Verizon mobile hotspot now free for Palm phones

One of the neatest features of Palm’s Pre Plus and Pixi Plus phones, the ability to act as Wi-Fi hotspots, will no longer cost extra on Verizon Wireless.

Verizon confirmed to Engadget that the mobile hotspot feature on Palm’s WebOS-based smartphones is now free. Existing customers will see the costs eliminated in their next bill. Previously, the feature cost $40 per month for 5 GB of bandwidth, and 5 cents per MB after that. The cap and overage charges still apply, so you can’t go crazy with the free Wi-Fi.

Verizon mobile hotspot now free for Palm phones

Palm phones’ Wi-Fi hotspot feature lets up to five other devices connect to the Internet wirelessly, through the phone’s 3G connection. It’s not much different than Verizon’s MiFi mobile hotspot hardware, but in a phone that you’re already carrying around. And at $0 per month (after the $30 data plan for the phone itself), it’s considerably cheaper than the $60 per month Verizon charges for a MiFi, or even the $30 cost of tethering a Verizon smartphone to a laptop.

The would seem to benefit Palm more than Verizon. Palm’s WebOS-based phones haven’t sold as well as planned, nor have they proven effective at drawing customers to a particular carrier, as proven by the Pre’s lack of success when it was a Sprint exclusive. So I’m thinking the free Wi-Fi will be better at attracting existing Verizon customers to the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus than it will at drawing in new Verizon subscribers. Then again, the Pre and Pixi Plus are coming to AT&T soon, but without Wi-Fi, so Verizon might be eager to gain another advantage on its biggest rival.

Whatever the case, the free Wi-Fi makes Palm’s phones a lot more enticing than they were. I’ve read a lot of complaints that the feature kills battery life, which might make it unattractive to power users who need a constant connection. But without the monthly charge, families could use it on road trips and plug the phone into a car adapter to save the battery, and travelers would know they always have Internet even if the hotel charges for Wi-Fi.