Dear AT&T and Apple, What is Unlimited x 2? A.K.A. Why Can’t I Tether My iPhone and to the iPad

Updated on 11 March 2010 by

ipad tether Maybe I haven’t been digging deeply enough, but I have seen anyone even mention this annoyance. I’m already a paying iPhone/AT&T customer, and I pay $30/month just for the 3G data component of my cellular bill. In fact, if you are an iPhone user, you are required to have the 3G data plan, which supposedly affords you “unlimited inch data. When you really look at the fine print, unlimited in today’s carrier vernacular generally means a 5GB/month cap on data, but still, I’m paying for those 5GBs of data, I should be able to use them as I please, right?

Yet, if I buy a 3G equipped iPad, the only way for me to use the cellular data is to pay an additional $30/month to AT&T, despite the fact that I’m already paying this fee for one device. Shouldn’t it make sense to be able to tether from my iPhone to the iPad to share the “unlimited inch data that I already have? Why on earth would someone need to pay for something that is unlimited… twice.

Way back in July of last year, I wrote about why I didn’t think it made sense for Apple to launch a tablet with any carrier at all, let alone Verizon as it was rumored at the time. Briefly — in that article I made the point that releasing the tablet with the capability to tether to an iPhone through bluetooth would increase the ability for Apple to market the device to existing iPhone users, instead of asking them to sign up for another plan. I still think this idea makes sense, and Apple may have actually considered it, but in the end AT&T probably wouldn’t have any of it as they are major jerks when it comes to tethering.

If you consider the sheer number of iPhones out there, you’ll see why it makes a lot more sense from Apple’s point of view to allow tethering from an iPhone to an iPad, rather than asking users to sign up for an additional data plan. Apple has sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 42 million iPhone’s. Sure, not all of those are in use, but there are a lot of people out there who are already on AT&T with their iPhone and their required $30/month “unlimited inch data plan. I’d say that all of those people are less likely to buy a 3G equipped iPad than someone who is not already paying for a cellular data plan.

If Apple went the tethering route, they could have reversed this situation. Instead of owning an iPhone (and subsequently already paying for a data plan) and being less likely to purchase an iPad because of it, iPhone users would actually be more likely to purchase an iPad because they’d be encouraged through the idea that they could simply tether and use their existing data plan to connect to 3G with their iPad.

If the past is anything to go by, there is a good chance that the ever active iPhone hacking community will figure something out for tethering to the iPad, though an official solution would be much appreciated, and make sense on a number of levels.

29 Comments For This Post

  1. UMPCPortal says:

    New article: Dear AT&T and Apple, What is Unlimited X 2? A.K.A. Why Can’t I Tether My iPhone and to the iPad http://bit.ly/9HNAdx

  2. Mobile Ninja says:

    Dear AT&T and Apple, What is Unlimited x 2? A.K.A. Why Can’t I Tether My iPhone and to the iPad http://bit.ly/a2Fwm6 #mobile

  3. Oliver Herbert says:

    Dear AT&T and Apple, What is Unlimited x 2? A.K.A. Why Can’t I Tether My iPhone and to the iPad http://shar.es/aNSDG via@sharethis

  4. Schugy says:

    I don’t even see a sense in having a dumb iphone. My 99 euro phone supports 3g and bt DUN profile and there are many tablets out there with builtin bt (or have USB for mini bt dongle).
    Apple must be kidding.

  5. turn.self.off says:

    its a very US thing. Best guess is that the network operators where so in love with nickle and dime-ing every small “feature” that they even made special firmwares for phones on their network so that they could have features remotely disabled until the user forked over some more cash.

    given that, i am not surprised that while wifi is everywhere in USA (at least the impression i have gotten over the years of reading blogs), and wimax was crated to “solve” a very US problem by a US company, connecting computers to phones are so common in europe that until we encountered the US marketing/service term, tethering, we didnt really have a specific term for the activity.

