A big selling point for newer Android devices is their ability to act as Wi-Fi hotspots and provide 3G or 4G internet to your laptop, iPad, or other Wi-Fi-only device. The newer models of phones have this functionality built-in, but the catch is that most carriers see the Wi-Fi hotspot feature as an add-on service, and will charge you anywhere from $20 to $40 for the feature.
Paying an extra $30 a month might be reasonable for business users who need to tether on a daily basis, but what if you just want some quick Internet when you’re out and about or for a few hours during a train ride? Enter android-wifi-tether, a wonderful little app from some open source developers. This app will use your phone’s existing data plan to make the hotspot, and you may be surprised to find out that it works even on some phones that don’t have official support for Wi-Fi tethering from your carrier. Here’s now to get it up and running.
1. Root your phone If you haven’t already. We have guides at the previous link for the Motorola Droid, Nexus S, and Samsung Fascinate, and if you have something else, you’ll be able to find a guide for your phone by Googling for “root (phone).” Rooting can require some technical knowledge, but for the most part it’s fairly painless and there are lots of easy-to-follow instructions online for every phone that can be rooted.
2. Download the appropriate version of android-wifi-tether at the Google Code site. As of this post date, there are versions of android-wifi-tether for many popular phones, including the Droid, Nexus One, HTC Evo, and Samsung Fascinate. Copy the APK file that you downloaded to the root of your phone’s SD card.
3. Install the APK using your favorite file manager. Navigate to the /sdcard folder and tap the APK file you downloaded to install it. From now on, you’ll access the app like you would any other, from inside your app drawer. When it first starts it will ask you to install some program binaries, just hit yes and let it do its thing.
4. Configure wireless tether by opening the “Wireless Tether” app in your app drawer, then hitting the menu button on your phone and selecting “Settings.” In here you can change your security settings (I would suggest turning on encryption so nobody else can access your private network), change your SSID (it defaults to “AndroidTether”), or enable Access-Control, which will prompt you every time a new client tries to connect to your phone and ask for approval. If for whatever reason you don’t want to use encryption or it doesn’t work, Access-Control will still make sure only users you want are connected.
5. Once you’re all set up, just tap the green radio waves to turn on tethering! A few seconds after turning on, you should be able to detect your new network on your iPad, laptop, desktop, or any other device with Wi-Fi connectivity. Keep an eye on your battery if you’re running this app without your phone plugged in, as it tends to drain pretty fast. Other than that, enjoy your new method of connectivity, and keep in mind that if you’re going to be pulling significant data with this app, it might be best to go with the official carrier method.