AT&T Wi-Fi and the iPhone

Posted on October 30, 2008

Yesterday AT&T finally announced the free Wi-Fi access for their iPhone customers in the US. That opens up the Wi-Fi networks in Starbucks, McDonald’s and many other places to iPhone users, giving them high speed access from their phones while they sip coffee or enjoy a their lunch. Using Wi-Fi is much better than EDGE (as those of us with first generation iPhones, or who live in areas that don’t yet have 3G coverage can confirm), but it is also usually faster and more reliable than the 3G network as long as you have a strong signal.

Unfortunately, the official AT&T way to get this free access involves jumping through hoops each time you want to connect in a new location. Assuming you have the attwifi SSID already in your preferred networks list (i.e. you’ve connected to it once before, and not told the iPhone to forget the network), then you will need to do this:

  1. Fire up mobile Safari and load a page so that you get the special iPhone captive portal page.
  2. Enter your 10-digit mobile number and check the box to agree to the Acceptable Use Policy. Tap ‘continue’.
  3. Wait for a (free) text message from AT&T containing a link that is only valid at your current location for 24 hours.
  4. Switch to the SMS app, and view the link in the text message from AT&T (which will close the SMS app and take you back to Mobile Safari.

That’s a lot of steps just to get some Wi-Fi access! Luckily, Devicescape’s Easy Wi-Fi knows how to get you online using your phone number too. For a simple one-time setup, you get much faster access to the AT&T network:

  1. Install the app, tap the ‘My Wi-Fi’ tab to get to the Wi-Fi accounts panel, tap ‘+’ to open the search.
  2. Search for iPhone.
  3. Choose ‘AT&T Wi-Fi (iPhone)’ from the results and enter your ten digit phone number.

Now, each time you want Wi-Fi at an AT&T location, simply tap the Easy Wi-Fi icon on the iPhone and you’ll be logged in within a few seconds in most cases. No need for SMS messages, no need to enter your phone number each time.

If you have an iPod touch too, then sign up for a Devicescape account, register both devices to it and you can use your iPod touch instead of your iPhone when you’re in the hotspot, leaving your phone free for making calls while you surf (just remember that you can’t connect both at the same time – the accounts only allow a single device to be logged in at a time, and even after logging out on the AT&T network it can take up to 15 minutes for them to allow a different device to get online using the same user name & password).