Friday, May 2, 2008

Starbucks, B&N, iPhone, and free Wi-Fi

CyberNet and others are reporting that the AT&T provided Wi-Fi at Starbucks and Barnes and Noble has started to rollout: Free Wi-Fi for iPhone Subscribers at Starbucks/Barnes and Noble

We’re not quite sure how many of you out there are iPhone owners, but our guess is that there’s at least a good handful of you who will be able to benefit from free Wi-Fi for your phone. First it started as a rumor but now it has been confirmed that AT&T is now offering iPhone subscribers free Wi-Fi access at Starbucks and Barnes and Noble locations. When you bring your phone in to those locations, a login prompt will appear on your screen, you enter your phone number in, and in no time you’ll be surfing the web on a Wi-Fi network (which we all know is much faster than the Edge network) for free. Nice.

I was at both Barnes and Noble and Starbucks yesterday, used my iPhone in both locations, and wasn't presented with the special login. Further reading has confirmed that it is being offered in "select" markets so I might have to wait a while before I can use it.

But having my iPhone work just a tad faster isn't what I'm really after. I'm presented with the option of switching from EDGE to Wi-Fi all the time, and it isn't that big of deal. EDGE, for all its reputation isn't really that bad. But this right here totally got my attention: AT&T WiFi portal for iPhone users shows up at Starbucks

I should note that this iPhone portal isn't specific to Starbucks -- every AT&T WiFi hotspot features the same interface...

Wow indeed. I will be able to use my iPhone to access the Internet at any AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot. The only missing link is the tethering to my computer, and as it turns out I can access the Wi-Fi with my computer using my iPhone account without having to tether at all: It works! Basically, you emulate your iPhone in Safari through the Mobile iPhone User Agent, enter your phone number, and voila you're on.

Now all I need is an AT&T hotspot for testing. I am traveling a ton over the next two months. I'm almost looking foward to it just to see how many places I can connect where previously I would have had to pony-up $10. I'll keep you posted through Twitter every time I succeed. I'm also having to eat-my-words on anything snarky I might have said about AT&T in the past. This is very nice indeed!

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