Get Yourself Tethered

Last month we talked about a service called “Boingo” that gives you free access to Wi-Fi hotspots that would otherwise require a usage fee. At $9.95 a month, using it even once during the month would make it worth the cost.
But there’s a solution that lets you use your Smartphone as a modem. First, a little background, and another interesting point in the iPhone vs. Android debate...

Tonight There’s Going to be a Jailbreak...
There’s no debating that the original iPhone was a significant break­through technology. It single-handedly transformed the mobile phone from a device used for making the information hub of our lives.

Apple’s ad campaign, “Yeah, there’s an app for that...” captured and communicated this potential brilliantly. And yet it did come with a cost.

I’m not talking about the side effect of people spending too much time buried in their phones like addicts needing a fix, or even the strange phenom­enon of three middle-school kids walking together, side-by-side, in a mall, texting...each other!

This “cost” I’m referring to is the limitation of exactly which apps could be loaded onto the iPhone. The only “official” way to do this is through the App Store, and Apple is the sole and final arbiter of what’s available there.

If there are apps or utilities or content you want to install that aren’t avail­able in the App Store (called “sideloading”), you have to “jailbreak” your phone, a process that essentially modifies the internal operating-system code.

There are two main problems with doing this: first, it can void the phone’s warranty with Apple; and, second, when you mess with an operating system, you’re potentially playing with fire–there’s a lot going on at that level that makes the device work, and tinkering with it can render the device useless.

Android phones, in contrast, don’t have anywhere near the level of restric­tions on “sideloading” apps. In fact, downloading apps from sources other than the official Google Play site is fairly easy.

It’s Easy to Tether!
So with our technology lesson for the day completed, let’s look at the op­portunity in front of us.

With 4G speeds giving our phones data speeds nearly as fast as cable and DSL, there’s a real opportunity: wouldn’t it be great to use your Smartphone as a modem–connecting the phone to your computer and taking advantage of the phone’s data networking capabilities to access the internet?

Well, there are several Android apps that make this possible, and my favorite is Easy Tether.

Easy_Tether 1

It’s really easy to install: you download an app to your phone, download the driver to your computer, plug the phone into the computer using the USB charge/sync cable (or use Bluetooth if your computer has it), and you’re good to go.

Turn on the app on the phone, turn on the Easy Tether app on the com­puter, and you’re connected. Simple as that.

If you’re in an area that has 4G coverage, then you’ll have really fast Inter­net access. And even if you’re in a 3G coverage area, you’ll still have internet access, but at the slower 3G data speeds.

The software is compatible with all major operating systems, and includes some great features:

• USB tethering support for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux computers and Android tablets
• Bluetooth tethering support for Android tablets
• Does not require root access
• Compatible with Windows 8/7/Vista/XP (32-bit and 64-bit), Mac OS X 10.4+ (up to 10.8), Ubuntu 10.4+, Fedora 13+     computers
• Compatible with Android 4.0+ tablets
• Free lifetime upgrades for the full version

You Can’t Beat the Price...
There’s a free “Lite” version that works except that it restricts access to secure (https:) sites. This is used primarily for confirming that it will work with your own configuration. Once you’re there, though, you can upgrade to the full version for just $9.99!

Of course, this capability isn’t designed or intended to replace your main Wi-Fi or Internet connection, and you need to understand your carrier’s data plan so you don’t run up some serious charges on your bill, but this can be a great tool to use when you’re away from your home or office and don’t have easy access to a network.