  6. jm says:

    No push email without an always on connection. I can’t even imagine carrying around an iPad with a big USB single sticking out of the side for internet.

  7. turn.self.off says:

    push email on a device that size?

  8. TimJDave says:

    Ben, this seams more like a rant then a appeal to reason.

    While I do agree with you that it should make more sense for apple to allow tethering, you have to consider that tethering is still not available at all in the US for the IPhone and laptops(unless you jailbreak). We can speculate why this is all we want, but the details have not been released.( I would not doubt it’s because of ATT )
    We KNOW apple wants tethering, as they have enabled it for other countries, but something is holding them back here in the US of A.

    Hopfully ATT will allow a tethering deal to be worked out for the Iphone and laptop area soon(but you KNOW it’s going to cost you more), once that goes through, I would not doubt in seeing a OS update that allowed’s data sharing between the IPhone and IPad in the future.

  9. Applesucks says:

    all things apple did were steps backward… whats so futurabel with the iphone? same with the ipad. only thing apple can do is to package their misfitted hardware into nice looking plastic shells. ( Like tupperware ). everyone who´s not controlled of apples advertisements will not buy this stuff. there are much companies around which make better faster and more compatible iPads… LOL the very name iPad. kids really cogitate of buying an ipad. it´s the modern tamagotchi

  10. Benny says:

    Dude I totally agree 100% with you. Although the Ipod itself was a well built device and the Macbook Air is a huge step forward, every other apple product is just a fail. Why should I pay $600 to get 8Gb of ram whe it is half the price on an HP or Dell aside from getting newer, faster hardware like a Core 2 Quad or an i5/i7? With Apple you pay more for less and could just easily buy a PC equivalent with may more Specs and power for Equal or lower price!

  11. TimJDave says:

    Lets say the Ipad is out right now…Link us(or name) to some comparable devices that are out NOW or that will 100% be out at the launch of the Ipad.

    You can’t because this device category does not exist right now in any shape or form from any product that “took off” or that is even generally available. The future looks up, but its not here yet.

    It was known that the Iphone did not come out with anything new, but rather they streamlined functions and features into a better, more attractive package. That being said it’s not the most functional package when compared, but not every one needs the functions that apple left out. In fact, I would argue that very few do need them or would use them. (Ichat included, when speaking about then general consumer)

    Apple took what THEY wanted a Tablet to do, and then accomplished what they set out to do. They did not set out to make a device that could simply do everything, that’s not what Apple does. They want it to do a few thing well, not everything kind of well.(like windows mobile currently does)

    I agree that the functions of the Ipad can be levied by other devices currently, but it’s like Jobs said, you just got to hold it and play with it, then you will want one.

    This is not a product of need or function. It’s a product of play and media consumption.

  12. Luc says:

    iPad is complete different topic but regarding iPhone/ATT pricing structure thank god there’s competition.

    Regarding iPad for me the Viliv S10 probably will do 100% what I need already: more screen resolution, 2x faster CPU, cheaper, full PC compatibility, SDHC slot, webcam, flash videos (yes iPad has no flash it seems), HD video support (iPad can only do 2.5MBps 720p), decent keyboard and great battery life (up to 10 hours).

  13. Realty says:

    It is predicted that the IPhone is coming to Verizon this summer. Verizon does not have a problem with free Bluetooth teethering, but do charge for WIFI teethering. If you buy the IPad at an apple store and move your phone to Verizon, teethering at least at bluetooth speed, should not be a problem.

  14. Ben says:

    I’m doubting that we’ll see the iPhone on Verizon this summer.

  15. jethro_static says:

    Easy solution. PDAnet for Iphone. Tether the iPad to iPhone via wifi. Case closed.

  16. turn.self.off says:

    didnt apple remove that program from the store?

  17. TimJDave says:

    It’s a jailbreak app.

  18. turn.self.off says:

    ah, jailbreak. shows how much i pay attention to iphone developments ;)

  19. Ben says:

    This is a solution for some of us, but the majority of people don’t even know about the ability to jailbreak their phones.

