Verizon one-ups AT&T, turns your iPhone into a WiFi hotspot

If you’re not reaching, engaging, and monetizing customers on mobile, you’re likely losing them to someone else. Register now for the 8th annual MobileBeat, July 13-14, where the best and brightest will be exploring the latest strategies and tactics in the mobile space.

rule the airUpdated

Verizon today announced its long-awaited support for the iPhone. For the most part, the phone and its features look like they’re the same whether you get them for AT&T or Verizon, but there’s one cool exception — Verizon says users will be able to turn their phones into five-person hot spots.

The idea is to turn your phone into the equivalent of a MiFi device — personal WiFi networks that you carry around with you. No more struggling to find free WiFi, and it’s arguably an improvement on MiFi devices, since you don’t have to carry around an extra device. (In VentureBeat’s case, we try to work on-the-go by connecting my Verizon 3G modem to Owen Thomas’ MiFi device — now we’ll just make sure there’s someone with a Verizon iPhone in the car.)

Verizon hasn’t released any details about how much it will cost or how it will work. I don’t know, for example, how long we’ll be able to run the WiFi feature without completely draining the iPhone’s battery. But if Verizon can make this work in even a halfway decent fashion, that should give it bragging rights over AT&T, which struggled to support connecting one computer to the Internet via iPhone tethering.

Update: We have a video of the Personal Hotspot in action.

VB's research team is studying mobile user acquisition... Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.