, £7 per week, or £15 per month. 3Gb per month fair use policy. Mac is supported.
  • O2. Dongle costs £29.99. Pay to use: £2 per day (500Mb), £7 per week (1Gb), £15 per month (3Gb). Unlimited wifi use via the Cloud - assume during usage periods! Mac is supported.
  • 3. £29.99 for the dongle. Buy and convert a topup into a mobile broadband addon for a months access: £10 for 1Gb, £15 for 3Gb, or £25 for 7Gb. Mac is supported.
Quite a few different takes on how to price this sort of thing here - with the "right" choice very much dependent on your pattern of use. Of course for higher volume and/or regular use a contract makes more sense.

So in summary the pricing offered by O2 would only potentially make sense for people who need high volume data access while out and about very regularly, and it has to be said that in simple usability terms a seperate contract 3G dongle would make a *lot* more sense for that sort of user as opposed to having to wire their handset to their laptop all the time.

The way O2 have priced tethering simply doesn't make sense - but perhaps that is their intention. Doing it as they have they have the headline feature (unlike AT&T!) but won't have to support any large scale use of it.

PS. The latest carnival is up over at a consuming experience.

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