Although T-Mobile still has no 3G wireless data network, they at least provide free T-Mobile HotSpot WiFi service as part of their US$20/month EDGE data plan. I was concerned when I first heard that AT&T was taking over the Starbucks WiFi service from T-Mobile. However, T-Mobile then issued a statement that all HotSpot customers will still be able to use their WiFi accounts for at least the next 5 years at Starbucks through a deal that T-Mobile has worked out with AT&T.
I just read on MacRumors that AT&T iPhone owners may have yet another reason to be pleased with their device and service. It looks like AT&T iPhone owners are getting free WiFi at Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and other AT&T hotspot locations. An iPhone-formatted page appears and requires that you enter your AT&T iPhone number to access the WiFi access point. We know that AT&T stated that AT&T broadband and AT&T U-verse Internet customers were getting WiFi for free and AT&T stated it would soon extend the benefits of WiFi to its wireless customers so maybe iPhone customers get to start out with the benefits.
It isn't clear yet if this is a loophole since there hasn't been any official press release or statement made, but with the iPhone optimized page and phone number prompt it sure seems legitimate. For those of you with foreign or SIM-unlocked iPhones that do not have an AT&T number you may be out of luck. I have both an AT&T SIM and T-Mobile SIM and it now looks like I'll be able to get free WiFi access with either SIM when I am out and about.
UPDATE: I personally stopped by my local Starbucks this morning and can confirm that this WiFi access is available on the Apple iPhone. I actually have both T-Mobile (4 family plan lines and a HotSpot @Home Talk Forever line) and AT&T SIM cards and actually had my T-Mobile SIM card in my unlocked iPhone when I tried this out. An AT&T hotspot page appeared and I simply entered my AT&T SIM card phone number and was off and surfing on my iPhone. I also have free access via T-Mobile (their hotspot access is provided to wireless data subscribers) so I now have two options for connecting at Starbucks.
UPDATE 2: After talking about the free WiFi on the MobileTechRoundup podcast last night I decided to visit my local Starbucks this mornng and tried something out. I had my T-Mobile SIM in my iPhone and WiFi turned on. The AT&T login page appeared and I entered my T-Mobile phone number instead of my AT&T phone number and I was still able to login and surf. It looks like you may just need an iPhone and not even have an AT&T account to access the network. More testing, such as the longetivity of the connection, is required, but iPhone owners may be getting some free access from AT&T.