For the uninitiated, Wi-Fi tethering is pretty awesome. In layman’s terms, your phone creates a Wi-Fi hotspot. That Wi-Fi hotspot is connected to the internet by way of your phone’s data connection. It’s quite literally a wireless network that you can take anywhere.
For people who travel a lot or are frequently away from friendly Wi-Fi connections, tethering can be a lifesaver. Plus if you’re still one of the lucky few with unlimited data, you can browse away with no regard for how much data your YouTube video pulls down.
However, there is a catch. Tethering comes in many different forms with varying effectiveness and legality. The good news is that out of all these methods there is bound to be at least one that works for you. Even if you’re not a rooting genius or haven’t hacked that trusty Android phone at all, you too can still tether. Here’s a couple ways to provide internet to your laptop while away from free Wi-Fi.
Precautions Before Starting
Wireless tethering is incredibly useful. I travel quite a bit to visit my family, and at no point along the journey do I have access to a reliable wireless internet connection. That’s where tethering comes in. With my phone, I still use the internet on my laptop, even in the car or on a bus.
Some of these methods are more legal than others. We at TechNorms do not recommend that you attempt the illegal methods. This is simply for informational purposes and its completely your decision whether you wish to try out these methods or not.
With that said, let’s get started.
These methods are exactly what the title suggests- simple. They don’t require root access and are technically legal. The simple methods by nature don’t offer quite as much functionality, but they still work relatively well in their own limited way.
This is the one hundred percent squeaky clean perfectly legal way to wirelessly tether. Exactly what kind of tethering your carrier might offer varies, but it usually comes out to a monthly fee.
That fee earns you the right to create a genuine wireless network with your data. However, the official carrier tethering solutions tend to cost quite a lot of money. For example, Sprint charges $30 a month to its American customers for wireless tethering. Their tethering also comes with a 5GB monthly cap.
The cap and prohibitively high cost are both major deterrents, at least to me. The only real advantage of using official tethering is that it is completely legal. However, it is very impractical and there are much easier ways to tether.
Tethering Apps (Unrooted)
Once again, the Android Market developers come through with some solid third-party tethering solutions. These apps are also a bit limited, but don’t require root access so they’re open to more people.
EasyTether Lite is my favorite for unrooted tethering. The Lite version is free and works with Windows, Mac, and some popular Linux distros like Ubuntu and Fedora. It comes with a matching program that runs on your laptop.
EasyTether works quite well, in my experience. Just plug your phone into your laptop and it’ll create an internet connection for easy browsing. The catch is that you have to pay in order to access sites that use https (Gmail, Facebook).
The more famous cousin of EasyTether is PdaNet. We have previously seen that tethering with PdaNet is pretty easy. It’s more or less the same thing for EasyTether. Download the app and install the desktop client on your laptop and tada, free internet.
The problem with PdaNet is that it’s not the most welcome face to cell phone carriers. It gives you the option to hide the tether usage from your carrier. No wonder it is currently banned by several carriers, including T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint. You can still install the .apk via a file manager, though.
So you rooted your phone and know how to flash a ROM and change your kernel. Good for you. This section shouldn’t be too hard, then, as rooting opens up far more possibilities for cheaper and better tethering.
Open Garden Wi-Fi Tether
Open Garden is another third party tethering app, kind of like EasyTether. However, Open Garden far surpasses EasyTether as it is totally free and offers more functionality. The only real price is root access.
Open Garden makes tethering super easy. Just tap the icon to start WiFi tethering. You don’t have to have the phone connected to a computer like EasyTether and of course it will connect everything to the internet, not just a laptop.
If you have root access, there’s no contest. Open Garden is by far the best wireless tethering app I’ve found.
Third-party tethering apps are really directed at rooted users who still use the stock HTC Sense ROM, because it’s almost expected for a custom ROM to include free wireless tethering as a built-in feature.
The most popular ROMs like MIUI and CyanogenMod all come with free WiFi tethering. In my experience with those two particular ROMs, the tethering worked just fine. MIUI’s wired tethering was a little glitchy, but wireless tethering is better anyway.
So, if you’re flashing to a ROM, check the list of features. Chances are it includes free wireless tethering in the settings. This type of tethering is preferred because it offers no restrictions whatsoever.
The only real downside to this kind of tethering is that it’s kinda illegal. Carriers can’t really tell if you’re doing it, but AT&T has been known to send a threatening letter or two to people who consume massive amounts of data.
In my opinion, there is really no good reason to stick with the carrier option for tethering. It’s far too expensive and far too limited in functionality. That pesky data cap is like a constant thorn in the side.
If you truly feel the need to stay on the legal side of the road, EasyTether is a legal solution that anybody can download from the Android Market. For those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, rooted tethering is far easier and cheaper than paying the official rates.
Whatever you pick, there’s a tethering solution that should work. Just don’t pick the official one, please.