It’s no secret that Verizon Wireless and the end-user community at large haven’t seen eye-to-eye on tethering. In fact, the FCC forced Verizon Wireless into a consent decree, and paying a large settlement, for banishment of tethering apps. In the end, Verizon was allowed to prohibit tethering on unlimited data plans, albeit at the cost of having to allow people to continue SIM-swapping devices (such as hotspots, tablets, etc)… and allowing unsupported (USB/Bluetooth) tethering apps on Google Play, etc.
There was, for a long time, however, a loophole that Verizon seemed to turn its back on noticing. The Droid Bionic allowed for free Bluetooth PAN and DUN tethering in all of its pervasive firmware history, from Android 2.3, all the way through Android 4.0.4.
That changed yesterday. The Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean update for the Droid Bionic imposes a tethering plan check on Bluetooth, same as on Wi-Fi Hotspots.
It’s not clear why this late change, it’s possible Motorola was given a pass on Bluetooth tethering to help lure in tech-savvy customer sales. The company, at the time, was financially unstable and was not yet acquired by Google. Now part of Google, the company has pared itself down to focus on Android innovations that are outside the mainline view of other Google device manufacturers, and that includes building Android devices for restrictive-and-selective Verizon. The Droid line of devices on Verizon has mostly been built by Motorola, with few exceptions such as Droid Charge (by Samsung) and Droid Eris and DNA (by HTC).
In the end, it’s probably still worth upgrading to Jelly Bean. Apps such as PDANet continue to support Bluetooth DUN tethering, and USB tethering with apps like Klink works across OS X, Windows, and Linux desktops. That leaves the narrow niche of those who want Bluetooth PAN without having to pay a tethering fee… largely outweighed by the massive performance and stability improvements that Jelly Bean delivers to the Droid Bionic.
Finally, to clarify, we have tested the Webtop interface on Jelly Bean, and it carries over the vast performance improvements that we’ve seen with the update already. More importantly, Verizon did not add a tethering check on Lapdocks and Webtops – you can continue to use the innovative, killed-off interface without a tethering plan.
On a related note, the Motorola Lapdock 100 deal we reported a couple days ago is still in stock…