“iPhone. Now with free AT&T Wi-Fi.” So read text messages and email from ATT today.

AT&T is now offering free AT&T Wi-Fi access to our iPhone™ customers. That means free AT&T Wi-Fi access at thousands of hotspots nationwide, including Starbucks®.* Hotspots are available in cafes, bookstores, airports, hotels and universities nationwide.

While this is really nice and all, it’s as much a deal for AT&T as it is for those of us with iPhones. We already have unlimited data over the Edge network so we do have access at all those places for free already. Slower but free all the same. It never would have occured to me to buy wifi access at a Starbucks for my iPhone. Let the Edge lead (for free)!

But using the Edge is in the end slightly more expensive for AT&T than wifi. Here they are providing both in Starbuck or the airport and they say “pay for the one that cost us the least or have the one that cost us the most.” In the airport, they push a web page at you to sign on to wifi. Fair enough, but if you let your phone go to sleep, you have to logon all over again. It’s so annoying that I usually give up and just use Edge anyhow.

Now we all win. No log in web pages. Faster and better battery savings with wifi. Cheaper for AT&T and for me too!

Or so I thought.

Then I read this:

Accessing AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots is easy

Activate Wi-Fi from the settings icon on your iPhone.
Select “attwifi” from the list of available networks.
Enter your 10-digit mobile number and check the box to agree to the Acceptable Use Policy.
[doesn’t AT&T know my 10-digit moble number already?]
Tap “continue.”
[why can’t it act like other open or openish networks? AT&T knows if it’s an iPhone or not]
You will receive a text message from AT&T with a secure link to the AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot.
[almost as annoying as before]
You will not be charged for the text message. [Thanks, Paul]
Open the text message and tap on the link for 24-hour access to the AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot.
[will I have to do this every time I connect? Yikes, it’s worse than before! when my phone goes to sleep, do I have to start all over again?]