One of the handy features of phones and tablets running Android 2.2 and later is that you can share their Internet connection with other devices (a process often known as tethering). However, it seems that not everyone selling those devices is aware of that.
Lifehacker reader Jason contacted us to say that he’d been told by Telstra sales staff that the new Motorola Xoom he’d purchased had the hotspot capability permanently disabled. That sounded unlikely to us, and Telstra confirmed that while the hotspot feature is switched off by default (a sensible move), it can be enabled by any user (under Settings –> Wireless and networks –> Mobile hotspot). Jason subsequently got back in touch to say he’d independently realised this was the case, and that the salesperson he talked to was, to put it bluntly, full of BS.
The moral of the story? I suspect that some sales staff have been confused by earlier issues surrounding tethering on the iPhone, and restrictions applied by some carriers in the US to both Android and iPhone devices. However, that generally hasn’t been the situation in Australia.
Optus is the only company that tried routinely charging for iPhone tethering down under, a practice it quickly abandoned. Vodafone tried banning tethering on its Infinite plans, but also backed down after a customer outcry.
So whatever popular mobile you have, chances are you can use it as a hotspot (though that doesn’t apply to the iPad; only iPhones can be used for tethering, though iPads can be tethered to them). And remember: just because the support staff say you can’t do something doesn’t absolutely make it so. Always double-check.