Will it *really* be impossible to tether the new google phone?
September 23, 2008 8:50 AM   Subscribe

While tethering is officially unsupported on the new Android phone, there is no Apple-style remote-app-killing service. Is there anybody out there familiar with the Android SDK that could tell me if tethering this phone to a laptop to share internet is impossible? Is it something physically unsupported in the SDK, or artificially blocked out by T-Mobile? Or will there be an app out like, 10 minutes after the phone is released?
posted by excitementMD to Technology (17 answers total)
Would it not depend on the TOS with your specific carrier?

(Any carrier which sells smartphones of any type is blatantly stupid not to allow tethering - this would be a deal-breaker in the business crackberry & windows mobile markets)
posted by jkaczor at 9:06 AM on September 23, 2008

Oh - and frankly, I expect that tethering will be impossible to stop on any platform. If a device can connect to a laptop and send/recieve packets - someone will figure out a way to route 'em... be it proxy, HTTPS tunnels, DNS tunneling or something.
posted by jkaczor at 9:07 AM on September 23, 2008

Well, TOS be damned, I'm just wondering if someone could technically write an app to do it. If I buy an unlimited data plan, why can I not use that data however I choose? T-Mobile would be none the wiser about my internet activities if I were tethered, so what they don't know won't hurt them.
posted by excitementMD at 9:09 AM on September 23, 2008

jkaczor - do you understand the concept of bandwidth, and how it can be measured by your carrier? If they allow tethering, they will charge more for data. If they don't, then they'll cut you off.
posted by mpls2 at 9:11 AM on September 23, 2008

mpls2 - they say $25 for unlimited data. It's gonna appear to be coming from the phone whether you're tethering or not, so the t-mobile shouldn't really care. I mean, if you're pulling torrents all day every day that might raise a flag, but if I'm doing normal surfing on a laptop through the phone, I don't see why that would raise their concerns or even be malicious.
posted by excitementMD at 9:15 AM on September 23, 2008

I've been playing with the SDK, and given how open it is, while direct Bluetooth pairing may not be possible, it won't be hard to set up a proxy similar to NetShare.
posted by AaRdVarK at 9:15 AM on September 23, 2008

they say $25 for unlimited data

There's unlimited data, and then there's unlimited data, you know? People start doing this, especially if the TOS forbids, then something is bound to happen.

I have no idea what that something is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:27 AM on September 23, 2008

Verizon frowns on tethering, as well. From what I understand, should they discover* that a customer is tethering anyway, they'll charge for the out of TOS usage, at the going rate ($1.99 per MB).

*By monitoring usage levels?
posted by notyou at 9:39 AM on September 23, 2008

I'm with you, but my feeling is, if they have a web browser on the phone, and YouTube and mp3 streaming on the phone, why can't I link it to my laptop and benefit from a real keyboard and bigger screen, just doing the same things the phone already does? I would be utilizing their service exactly as much as I would on the phone. I believe it is wrong to make me pay a huge extra monthly fee for that. Imagine if companies started charging me extra to use a bluetooth headset to talk! It makes ZERO difference to the company, but they charge me anyways. It's absurd.
posted by excitementMD at 9:40 AM on September 23, 2008

why can't I link it to my laptop and benefit from a real keyboard and bigger screen, just doing the same things the phone already does?

'cause they're lawyer said so and he's bigger.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:51 AM on September 23, 2008

In the treo world you can do tethering without paying Sprint for "Phone as Modem" using a little app called PDANet. If they can develop an app for this on WM and Palm OS without carrier permission then they surely can do this for android. Id be surprised if it wasnt feasible.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:55 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

This article from last year indicates that T-Mobile's data plans allow tethering with a supported device. I also found a forum post where a T-Mobile Blackberry user claimed to have tethered his BB to his laptop and used his unlimited mobile data plan that way.

Note that it's likely that the G1 will not get very good data rates outside of 3G coverage areas.
posted by GuyZero at 10:20 AM on September 23, 2008

For what it's worth:
I'm on T-Mo, and have used my BB as a modem (as GuyZero mentioned). So far, I haven't seen any extra charges on my bill or anything to make me think that function is limited - or that it only applies to BlackBerry phones. Best option is to call T-Mobile and ask yourself.
posted by juicedigital at 11:47 AM on September 23, 2008

The phone carriers that are offering unlimited data are pretty clear that its only for applications running on your phone. You can argue all you want about whether or not you would be using any more data if you were doing the same activities with your laptop, that's not what you are paying for. Personally, I don't buy the argument that you'd have the same usage while tethering. Why do you want to tether? Because you'll benefit from a real keyboard and a bigger screen. Those aren't going to change your usage patterns? I use my iPhone to browse a lot, but I whip through a lot more pages on my PC, not to mention being more likely to look at video, etc.

In any case, people have long been tethering without paying for a tethering plan. Some have gotten caught, some having. It sounds like the carriers are cracking down more though, so it may not be as easy to get away with. In the past, most people who got caught seemed to have extraordinarily high bandwidth usage, which attracted attention. These days though, its becoming practical for carriers to inspect each packet. Its conceivable that they'll be looking for obvious hallmarks of tethering, like the browser version string in HTTP requests, or other signs.

Besides, the T-mobile contract says that they can throttled your access to a lower speed once you go over 1GB of transfer in a billing cycle.
posted by Good Brain at 1:38 PM on September 23, 2008

Have you seen the all-you-can buffet episode of the Simpsons? There are informal conventions that dictate what "unlimited" means. A certain type of semi-autistic geek finds informal rules to be an oxymoron.

It absolutely makes a difference to T-Mobile whether you tether or not. Very small groups of people can blow out an entire cell.
posted by Wood at 2:25 PM on September 23, 2008

the CEO of tmobile said that while it's not supported, they won't prevent it. I can find the link for you if you need it.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:26 PM on September 23, 2008

This post on GigaOm indicates that it will not be allowed. :(

To quote: "UPDATE: T-Mobile stated during the G1 press conference today that tethering with the G1 is not possible. It is not clear if they are simply forbidding it or if they are blocking the ability on the phone/ network."
posted by GuyZero at 4:48 PM on September 23, 2008

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