Tethering Explained: How to Turn Your Phone Into Your Own Wifi Connection On The Go

Smartphones today come with a multitude of great features that can truly enhance your online life. One of the best features — and sometimes the most costly — is called tethering. Tethering is one of the most useful features of an iPhone or Android device, allowing you to connect devices like your laptop or tablet to the internet through your smartphone.

 

Since smartphone use became prevalent, the ability to use tethering has come with extra charges imposed by cellular carriers, even though tethering uses the same data that allows you to check your email or surf the web on your phone. Thanks to the FCC, however, these fees may soon be a thing of the past.

 

 

What is tethering?

Simply put, tethering allows you to share the internet connection of one device with other devices. Most modern Android devices, along with the iPhone and iPad (3G or 4G versions), allow you to connect several devices at once.

 

Tethering can be used over USB, bluetooth, or wifi. For instance, if you have a wifi-only iPad and a 4G Android smartphone, you can share your phone’s 4G connection with your iPad, letting you connect it to the internet even when you don’t have wifi access.

 

How do I use tethering?

In most instances, tethering is very simple to use. The iPhone and iPad (3G and 4G versions) have the feature built right into the iOS software. Android devices have a great selection of third-party apps available through Google Play. Tethering can refer to connecting one device to your phone or turning your phone into a so-called “mobile hotspot” that broadcasts a wifi signal that multiple devices can utilize.

 

Beyond putting your phone to good use, standalone devices also known as mobile wifi hotspots (often called MiFis by carriers) are created solely for the purpose of tethering. Mobile wifi hotspots are sold with two-year contracts and data plans or as prepaid devices. The major benefit of a mobile hotspot is preserving your device’s battery life, since tethering can drain the battery of your smartphone or tablet much more quickly than normal use.

 

 

How much does it cost?

Most carriers charge about $15 to $20 a month for tethering on top of your existing smartphone data plan. This seems to be changing, thanks to a settlement between Verizon and the FCC. Carriers such as Verizon have been blocking third-party tethering apps from Google Play and forcing users to pay for tethering on top of their existing data plans, even though tethering utilizes the same data as, say, using your phone to check your email.

 

These restrictions seem to be loosening under new shared data plans from Verizon and AT&T. Both carriers now charge for tethering the same as any other data usage, with no extra charge on top of your existing data plan.

 

Mobile hotspots can be a little more expensive, depending on how much data you use. Plans can run anywhere from $15 a month for 250MB of data on a prepaid plan to $110 a month for 20GB of data with a two-year contract from Verizon.

 

Do I need tethering?

With abundant wifi, few people actually need tethering on a consistent basis, and most won’t enjoy the extra charges that can come with it. That said, tethering can be a great help if you frequently have multiple devices with you and no wifi connection handy. With the arrival of new data plans from the two biggest carriers in America favoring download-intensive uses, however, tethering is poised to become much more common among smartphone users.

 

[Image credits: dhSVTP, BasL]

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Micah Singleton is a technology journalist and author. Micah is the founder and editor-in-chief of Current Editorials and associate editor for Tecca. He is the author of Anonymous: The Internet’s Bouncer and Waning Influence: The iPhone’s Social Position and The Rise of Android, both of which are available on Amazon. Micah has written for or been syndicated to Yahoo, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, Black Web 2.0, and more. Tecca is a next-generation personal electronics information and shopping service. We bring together the web’s leading content, commerce, and community features to provide comprehensive solutions for consumers’ ever-growing technology needs. Think of us as that tech savvy friend who helps you when you have questions about what to buy, what to pay, how to make the most of you already have, and when it’s time to upgrade. Get to know us on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.

