June 08, 2009

What Makes More Sense: iPhone Tethering or a Wireless Card?

This week is Apple's annual Worldwide Developers' Conference (WWDC). Widely anticipated to be part of the week's festivities is the roll-out of an upgraded iPhone, and of course, its use of the long-awaited iPhone 3.0 software, which will contain a number of solid features, not the least of which is Apple-approved tethering, which would let you use your iPhone essentially as a wireless modem for your laptop, giving you Web access at 3G speeds.

Tonight, while driving back from the Sacramento area after a weekend at my parents, I got in the passenger seat, as my wife drove, and popped open the laptop to queue a list of e-mails, in an attempt to make sure I hadn't overlooked anything in the in box. But, like on an airplane with no WiFi, I couldn't check new messages, and my responses had to wait until the next time I was connected.

Meanwhile, I could always close the laptop, and look instead to my iPhone for the latest e-mails, and surf the Web, but on a smaller screen.

And that all seemed silly. My iPhone had the Web, and the laptop didn't. If the iPhone and computer were set up for tethering, I could leverage the iPhone's Web connection and use the computer's larger screen, its desktop applications and file archive.

And there's the second option - purchasing a dedicated wireless card.

I always had a tendency to mock the wireless cards I've seen added to other's laptops. My Macs have always had 802.11 embedded, and I try to stay close enough to WiFi, but if I had that wireless card in my MacBook Pro, I wouldn't ever really have to think about it. I could have surfed the Web in the car, and I could take the laptop to the park, making that my home office.

Both solutions have their positives and negatives, if I think too hard about it. I am already paying for the iPhone's unlimited data plan from AT&T, so cost would not be an issue, while, I would no doubt sap the iPhone's battery life. Also the clumsiness of making sure the two devices were connected, when I would like to remove wires, and not add more, would be annoying.

But I also don't want to set up yet another recurring monthly payment to fuel my technology addiction, so getting a wireless card that goes virtually anywhere seems like overkill.

We will find out on Monday if we are any closer to having an Apple-approved solution for iPhone tethering, and of course, if it works for the iPhone I have now, not just the next generation. If I have it, I'll try it out, for sure. But as I know a number of my contacts, such as Jesse Stay, have already sprung for the wireless card, what would you recommend? Should I just follow Apple like an unthinking sheep?

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