AT&T Disappoints iPad/iPhone Power Users Yet Again

AT&T just announced new iPhone/ iPad wireless pricing plans which while costing more for future iPad power users, had some ray of hope: iPhone tethering. That meant you could now connect to the Internet from your iPad (whether from a WiFi-only model or a 3G model) using your iPhone’s data plan. Or so we thought.

Techflash is reporting that an AT&T spokesperson told them via email that iPhone-to-iPad tethering won’t be possible and mentioned something about the iPad not having USB ports. (AT&T are also saying it’s an iPad/ iPhone issue, not their policy.) Sounds kind of unusual. The iPhone also has no USB port. How are other wireless devices to tether from the iPhone? This of course means that the iPhone will not have a “Mobile Hotspot” feature, unlike Android phones and Palm Pre Plus.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball suggested that the good outweighs the bad in AT&T’s new iPhone/ iPad data pricing, but I’m really not so sure, in light of this — at least not for a power user like myself. Let’s look at some numbers. My iPhone costs me $70/mth (phone + data costs) to get online and has a 5GB/mth cap. Maybe I don’t use all of that cap on my iPhone like AT&T says, but I expected to use close to 5GB or more than that on my future iPad 3G (I have a WiFi-only model right now). After the cost of the iPad 3G, I’d have to pay $25/mth for 2GB, plus $10/GB overage. So for 5GB, that’s $55, but only if I use that much data.

On the other hand, my Palm Pre Plus costs me $80/m for phone and data, with a 5GB cap and free Mobile Hotspot. I can connect any 5 wireless devices to the Internet with the Mobile Hotspot feature. Yes, it’s expensive in comparison, especially if I don’t use my cap every month. Other “personal WiFi” options cost anywhere from $40-60/month, according to my research, with typical 5GB/month data caps — though who knows if this will change.

For now, it does seem that non-power users are getting a better deal with AT&T’s new pricing plans — though power users (i.e., many early adopters) are being cheated out of what was promised: unlimited 3G for $30/mth. And even if AT&T says it’s Apple’s fault re iPhone-to-iPad tethering, I’m not sure everyone is going to view it that way. AT&T is the bearer of bad news in this case, and will be perceived as such, at least until there’s more clarity as to what iPhone tethering means, what exactly you can do with it and what you can’t.