Android 101 -- tethering

Android phones are big on cloud computing, so you gotta stay connected.  Smartphone geeks like to toss the word "tethering" around, but what exactly is it and how do you do it?  Follow along after the jump and we'll break it down for you.

Tethering (at least the way we're using the word) means to use your cellular phones data connection to provide network services to another device.  Your phone uses its 3G connection to send and receive data that's requested by another device, usually through a USB data connection.  It's handy in a pinch if you're somewhere without a dedicated WiFi or other means of getting to the internet, and some people use it as their day-to-day internet connection. 

It's not all wine and roses though.  To start with, it's not the speediest way to get on the net.  Slow cable connections and even most DSL lines are a good bit faster than the average 3G connection.  It's passable, and faster than that old AOL dial-up everyone used ten years ago, but don't expect miracles.  It's also hard on the processor, and in turn battery-intensive.  Even though you'll likely have your phone connected via USB, don't expect it to charge much (if at all) while tethering.

And then there's the whole carrier angle.  I'm not going to sit here and say "Your carrier doesn't care if you tether," or "you'll never get caught." What you need to do is call your cell phone service provider and ask them for their policies.  Save yourself the grief that comes from listening to internet wisdom then getting nailed with a multi-thousand dollar cell bill, or getting your service disconeccted.  I'm serious -- saying "That hillbilly dude from androidcentral.com said I could do it" isn't going to work if your carrier has an issue with you tethering. I promise it wont.

How to tether

There are three basic ways to tether your Android phone to another device -- WiFi, Bluetooth, and USB connection.  We're going to skip past WiFi for now, that section comes later.  We're also going to skip Bluetooth tethering completely.  Why?  Because getting it to work is hit or miss.  If it's your only option, we'll all work it out together (if we can) in the forums.  We're going to keep things basic here.

USB tethering

There are quite a few apps on the market you can use to tether.  We're going to focus on PdaNet.  The free version works great (the drawback is that it blocks secure sites -- upgrade to the full version if you need that), is easy to set up and use, and everybody loves free.  Get it here:

PdaNet

Market Link | AppBrain

PdaNet QR code

Once it's on your phone, run it.  The first time you run the app, you'll see this:

Download PdaNet for the desktop

Unless you've already used it before, you'll need to download the application that goes on your computer.  You can do that right through the app by selecting the "Yes. Let me download" button.  Your browser will open and you'll see this:

PdaNet install files

Choose the version for your computer OS.  It will download, and save itself on your SD card in the download folder.  Plug your phone in and mount the SD card just as if you were transferring pictures or music, and copy the downloaded file to your computer, and run the file.

PdaNet.exe PdaNet installing

If you're using Windows, you may see a warning about the driver software publisher.  You can safely ignore this.  You can also safely ignore warnings about HTC compatibility, provided you have the latest version of HTC sync.

warning successfully installed PdaNet

Now make sure your phone is connected via USB cable to your computer, and is set to charge only, i.e. not as a removable disk.  Open the PdaNet application, and press the "Enable USB Tether" button.  You'll see a notice that PdaNet is running, and you should connect from your computer.

PdaNet running ready!

Jump on your computer, and look for the PdaNet notification icon.  If you're using Windows, it looks something like the first image below.  Click the icon and choose "Connect" from the context menu.  You'll see a couple small dialog windows -- don't worry you won't need to interact with them. When it's finished you'll see a pop up telling you it's connected.

PdaNet ready to connect PdaNet connection tray

connected!

You can open your network settings and verify.  You're looking for an entry named PdaNet Modem.

PdaNet Modem

That's it.  You now have a moderatly fast internet connection for your netbook or laptop or any device that can accept modem connections over USB.  To stop the connection, just press the "Turn Off PdaNet" button in the PdaNet app, and unplug the cable from your phone.

A quick word about SenseUI's mobile network sharing

If you have a phone running Android 2.1 with HTC Sense, mobile network sharing is built into the operating system.  Don't get too excited though, because your carrier decides whether or not it will work.  If you want to try it for yourself, make sure you have the latest version of HTC Sync and plug your phone into your computer.  In the connection options, choose Internet sharing.

SenseUI-ics

If it connects and you see a dialog on your computer, you're good to go.  If you see any dialogs on your phone, especially ones about invalid credentials on the network, it's not going to work.  Chances are that your carrier will only allow this if you have a PAM (Phone As Modem) add-on to your account.

