8 Years Ago Today, iPhone’s Hotspot Changed Everything


If you didn’t see the iPhone 4’s new hotspot feature as a game changer in 2011, you didn’t have to work remotely. It’s that simple.

On January 11th, 2011, Apple announced a new partnership with Verizon, and their customers would soon be able to turn their phone into an independent wireless network.

And remote workers across the globe said, “Sorry, what?”

This was an announcement so big that many of us couldn’t even process how our lives were about to change for the better. But here’s what it meant looking back 8 years later.

Untethered and Unshackled

Prior to a mobile hotspot, remote workers could still connect their phones through tethering. However, it’s only now looking back that we can all appreciate how truly terrible that tethering was.

USB ports were often on the side of the laptop, which meant there was almost no way to tether comfortably on your lap when you were seated in a train or airplane seat. Your leg could (very) easily jar the connection and take you offline, while putting a lot of wear and tear on both the USB cord and USB socket.

Now, with a hotspot, these same workers could hack away comfortably on their laptop, with their wireless network neatly tucked away in their bag or pocket.

One Giant Leap for Rural and Remote Kind

Getting a decent full-time wireless solution is difficult in rural settings today, but it was damn near impossible in 2011. Hot spots really simplified things.

If you were looking to work (or play) for extended periods times at your cabin or cottage in the woods, you would possibly have to have a tech come out to your site and have them explain that you need to take these trees down to get a better line of site.

Alternatively, you were stuck with a nightmare that 20-something workers will never understand; dial-up. Thirty and forty-something people who read those words just had shivers.

Dial-up was so bad that it was fairly routine to type in a website URL, hit enter, and then go make yourself a cup of coffee while it loaded. And heaven help you if you put the address in wrong and you had to wait a few minutes for a “Page Cannot Be Displayed” screen.

Hotspots could now allow rural workers to get simple access to reasonably high-speed internet and their productivity would no longer be hampered by waiting, nor would they have to make any major changes to their landscape.

Today, hotspots are taken for granted. We now have them in our cars and parents can let their kids stream videos and music in the backseat, while they enjoy peace and quiet in the front.

Of course, with more accessibility comes more security concerns. But that is true of pretty much any advancement in technology.

So, the next time you turn on your phone’s hotspot, take a second to be grateful. And if you’re old enough to remember the tethering dark ages, take a moment to reflect on how hard things used to be.