Where there's a will, there's a way. Smartphone users and developers are a resourceful bunch. Faced with pesky obstacles like high prices for tethering
or lack of carrier support for tethering, they've found ways to work around these obstacles through custom software applications, jailbreaking
, and other desperate measures to get their mobile devices online. The Android tethering apps below, downloadable from Android Market, will turn your Droid, Evo, or other Android phone into a modem for your laptop or desktop computer pretty easily.
Screengrab by Melanie Pinola
PdaNet is one of the most popular tethering apps for most mobile platforms. It allows you to use your Android phone's data connection on your laptop via USB cable or bluetooth, is said to be the fastest tethering option for Android, and doesn't require you to root
your phone. Although you can continue to use it for free after the trial period, the paid (~$25) version will let you access secure websites over the tethered connection. See step-by-step instructions
for using PdaNet with your Android phone.
Barnacle Wifi Tethering App - screenshot by Melanie Pinola
Barnacle Wifi Tether turns your Android phone into a portable wireless hotspot (or ad-hoc access point) for other devices (your PC/Mac/Linux, iOS/iPad, even Xbox). No software needs to be installed on the PC side and no custom kernel on the smartphone, but it does require rooting
your phone. The app is open source but if you like it and want to support the developers, you can buy the inexpensive paid version to donate. It also supports WEP encryption, but bear in mind that WEP is really not a secure protocol
AndroidTethering App - screenshot by Melanie Pinola
Like PdaNet, AndroidTether is an app you install on your Android phone and also software you install on the PC, Mac, or Linux client. It enables tethering over USB and doesn't require root access. The full version is about $13 (less than PdaNet), but the difference between the paid and the free app is unclear. Confusingly, there's also another app by the same developers called "Tethering" which appears to be the same thing.
Easy Tether App - screenshot by Melanie Pinola
Another less expensive alternative to PdaNet, Easy Tether works with Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu and can also tether your gaming system (PS3, Xbox, or Wii). USB tethering is available now with Bluetooth DUN
coming later. Try the demo version (EasyTether Lite) to make sure the software works for your device before getting the $9.99 full version.
Android Tether App - screengrab by Melanie Pinola
Tether has a wide userbase and reviews indicate that Internet speeds using the tethering app can be very fast (as high as 7 Mbps!). Tether works with Mac and PCs over USB only, and otherwise works like PdaNet in that you install the app on your Android phone and also on the client computer. A free trial is available and the full version costs $29.95, but there's a 30-day moneyback guarantee. Note: Despite the positive reviews, I didn't install Tether because my mobile antivirus app said there was something suspicious about the downloaded app -- just a word of caution.
A few important notes:
Speaking of caution and disclaimers: Some -- or many -- of these apps are not officially supported by the carriers and manufacturers. For certain devices you may need to hack your phone or get root access -- definitely not something supported by mobile companies. These are very much "use at your own risk" solutions, and you need to make sure that your wireless contract doesn't expressly forbid tethering or using your phone as a modem.
If it's too much of a hassle getting your cell phone to hook up to your computer, consider mobile broadband service specifically for your laptop. There are prepaid and daily use options as well as monthly data subscriptions that are comparable to the tethering data plans offered by AT&T and Verizon.