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Wednesday, February 02, 2011, 10:00 pm PT (01:00 am ET)

iOS 4.3, AT&T's Personal WiFi hotspot may be set for release Feb 13

Apple is set to launch iOS 4.2.6 for Verizon's CDMA iPhone 4 on February 10, but a 4.3 update may be made available just days later, bringing Personal Hotspot WiFi sharing to AT&T users.

Reader Loren reports that David Pogue, in his New York Times review of the Verizon iPhone 4, noted that the new Personal Hotspot feature would come to existing AT&T iPhone users on February 13, a date that no longer appears in his review.

Loren said Pogue's review originally stated, "the single new feature in Verizon’s iPhone is Personal Hotspot, where the iPhone becomes a Wi-Fi base station. Up to five laptops, iPod Touches or other gadgets can get online, using the phone as a glorified Internet antenna.

"That’s incredibly convenient. Many other app phones have it — AT&T’s iPhone gets it on Feb. 13 — but Apple’s execution is especially nice. For example, the hot spot shuts itself off 90 seconds after the last laptop disconnects. That’s hugely important, because these personal hot spot features are merciless battery drains."

The review now simply states, "AT&T says its iPhone will get it soon" without mentioning a date. While the February 13 date falls oddly on a Sunday, making it an unlikely date for an iOS release, it appears that iOS 4.3 will at least be released around that day.

A curious Verizon sponsorship

Earlier today, John Gruber of the Daring Fireball speculated that iOS 4.3 would be released within two weeks, based upon the idea that Verizon Wireless had sponsored a free two week period of News Corps' new Daily news app.

Because iOS 4.3 is also expected to debut support for new in app subscriptions, it follows that Apple will have to release the new software before it can begin billing users. And because Apple wanted to launch the Daily app in advance, perhaps to keep attention on the iPad during Google's Wednesday demonstration of Android OS 3.0 Honeycomb, it makes sense that it would make plans to launch the Daily app a couple weeks prior to iOS 4.3

During that period, Gruber noted, Apple could make the Daily app available without a billing system in place by negotiating a "sponsorship" with Verizon, a move that would also direct buzz toward the coming launch of the Verizon iPhone 4, just as early reviews began to hit the major media outlets.

This suggests Apple will setup an event around that date to announce iOS 4.3 and its new subscription billing program for newspapers and similar subscription content sources.

Gruber also noted, "the hotspot feature works so well that I can’t really see paying for a 3G iPad again."