Using a Droid Phone as a WiFi Hotspot?
November 8, 2010 5:26 AM   Subscribe

Should I replace my MiFi with a hotspot-enabled Droid?

I have a Verizon MiFi that I'm using with my non-3G iPad. And I have an old, non-smart phone that I want to replace. I'm wondering if I should turn off the MiFi and buy a new (probably Droid) phone and use it as my hotspot instead.

I've been reading about this and there seem to be a lot of conflicting reports (not surprisingly). Verizon will sell me a phone that can be a hotspot, for which they'll charge me $20 a month (on top of the minimal data plan for the phone). I forget how much data that's included but it's more than enough for my needs. Currently I pay $30ish a month for my data on the MiFi (again I forget if it's a gig, something that's very adequate for me). I probably use the MIFi several hours a day when I am out with the iPad and there isn't other wireless around.

Another aspect of this is that we use the MiFi when our DSL goes haywire at home (generally for a few days after a big rain -- don't ask). So this is why the individual tether-to-one-device option isn't appealing (not to mention that that seems to require a USB connection, which obviously is not possible with the non-USB-enabled iPad (the USB provided with the camera connection kit would not work for this)).

So -- the hotspot would not just be for me and my iPad, it would need to work with at least three devices (at times).

The guy at the Verizon store told me that the biggest downside to the Droid phone hotspot is that, when you're using it, if you get a phone call, you get knocked offline. This seems to be a TERRIBLE problem, right? Also I've read that using the phone as a hotspot drains the battery quite quickly and that it is recommended that you only do this when the phone is plugged in. Doesn't that seem to defeat the purpose of a mobile phone?

But, still and all, however, etc. -- I'm reading that some people get themselves a hotspot by "rooting" their phones and loading some application on there (there seem to be a few possibilities), and that they (1) are not charged extra for this perhaps "invisible" hotspot and (2) are not getting knocked offline when calls come through.

So, given all of these reports, observations, and my stated needs, here are my questions:

Have you "provided yourself" with your own hotspot by rooting your Droid phone? If so: were/are you being charged for the extra data usage? Do you get knocked offline when a call comes through? What phone model are you doing this with, and would you recommend it to someone else? How's the battery life of your hotspot-enabled phone? Would you recommend replacing the reliability of the MiFi with your Droid-phone hotspot because you're saving a load of money and it's reliable and worth the risks?

Thank you.
posted by DMelanogaster to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Reports of battery draining are accurate. There's no real way around it. Every additional feature we request of our phones increases the battery drain. Wifi hotspot is especially energy intensive.

I'm not sure how people would get around being knocked off the data stream when getting an incoming phone call. CDMA networks (Sprint & Verizon) cann support simultaneous voice and data over the 3G connection.

I guess you could forward your phone to Google Voice and use that as your phone when connected to the Internet.

My guess is that you'll get better performance from the mifi, but I don't have real world experience with them. You can find a number of professional reviews of both the mifi and droid as hotspot.
posted by reddot at 6:17 AM on November 8, 2010


I use my Droid to access the internet using the PDANet app, which has a one-time fee but then after that is free. It does NOT require the Droid to be rooted; mine is not. I have to plug it in to my laptop with a USB cable, but actually I consider that kind of a feature, because I'll I'm using it the Droid is charging at the same time. I found this to be the best solution for me, but if you want to get multiple computers online then it won't work, since you can only plug it in to one at a time.

Also, the performance I've seen is great through the 3G network.
posted by peripatetic007 at 7:57 AM on November 8, 2010


peripatetic077: Yes, my MiFi is on the 3G network and it works great.

What you're doing is called "tethering." I'm not looking to do that because the iPad does not have a USB port, so I cannot physically tether, and I want to have a real "hotspot" so that more than one device can be on the network.

I'm looking to get more info about creating a hotspot via the Droid phone. I don't think PDAnet does that. Sounds like you have a good thing going, especially since you're charging your phone at the same time.

reddot: you say: "CDMA networks (Sprint & Verizon) can support simultaneous voice and data over the 3G connection." Yeah, and yet, when you set up a wireless point, you get knocked off when a phone call comes in! Somehow it's different from using "data" as in e.g. sending e-mail. I don't understand it.

and I just learned from another question that there is something called "babysitting your question" and it's Bad, so I'll stop.
posted by DMelanogaster at 8:05 AM on November 8, 2010


CDMA networks (Sprint & Verizon) cann support simultaneous voice and data over the 3G connection.

FWIW, my Sprint Blackberry 9650 (the newest Sprint Blackberry) cannot.
posted by niles at 8:15 AM on November 8, 2010


I think the "cann" was a typo for "cannot".
posted by kmz at 8:24 AM on November 8, 2010


GSM based 3G networks, (AT&T, T-Mobile) do support using data and voice calls at the same time. I use my T-mobile connected Nexus One for this quite often (no rooting needed, since google sold the device directly, no telecom mucking about with my android). but for CDMA, you're out of luck. I think Sprint's WiMax 4G service can do it, and theoretically Verizon's LTE based 4G should be able to do it, but existing CDMA networks can't do what you're asking.

if you get a Verizon Droid and install a custom ROM like Cyanogenmod, you'll get the wifi tethering too, but no way around the CDMA data or voice limitation.
posted by jrishel at 9:34 AM on November 8, 2010


I have a HTC Hero on Sprint. I rooted it recently and have been using the Wifi Tether app to make it a hotspot for my WiFi iPad. It works fine. I don't use too much data on my iPad, and don't download gigabytes of videos etc, so I don't expect to raise any flags at Sprint. I've not had any extra charges or anything.

I would not recommend my phone for medium to heavy wifi tethering because of the slow processor. You should get one of the latest HTC or Moto android phones with a 1GHz processor. Battery life of course sucks when I use it as a wifi hotspot, but I typically would plug my phone to the wall in this situation.

Rooting was easier than I expected; phone is pretty stable with the CyanogenMod 6.0 build, but I do see rare issues (lockups, reboots etc once in a couple of days). I rooted primarily to make my phone faster (= not sluggish) and that has worked really well.

When you receive or make calls, the data connection will stop on 3G CDMA networks (Sprint and Verizon) unlike 3G GSM networks (AT&T, T-Mo). 4G CDMA networks are supposed to fix that, but I don't know if it works. In any case, you could get around it by using a VOIP-based phone call solution that sends voice over 3G. See this and this.
posted by thewildgreen at 10:45 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, sorry, that was a typo. CDMA does not support simultaneous voice and data.
posted by reddot at 1:27 PM on November 8, 2010


"CDMA networks (Sprint & Verizon) cann(ot) support simultaneous voice and data over the 3G connection."

Will the same be true of 4G, which seems to be coming out in the next year at Verizon?
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:51 AM on November 10, 2010


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