How can connect my laptop to the Internet via a mobile phone?
November 7, 2011 6:02 PM   Subscribe

How can connect my laptop to the Internet via a mobile phone?

I'd like to be able to get on the Internet with my laptop without having to find a wireless hot spot and buy coffee I don't want. Assuming I'm willing to buy a new phone (or a used one on Craigslist) and switch to any carrier, is there a way to do that?

If so, what's the best combination of phone and carrier?

I've been using an iPhone 3GS on AT&T. I'm willing to switch to Android, but I'm curious to know whether there's some way to do this using an iPhone.

However, to be clear, I'm not that attached to the iPhone. Android would be fine.

I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

posted by eeby to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Verizon has a way to do that, keep in mind that you will not be able to take a call while you are using the phone as your wifi provider.
posted by Yellow at 6:08 PM on November 7, 2011

The term you want is "tethering". The iPhone is capable of tethering, but it's disabled by AT&T and may require jailbreaking (?) to enable. If you search for "iphone tethering", you'll find an overload of information about this; not being an iPhone owner, I can't speak to its accuracy.

My Android phone on T-Mobile has tethering enabled, and it's surprisingly easy to use... but I don't know if this is true for all android + carrier combinations.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:11 PM on November 7, 2011

This is known as 'tethering' or a 'Personal Hotspot' for the iphone (Apple Support page, also links to list of carriers that allow it).
To do this on ATT you need to get a particular data plan that allows it, no matter what phone you have.

I know that some android phones can do it, don't know more details.
posted by jacalata at 6:12 PM on November 7, 2011

I'm using an app called PdaNet on my Android phone (verizon) to do a usb tether to my Mac. Works like a charm.

Be aware of data charges, you can no longer get an unlimited data plan from Verizon.
posted by HuronBob at 6:22 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

The iPhone is capable of tethering, but it's disabled by AT&T and may require jailbreaking (?) to enable.

This used to be the case, but is no longer the case, as long as you have a data plan that allows it.
posted by ericost at 6:43 PM on November 7, 2011

Starting with Android 2.2 (Froyo), the option to tether is built-in to the OS so you don't need a separate app. It's as simple as going into your wireless settings and checking on the portable wifi hotspot option. However, I've heard that some phones omit this setting and that some carriers charge to tether. I have a prepaid unlimited data plan from T-Mobile and an HTC HD2 (running a rooted Android ROM) and I tether my Touchpad tablet to my phone every day without any additional charges. It works wonderfully except that tethering seriously kills my phone's battery, but since I mostly tether when I'm at work I tend to just keep my phone plugged in and constantly charging. Also, I can use my phone normally while the hotspot is active.
posted by eunoia at 6:52 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's pretty simple to tether your iPhone with ATT, you just need to have the 'Data Pro 4GB' plan for it to work.

Go to Settings>General>Network>Personal Hotspot

Then turn on 'Personal Hotspot', and you''ll be shown a password that allows you to either connect via WiFi, Bluetooth or with a USB cable.

It actually works pretty well overall. Just keep an eye on your data usage, especially if you're watching vids or downloading. It is really easy to burn through a ton of data very quickly.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 7:22 PM on November 7, 2011

Jailbreak and install mywi.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:40 PM on November 7, 2011

The easy way: keep your phone, call AT&T, add a hotspot package

The cheap way: keep your phone, jailbreak it, and tether it

The fun way: buy a new phone, either an android or an iphone, and do this.

It does eat your battery but I use the hotspot via USB so it's charging from the battery the whole time anyway. If you're not plugging in your laptop, an external battery is another option.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:22 AM on November 8, 2011

There is no need to get a new phone.
You are able to use iPhone 3GS to tether.
It is USB or Bluetooth only.
If yours is not able to, your OS is too old (needs to be 4.0 or higher)

If you want WiFi tethering, you'll need to get 4 or 4S or Android Froyo.

You do have to have an additional plan before you can do it.
I believe as someone mentioned above, you'll need "Data Pro 4GB".
posted by 7life at 2:36 PM on November 8, 2011

Once you do have the data plan, to enable it, go to Settings -> Personal Hotspot (under WiFi).
Or Settings -> General -> Network -> Personal Hotspot

Once it's turned on, connect it to your PC. The top part of your phone will be blue to show that you're tethered.
That's all you need to do.
posted by 7life at 2:39 PM on November 8, 2011

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