Tethering over WiFi

If you've rooted your phone and have support for iptables installed correctly, you can use Wireless Tether for Root Users to easily tether your phone over WiFi.  I can't provide a direct link, as the version you need depends on the ROM you're using.  Ask the creator or other users which one works best for that particular ROM.  User's of any Gumbo ROM for the Sprint Hero need to select version 1.6 for best results.

Setting it up is easy.  It's a matter of pressing the green button to start it.  Check out the video for a quick demo: 

As you can see in the video, it's so easy a caveman can do it -- and a great way to get internet on other handheld devices without a dedicated wireless connection.

Now contact your carrier to know the rules, download an app, and never be without internet as long as you have your Android phone with you!
 

 
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Android 101: Tethering

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I tether for my internet connection - it's all I use. I'm currently tethered to my Eris, using PDANet (paid) and I'm getting 2.4 Mbps, even while I listen to Slacker through my phone (which is connected to my stereo). Verizon has never charged me anything extra. I have the occasional disconnect, but nothing major and it cranks back up quickly. For the price (FREE) it's great!

Silly me, I assumed the link to the market in the story would work.

What was I thinking?

And yeah, Linux.

How is it they can write a driver for Mac (BSD) and write an App for Android (linux) but can figure out a driver for linux?

Link in the story works just fine for me, as the picture I posted from the Market shows.

Linux needs no driver, set up a USB modem and you're done.

If you looked at the article, you'd see there is a Mac version of the PDANet desktop client.
Linux user? Sorry, grab some Wine.

WILL SPRINT CHARGE ME FOR THIS????

I can only imagine the data rates will be noticed by Sprint if I use this, and I'm getting the EVO. Does anybody know for sure what is safe on Sprint's network and not going to be caught? Or should I just avoid this altogether?

Looking for a serious and truthful reply, please, thanks.

I doubt they will... Especially with them charging you that extra $10/month charge for true uncapped data... So ultimately what difference would it make if you browse a website on your compute or your phone? Data is data.

The thing is that when you tether 2 things happen. #1 you are running double the packets b/c other devices are tapped in along with extra haul to improve the connection so in theory you use 2x+ the amount of data... The second part is that usually if you have a PC hooked up or gaming device they are downloading extreme amounts of data as opposed to youtubing vids on a phone. The data 1 month for phone only can be like 1 gig or so lets say... and then if you tether a few times, it could be closer to 100gigs. That can be picked up a provider, so I was just curious.

I tether via wifi on my Pre but I oly use it about three times a month so data usage is about 1-2 gigs a month. I could only imagine if you were using tethering everyday as your primary source of internet. That would probably be around 20-30 gigs a month.

If you use the tethering for your primary internet connection Sprint might notice the extra usage... but since Sprint is making everyone one pay for the extra "Premium data package" on the EVO they are already expecting you to use more data. I've been using PDAnet for a couple years now and I've never had an issue with it, but I also only use it maybe 8 times a year.

For occasional use, what carrier would notice?
And how? Unless they are doing deep packet inspection, how would they even know that the traffic going across was not going only to the phone?

I work for Sprint and I can honestly tell you that I have only heard of 1 person being contacted about the amount of data usage and that was mostly because he was roaming. I know several customers who use pdanet and no one has ever questioned them about it. Now I'm not saying that they won't but I haven't seen it happen yet.

This is cool. I download Pdanet to my phone awhile ago but never got a around to trying it. Thanks Jerry for posting these quick and simple instructions.

When I first got my Nexus One, I downloaded PdaNet. Now it's not in the Market any more. Anyone know why I can't find it?

When i use the barcode, or the pdanet link to marketplace - it doesn't come up ... I'm using a Nexus One - does that make a difference?

Fyi, Wifi Tether does not work on Motorola Droid 2.1. Barnacle Tether does work tho. Barnacle Tether has a nicer UI as well.

I really am surprised that they didn't touch more on the Bluetooth tethering.

As soon as I got my Motorola Droid, this was the first app I installed (after telling Verizon that I would not pay their $15/Mo tethering fee of course).

Set up was simple, all I did was follow the instructions on the junefabrics site, and bam! Wireless 3G internet!

I will admit that as novel as it is, there is no practical use for tethering via BT, unless its for a short burst of internet on your netbook/laptop and you don't want to grab the sync cable out of your bag.