  20. jethro_static says:

    Good point. Apple and ATT are trying to milk consumers as much as posible. That is why they put a new SIM technology on the iPad. So you cannot use your iPhone SIM. If there is no legal way to share the 30 bucks a month you’re already paying, I guess consumers should learn how to jailbreak or pay another 30 bucks a month.

  21. edeena star says:

    Dear AT&T and Apple, What is Unlimited x 2? A.K.A. Why Can't I …: Maybe I haven't been digging deeply enough, bu… http://bit.ly/aZDlRF

  22. iPhone Reviewer says:

    From Blogs: Dear AT&T and Apple, What is Unlimited x 2? A.K.A. Why Can't I …: Maybe I haven't been diggin… http://bit.ly/9m3XA1 #iphone

  23. Minions says:

    At least sprint doesn’t mind if you tether your phones. (this is a huge plus for them and personally one of the reasons I wont leave unless another carrier doesn’t care)

    It’s lame yes, and they can most definitely tell when you do tether by the huge increase in your usage rates… whether you want to try to debate it is up to you.

  24. Jim says:

    “Tethering your iPhone to your laptop is like going into Joe’s All-You-Can-Eat and stuffing your backpack full from the buffet. Joe doesn’t like it; would you?”

  25. Michael says:

    No, it’s like buying 5 kg of or tortillas and sharing them with your family because you can’t eat them all alone… nothing greedy or illegal in that –

  26. Wolle says:

    It might be different in Europe. A carrier free iPhone should be able to tether with the iPad – also with an official T-Mobile enabled tethering option. I hope Apple will allow this…???

  27. cobalt says:

    I don’t think there’s any doubt that free tethering to the iPhone would have been to Apple’s advantage. It would definitely not have been to AT&T’s advantage. Sprint may be all right with free tethering, but they need customers right now.

    In the end, I think that the AT&T data plan for the iPad is a good compromise. While Apple support tethering to the iPhone, any U.S. carrier would have required another plan tacked on to the smartphone plane for tethering, probably for $30 per month but not with a contractual obligation of two years. But, tethering requires increased power utilization both on the iPhone and the iPad. AT&T has simply offered a plan that would have been consistent with a tethering plan, but it’s iPad specific. The downside is that iPhone users can’t tether to any old device. But that just means that Apple in particular benefits from this new AT&T iPad data plan, since it’s specific to the iPad (at least for now).

  28. Minions says:

    I don’t understand why people think they should pay for 2 plans, which serve the same use? I bet my cell phone uses maybe 100MB a month of the 5gigs without tethering. Can you honestly say that is worth the $30~40 on your bill a month? It’s pretty ridiculous all things considered that the companies are telling you what to do with your allotted bandwidth. My ISP doesn’t tell me I can’t use my connection for VOIP calls, or anything else, as long as you stay within the bandwidth you are allotted they shouldn’t care what you do with it. (this of course excludes any illegal acts done on their service, but tethering should not require a $30 fee)

  29. cobalt says:

    I’m pretty sure people actually don’t think they should pay for two cellular data plans. That’s why unofficial tethering is, while not common, a compelling reason for jailbreaking the iPhone or using available tethering apps on other systems. That’s also why none of these MIDs or netbooks with 3G modems are taking off.

    I’m also pretty sure that most people, if they were interested enough, could tether unofficially with whatever means available and get away with it. It doesn’t seem like carriers have the means to keep track of tethering, which is why in part carriers don’t want to have an official tethering option. It’s one thing if a small fraction of knowledgeable people figure out ways of tethering to their smartphone; it’s another if the general population develops an expectation that tethering should be a standard feature of a smartphone.

    In AT&T’s case, I think it’s salient that network connections for stationary devices are easier for the carrier to maintain than devices that are moving. The contrast between a $60/month two year contract versus a plan at $30/month with no contract is sufficient for most people to pay for the data plan when they need it, rather than figuring out a way around the system and unofficially tethering.

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