Your New WiFi Hotspot? It's Your Android Phone

Let's say you're a mobile worker with smart phone and a laptop, working outside a WiFi zone. Your smart phone connects to the Internet. Your laptop gets empty bars. That's pretty frustrating, because you'd prefer to browse and work online on a screen larger than 2.5"-by-1.5''. That's where tethering comes in. Tethering means connecting to the Internet by hooking up with an Internet-enabled mobile device. And pretty soon you can do it ... but not on the iPhone.

Google's new Android operating system, called Froyo, will have built-in USB tethering to share data and you'll be able to use it as a portable WiFi hotspot, as well. TechCrunch has more:

You can see the tethering and wifi hotspot features in the screenshots above. One thing that isn't clear from the information we've received is whether carriers can turn this feature off, or even charge for it, unless they break away from the standard Android build.

This is huge news. In the short-term, it puts pressure on Apple and AT&T to allow tethering on the iPhone. In the medium-term, it threatens to hurt neat gadgets like the Verizon MiFi (a portable card-sized wifi hotspot) and Sprint's plans to charge $30 a month for tethering. In the long-run, Internet connectivity will go through more transformations and iterations, and I'm sure the idea that tethering an Android phone is exciting will seem a bit quaint. But for now (the Android user said), How exciting!

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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