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AT&T Offers Free Wi-Fi to iPhone Users — Browse the iTunes Store for Free on Your Mac Too

Earlier today, AT&T Mobility sent out SMS messages to iPhone subscribers in the US reminding them that they can use free Wi-Fi provided by AT&T at locations including Starbucks shops around the country.

This free service has been a long time coming for the iPhone. The deal was originally announced back in February when Starbucks committed to partner with AT&T and kick T-Mobile to the curb. The new mobile portal started to show up on iPhones in April, but has been up and down since then. Now it appears that AT&T is ready for business.

I went through the process today at my local Starbucks just to try it out. The connection speed was definitely faster than 3G and a nice little benefit if you happen to be camped out at a Starbucks, McDonalds, etc. It should be particularly nice for those staying at hotels, if the service proves to be free to iPhone users in those locations as well.

Here’s how it works…

When you are at a Starbucks or other service location (check the AT&T map to find one nearby) you can join the network named “attwifi” and then open Safari. When you try to go to a web site outside of AT&T (more on this later) you’ll get redirected to a login page where you can enter your mobile number and agree to the AUP.

Once you do that, you’ll get an SMS message with a link that will authenticate your device and allow you access to the AT&T Wi-Fi network at that location for 24 hours.

Once you click on the link, you’ll get a confirmation screen in Safari that you have access to the AT&T Wi-Fi network.

What’s interesting is that you can browse both and without going through this process. The iTunes Store also works beautifully, with the added “Now Playing at Starbucks” on your screen. Again, without any authentication.

All this free browsing begs the question, can I do any of this on my MacBook? The answer is, “kinda sorta, but not really.”

When you connect to the AT&T Wi-FI network with your laptop, you’ll be prompted to sign up for service (a 2 hour pass is $3.99 and monthly plans are $19.99 – or $9.99 if you are an AT&T DSL or Uverse subscriber).

However, the same sites that work without authentication on the iPhone work the same way on a Mac. That is, you can connect to the “attwifi” network and surf and all day if you want.

You can also open iTunes and connect to the iTunes store. I was able to watch trailers and browse music, movies, etc.

This isn’t perfect, though. I got a funny message about the Starbucks Now Playing feature and I was NOT able to get to, presumably because AT&T Wi-Fi filters on the URL.

Spoofing the user agent using the “Develop” menu in Safari doesn’t work to get around this. All I got was a specially formatted page that asks you to sign up for paid service.

For kicks, I tried entering the authentication URL that is sent in the text message on my Mac, but this didn’t go anywhere, perhaps because I had already used the link with my iPhone.

If you have other experiences with using the AT&T Wi-Fi service, please share details in the comments below.

8 Responses to “AT&T Offers Free Wi-Fi to iPhone Users — Browse the iTunes Store for Free on Your Mac Too”

  1. Well, I have a different situation since I took the messaging plan out…..
    I can’t go thought the process of registering since they send a text message to your iphone…..
    Is there a workaround that?

  2. I am still in the process of working a way around this. I tried, like some of the other commenters, to enter the URL into my laptop (win xp) with no success.

    What I’m planning for my next trip to Starbucks is this:

    A modified version of Firefox that pretends to be an iPhone.
    Like so:

    A MAC Address changing software. The URL has some parts that looks suspiciously like a MAC address, so I”m thinking that if I were to find my phone’s MAC, then spoof that on my laptop and enter the URL into an iPhone spoofing browser, it may have success.

    There’s probably more to it than that, but it’s worth a shot.

  3. Drats! I was hoping for the same workaround that was found previously to work. I am tempted to post my code here, to see if any enterprising people can get it to work with a laptop.
    Anyone else have success with a laptop?

  4. As a note for Attwifi access points- if you have a Starbucks giftcard (they are reloadable at no extra charge and never expire) and have that card registered online, you get 2 free hours a day as long as you use your starbucks card once a month.

    Additionally, if your card is registered online- Starbucks will give you a free shot/syrup in your drink