But, if you are going to be surfing for a while, use the cable. . . might as well charge your phone at the same time.

Works for me, but I have a grandfathered in PAM account. Unless you're paying Sprint for PAM, you're going to get a pcsvision username error when you try.

Yep, that the error we got too. I did try PDANet on my Moment but keep getting hung up on the driver part. I even installed the Moment driver from their site. Could it be becuase I have 2.1 on my phone?

It's possible. Give the app devs a shout and see what he/she/they think. It also could be a windows problem, make sure all the existing drivers are uninstalled and try re-installing them

I am gonna try out EasyTether tonight to see if it works. I don't need tethering that often so this is perfect. Now I won't have to pay that $30 extra to Sprint for Mobile Hotspot on the Evo next month. This will do rather nicely for those rare moments I need internet on the go.

"That hillbilly dude from androidcentral.com said I could do it"

that made me LOL super hard. hahahah

I used PDAnet on a WM5 MotoQ years ago and it worked fairly well. But I tether so infrequently now that I just use the VZW Broadband Connect when I need to. You can fire it up right when you need to tether and automatically enable the tethering feature on your plan (costing $15/mo). When done tethering, just dial *611 and disable the feature. They pro-rate the usage so it ends up costing $.50 per day. To me that is better than risking getting a huge bill or service interruption. Also, if I have any problems I can get support from Verizon.

Hey Guys,

For the record...

I've been with Sprint for over 10 years. I've run PDAnet (paid version) via a Treo (Palm) to a PC (Windows) for over 5 years. I use it 2 days a week, all day, for about 1 - 2GB of data each month.

It is easy to install. It has always run fabulously. I get about 350kb/sec over it (3G), and that's not too bad (it says "2.4Mbs/sec", but that's just a generic max rate). I have a general $15/month data plan with Sprint. They have NEVER bitched, ever, in 5 years.

Sprint has been fantastic, their data plans and service have been fantastic and cheap, the Treo has been fantastic, and PDAnet is the best. I could go on and on about how "worth it" this little app is. Hat's off to June Fabrics (no, I don't work for them).

I'll be getting a HTC EVO on June 4th, and will be getting PDAnet (for Android) as well. I am NOT paying $30/month for that HotSpot service! The $10/month "prem data" sucks, but it could be worse. I expect NO problems at all, and will GLADLY pay for PDAnet again if need be. It'll be interesting to see how the 4G performs via PDAnet. I hope it doesn't set my USB cable on fire! (lol)

I believe Sprint will continue to be cool about it, especially for the additional $10/month on the EVO, and PDAnet to work great as usual. In general, if you're not doing super-gigabyte data usage evey month, Sprint really doesn't seem to care...and why should they, u r paying for it. Data via the phone, or off to an alternate device, is still just data. I wouldn't too big though on the usage though. Try to keep total monthly usage to that which your phone would draw normally. Ur probably safe up to like 5 or 10Gb/month.

Overall, it's been a great setup, has worked daily for years, is cheap as hell, and I just can't tell u how fantastic it has been.

did preorder at Bestbuy for 2 EVO's . One for me and one for my wife. Have used PDAnet on ATT on Windows Mobile. Will not get the hotspot service but will use PDAnet , only bummer is you have to remember to bring your usb cable with. I have tons of usb cables but they are not micro like the evo. Oh well, have to do some shopping on monoprice.com

These instructions are useless for anyone that uses Linux on their laptop. Typical- use Linux on your phone and completely ignore Linux on the desktop. :P

Thanks for the awesome article!

As for those who are looking to tether their Motorola/HTC devices to Ubuntu or Fedora GNU+Linux via the USB cable(no rooting req'd), there are some easy instructions and even an install script here:
http://tinyurl.com/tetherdroid

Cheers!
Shannon VanWagner
humans-enabled.com

Hi

I just installed pdaNet on to Samsung droid charge, When pdanet is accessed from phone it asks to download client version 3.00. When I installed 3.00 on win 7 64 bit during installation pdaNEt to your phone it fails poping up: ":Installer fail to handshake with device"..
Any idea what next.

Some questions were answered but rooting was not my question and I wanted to find out how to tether other not covered devices.

One more for you, I installed got firfi from the apps store. I didn't have to root my phone and I didn't have to use a computer to start it! Very simple. Out allows for Android to be a wifi hot spot. Free!