Micah Singleton
Micah Singleton
Micah Singleton is a technology journalist and author. Micah is the founder and editor-in-chief of Current Editorials and associate editor for Tecca. He is the author of Anonymous: The Internet's Bouncer and Waning Influence: The iPhone's Social Position and The Rise of Android, both of which are available on Amazon. Micah has written for or been syndicated to Yahoo, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, Black Web 2.0, and more. Tecca is a next-generation personal electronics information and shopping service.
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  • http://countingthedaystofinancialfreedom.blogspot.com/ Deborah Howell

    Tethering, learning something everyday. Now will this work with smartphone and Kindle Fire? Newbie, that I am is just wondering…

  • guest

    Tethering is also built into Android and has been for a long time, in the vanilla versions at any rate, I suppose some telco’s may have removed this feature

    • http://second-amendment.tripod.com/ daveca

      Of course its nothing new, just some idiot writing a tech column just discoved it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roger-Dodger/100003671193915 Roger Dodger

        Not everyone wastes their time keeping up with the ceaseless advances in technology that we see everyday in consumer electronics. Older people have been around long enough and are wise enough to realize that is a losing game, so to speak. Many take the approach of letting others expend the effort of figuring out is not worthwhile (8-track, laser disk, Windows Vista) and thereby save money and time. Thus, articles of “old” material can be educational to many readers. Additionally, such articles can serve as refreshers and perhaps even reminders that one might consider the use of tethering.

      • poppakap

        Who pissed in your wheaties dude? Enjoy being a prick much?

  • http://second-amendment.tripod.com/ daveca

    Who is the illiterate oaf that wrote this drivel?

    “For instance, if you have a wifi-only iPad and a 4G Android smartphone,
    you can share your phone’s 4G connection with your iPad, letting you connect it to the internet even when you don’t have wifi access.”

    Is there ANYONE these days able to cobble together a coherent sentence in the Kings English without attempting to make it a game of PROJECTION?

    There is NOTHING in the topic that has to do with “me” or “you”. It is subjective, about a telephone, not about “me” and “you”.

    What arrrogance! This writer thinks he/she can go around granting permission for “you” to do this…

    Writer, try really hard to edit that to remove the personal pronouns, it make you look childish and arrogant. A TWELVE YEAR OLD speaks and writes like that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roger-Dodger/100003671193915 Roger Dodger

      YOU can bet that over 99.997+/-0.002999% of the North American English speakers within in the United States speak that way. Given that this article is tailored to that audience, one should find the use of personal pronouns more than acceptable. One would find oneself quite lucky to conduct a random sample of twenty people within the United States and find that at least one of those people does not employ the convention of personal pronouns instead of non-personal pronouns. Given that there is absolutely NO final authority for America English grammar (except perhaps the population itself), the extreme prevalence of the use of this form is more than acceptable. If you disagree, that is your right, but nearly all others would find your “anal-retentive” reaction quite silly and possibly even disturbing.

      • http://www.facebook.com/raven.sarver Ravenna Lea Sarver

        I agree. There was nothing wrong with the grammar of the article.

    • poppakap

      All hail the Grammar Enforcer Daveca!

    • http://www.facebook.com/tina.moini Tina Moini

      hilarious to read daveca ranting about coherent Kings English………..any King in mind? America has no King, Britain has no King, AND if they did surely it would be King’s English not Kings English??????

  • http://www.webtronia.com/ Stalyn

    One would have to jailbreak on the iPhone to do this. I/m not ready for that yet.

    • http://Gnarlodious.com/ Gnarlodious

      I don’t know what you mean, my iPhone has built-in USB and WiFi tethering. And it works good.

  • http://Gnarlodious.com/ Gnarlodious

    Unfortunately tethering causes excessive data usage by home computers, resulting in slow service to mobile users who are the real subscribers of the service. Tethering needs to be put on a lower priority to give mobile users faster access.

    • danguss

      Huh? The people using tethering are just as “real” as you are.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZCI6GA4R5YWYO2MRP6OD2BRWXM Ryan

      Then limit the amount of data that you can ‘tether’ to 25 MB a day and not charge a monthly fee for it. Everyone would be able to check the basic websites and e-mail from where ever, and the people who need more can pay the monthly fee.

  • salaam

    huuufff

  • salaam

    rrrrrrrrrrrrrr