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Google just made tethering dead simple on Pixel and Nexus devices

Google has just turned on a feature called Instant Tethering, allowing Nexus and Pixel phones and tablets to share internet connections automatically, as long as they are connected to the same Google profile.

Announced on the company's support forum, the feature is a part of the new Google Play Services (so it may not be available for everyone just yet) and can be accessed through the Settings --> Google --> Instant Tethering menu. The feature, according to Google, is enabled by default on all compatible devices, through Play Services.

The idea is simple: the "host," which is a Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, or Nexus 6P running Android 7.1.1 and up, automatically puts out a notification to a compatible receiver — Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel C, or Nexus 9 running Android 6.0 and up — to accept an internet connection. That's it.

Such a feature has been available for some time in the Apple ecosystem, allowing iPhones and connected iPads to share cellular connections with other iPhones, iPads and Macs, using the same iCloud login. For its part, Google says Instant Tethering is very cognizant of battery life and usage, and won't offer a phone's connection if battery life is low.

When you unlock a tablet such as the Pixel C, it will notice if there is no internet connection available, and will ask your Pixel phone if it has internet and battery life. If it does, we will give you an option to enable a secure hotspot and pair automagically, without even taking your phone out of your pocket.

When you are done, if you don't disconnect, we will notice that you stopped using your tablet and we will disconnect the hotspot for you to save your precious battery throughout the day.

Are you excited about Instant Tethering? Will you use it? Let us know in the comments!

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

36 Comments
  • I just want to be able to purchase a Pixel XL 128GB , TODAY and get it in a few days if ordering online. Or walk into a Best Buy or Verizon Store for one.
  • Guess what...you can!
  • Except right now on the VZW website shows the phone back ordered. Google shows 3 10 2017 if not later.
  • When I purchases my Verizon pixel xl 128GB from Verizon they also told me it would be about a month or so before it would be shipped. I received it in less than 2 weeks and that was during the Christmas rush. I think they are just hedging their shipping times due to demand. They seem to come sooner rather than later.
  • It's a shame this doesn't work with Chromebooks.
  • yes! with the current lack of chromebook offerings that exclude LTE, this would be very useful
  • I think you meant 'include' LTE...
  • That was my first thought too
  • How do the telecom companies feel about this? Basically sidestepping their tethering price packages.
  • I think my ProjectFi provider will be fine with it.
  • They could block it off they wanted. You could bypass that with root but most people wouldn't know how.
  • Is that a reason to download 7.1 on my Nexus 6? Tethering isn't that hard even without the new feature. Project Fi hasn't given me an over the air update to 7.
  • Telecoms are still and will forever limit what everyone can do with their phones. No one wants to pay for any tethering. It becomes a messy expensive bargain. I would love to offer my phones service to my daughter of she has to do school work on her ipad, but Sprint limits us and buckle and dime's up to death.
    I can't wait to try fi. Maybe a little freedom is what telecoms need. I know no service is perfect, but FI is heading in the right direction. Fair price for fair use.
  • Really nice! Will come in handy with my tablet for sure! I will definitely use it.
  • Tethering limits should be illegal. Your paying for the data and you shouldn't have to pay extra to use it on your nearby device.
  • I don't. Do you?
  • I don't pay for tethering on Verizon. A possible upside to Verizon service? Can't be possible...
  • "Illegal" is a strong word. You have the freedom to choose another carrier if you don't like the policies of your current one. There's no reason to get the government involved.
  • not so much illegal given you aren't forced to wield a cellphone, morally questionable yes. Gone were the unlimited data days, when speeds got decent people took advantage of their unlimited data plans and replaced their home ISP - clogged network, bad service for those who actually just used their phone etc. So they made changes. The greedy consumers who took advantage of this loophole caused this whole limited ' unlimited ' data plan. Its one thing if you just happen to use your phone to consume data, but when you purposely run torrents, video streaming, etc. using upwards of over 100gb plus a month - imagine if ever subscriber did this - is it greed on the carriers of COURSE they are a business for profit - does technology exist where the hardware can handle 'unlimited' data cap traffic...I am not sure idk - anything is possible. That said, we pay for a rate plan and how we chose to use said rate plan shouldn't be limited, thus you pay x amount for x GB of data to use however you see fit - this was clever on their part cause now we have no argument - other than those who have ' unlimited ' data with congested data throttle reduced speeds and a set # of gb for hotspot if your 'phone' data is unlimited - idk its a conundrum because you have those who are given an inch and take a mile, and the carriers want their $ we want quality reliable service. I do believe that there is a hardware restriction coupled with the $ they make from providing the service so idk if its ALL on them - but they onus is on them to figure it out and we have to also be accountable -
  • You must not live in the US (guessing) -- Since all the US carriers have to allow tethering w/ plans on data limits. As you said data is data -- tether or phone so those in the US don't pay extra if they're on a limited plan. Only on unlimited plans is where the limits come in.
  • Don't worry about the tel company. I've been tethering my phone and laptop since I had a Motorola RAZR (the flip phone). First with cable, later wifi. Verizon doesn't seem to be bothered by it. Root and custom ROM makes it easier but FoxFi or EasyTether work perfectly on any non rooted phone. I honestly would even pay 10 bucks for the service but those greedy bastards don't give it to us that cheap. So we cheat!
  • Same here, bought a 6p to use on Verizon with grandfathered unlimited, tethering became just a quick toggle to share with anyone. Mostly I Stream Netflix on a tethered tablet, during car rides, with no fuss from big red!
  • Finally! iOS and macOS have had this for ages. I was wondering if/when Android might catch up.
  • Well, technically, it hasn't. Google's specific version of Android has the feature.. no one else.
  • Reading the comments us a European i don't even know what you are talking about. What's this "tethering limit"? (Not sarcastically).
  • Canadian here - same question... :)
  • I would be excited about it if I happened to own a Nexus phone AND a Nexus tablet... Oh wait.. I do.. I own two different Nexus phones and two Nexus tablets... except this feature will only come to one of them.
  • This feature is nice, except for needing a unlimited data plan and needing an unlocked device. This should work really nice if you own a Pixel on Sprint or T-Mobile.
  • Any info on if this will come to older devices? Or will this be only a Android 7 item
  • You won't get this to work with unlimited AT&T.
  • I was wondering the same. Im on Cricket and damn its hard even with root to get this working on my OP3T running CM14.1. Anyone know a work around?
  • It is so dead simple that everyone is writing the same thing about it. How about a video showing this dead simple thing connecting to another device. I have my pixel XL ready with my MacBook and iPad...s/
  • It is as simple as reading a whole article before posting...
  • It should work with *any* Android device you're connected to with your Google account.
    It's a shame it's only on selected devices.
  • You can find apps in Google Play that do basically the same thing. Search for Blueooth Tethering Manager. It does not involve Google account to pair devices, but It greatly simplifies the connection process.
  • What makes you think it wont come to other devices? You need the most recent version of Android, and right now Nexus and Pixle devices are the only ones with it. I'm sure that will change when other manufacturers start pushing 7.1