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Verizon Misleads Android Users on Tethering Options


Verizon spokesperson denies Droids are capable of Wi-Fi tethering and hot spot support, yet users claim otherwise.

Verizon (VZ) giveth and taketh away.

This week marks the release of the long-awaited Android (GOOG) OS update for the original Motorola (MOT) Droid. Android 2.2 -- aka Froyo -- improves platform speed and security, as well as several existing features like browser performance, home-page shortcuts, camera functions, and of course Adobe (ADBE) Flash. But Verizon recently revealed that two highly coveted features -- Wi-Fi tethering and mobile hot spots -- won't be included in the Froyo update for the Droid.

In an email to MobileCrunch, a Verizon rep wrote: "The Droid by Motorola doesn't have [the] hardware to support a Mobile Hotspot. With tethering there is no Connection on the PC side that will allow you to tether the device so the answer is that option isn't part of this update."

As many Droid users can attest, this is patently false.

The Android Market is flooded with apps, both free and paid, that allow USB tethering, Wi-Fi tethering, and mobile hot spots capabilities -- EasyTether, PDANet, HotSpot Toggle, etc. In most cases, the device needs to be rooted -- the equivalent of jailbreaking an iPhone (AAPL) -- for the apps to work. But the fact is, they can be run without a problem.

The Verizon rep even manages to be mistaken about the inclusion of an official tethering option. After updating to Froyo, USB tethering is featured in the smartphone's default settings. However, one user reports that it doesn't work with Mac OS X, and those who are able to use it are taken to an official Verizon page that asks for $15/month to enable it.

In Verizon's defense, at least that's five bucks cheaper than AT&T's (T) offer.

But why would the provider consciously -- or inadvertently -- mislead Droid users about the included features? One ROM developer told Wired that it's all about revenue.

"It's just a business decision," Steven Bird claimed. "People who have a Droid see this news. And Verizon can make them think that hot spot or wired tethering is a reason to now upgrade to a new phone."

Indeed, that sentiment is echoed in a Motorola spokesperson's statement to Wired. "The original Droid by Motorola was not offered with a mobile hot spot feature and will not be upgradable for that feature in the future." She further lent credence to Bird's claim by saying, "Our newer devices, such as the Droid X, are enabled for mobile hot spot."

And with the Droid 2 expected to be released shortly, both companies appear very eager to unload new products to otherwise satisfied Droid owners.

Having manually updated my Droid to the Froyo version, I can't say that I'll be using any USB tethering or mobile hot spot option in the foreseeable future -- I'm happy enough about the speed improvements and the phone and browser shortcuts on the home page. But that doesn't mean I'm pleased with a cell provider and phone manufacturer purposely hamstringing my device in order to push newer stock and then lying about their rationale.

If I wanted that, I would've gotten an iPhone.

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