Bluetooth Internet Tethering Just Saved the Day


iphone-internet-tetheringI met a old colleague and friend this morning at Starbucks (s sbux) before work today. Now that he’s off to his job, I can start mine. At least, that’s what I thought. Since I’m still on the fence about keeping a dedicated EVDO plan, I’ve been leaving the USB adapter at home. I usually use the Boingo Wi-Fi network, which is a much less expensive $10 a month. For some reason, the Boingo client isn’t recognizing the Wi-Fi network at this location. My Wi-Fi adapter can see the attwifi network, but Boingo can’t. I’m sure it’s a one-time glitch, as the Boingo software is usually quite reliable. But when you need connectivity and can’t get it, that one-time glitch can be painful.

Since I do have both my iPhone 3GS (s AAPL) and my Palm Pre (s PALM), I already have two 3G devices with me. Seems a shame that we seem to need different 3G devices for specific purposes, but that’s the way of the cellular world these days. At this point, I’m online using the non-supported iPhone Internet Tethering feature of the 3GS. I enabled it as a backup plan, and I’m so glad I did. It’s perfect in this particular case. I was listening to music over Bluetooth with my iPhone, so switched that function over to the Pre. This way, I have wireless tunes to go with my wireless Internet. ;)

iphone-3gs-speedtestA quick speed test of the Internet Tethering over Bluetooth yielded very usable results. I’m seeing downloads of 1.65MBps and uploads of 310kbps, which is perfectly fine for my web work. I didn’t even need to bring a USB cable with me, either. Personally, I can’t wait for AT&T (s T) to nail down its pricing plan for the feature. While I’d love for it to be free, I am willing to pay for a value-add service. The experience has me really reconsidering the entire 3G space, though. Is there really a need to have 3G in multiple devices when the connection can simply be shared or used for another purpose? I’m getting tired of multiple 3G data plans and devices…


Bill in NC

Find a good friend with AT&T DSL and use their login for free wi-fi at starbucks & mcdonalds.

As for multiple devices, my ancient E815 cellphone tethers just fine via bluetooth.

Russ Rosier

I think there’s great utility at having 3G data plans on multiple carriers. My experience is with both AT&T (via iPhone 3GS) and Verizon Wireless (via MiFi 2200).

I found too many instances where my AT&T WWAN connection is either terribly slow on their 3G network, has can only connect to their EDGE network, or is otherwise totally unavailable. By having the Novatel MiFi 2200 handy, I can simply side-step those issues entirely and benefit from the reliablitity and sustained performance of EV-DO Rev A using my iPhone 3GS, one of my laptops, or some other wi-fi device.

Andre Kibbe

James, allow me to let you in on dirty little secret: I’ve spent hours at a time a many Starbucks, and my WiFi connection has never been cut off. The baristas will tell you there’s a 2-hour limit, no doubt to discourage campers, but try sticking around for a few hours.

This is in contrast to The Coffe Bean, where there free wireless requires no card purchase, but times out for 10 minutes after 2 hours.


How is it a value-add service when they’re making you pay for something they purposely crippled in the first place?

My friends always think I’m “crazy” for buying my phones unlocked. They’ll remark “how can you spend $400-800 on a phone?”

My response is “you’ll end up spending nearly $1000 more than me in service fees over the life of your 2 year contract and I can use all of the features of my phone during that time.”


No. I already pay for the data, they don’t get to charge me to use it. ATT can suck my sack if they think they can gauge another $$ for something I already pay for (see SMNS vs data). Don’t forget they are going to rape everyone for MMSMS too.


Boy, Kevin, I’ve been going through the exact same thought processes lately. Mi-fi would be handy, but the 200MB plan is too small and the 5GB too expensive.

I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to stick to ICS and/or WMWiFiRouter to turn my WinMob phone into an access point. I view it that I’m already paying for 5GB of data (on my so-called unlimited phone plan), and I don’t come near using it. Might as well put it to service for myself.

But, unlike you, I would not pay for it as an add-on. To my mind, that’s just charging me twice for the same access. Whether I use the data on the phone or pass it through to another device should be of no concern to my carrier.

James Kendrick

I hear you loud and clear on that. Unfortunately the carriers make the rules and they also sometimes enforce them.


They do, indeed, James. My bet is that this will change over time as consumers become more sophisticated about the possibilities. Right now, most of the services they charge extra for are available for free (or very cheap), if you have the time/desire/opportunity to implement the options. (I’m thinking about tethering, video and audio streaming, GPS, visual voice mail, ringtones, etc.) For many people, it’s much easier to throw another $10/month at the carrier for a service than it is to spend the time to seek other options. So, the carriers would be idiots not to cash in. That’ll change soon, though…


So Kevin, you don’t have a Starbucks card that gives you two hours of free AT&T wifi each day?

Kevin C. Tofel

Nope. Two hours generally isn’t enough for me to begin with. My average time in a Starbucks is over 3 hours, so relying upon the Starbucks card isn’t a feasible solution for me.


Get two Starbucks cards. :)

Personally, I cannot stand the Starbucks atmosphere for more than 90 mins :) Too noisy, too many overly important people having long/loud phone conversations. And often too cold (A/C cranked up).


I’m curious that you had to move your music to the Pre. The 3Mbps 2.1 EDR on the 3GS should have supported using your headphones along with tethering.

Kevin C. Tofel

I didn’t move the music, I simply used my BT headphones with the Pre instead of the iPhone. I wanted to ensure the maximum throughput for data between the iPhone and my Mac, but you’re right, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference.

from personal experience, yep, it should work.

tho it depends a bit, and mostly the issue is with music. when i use PAN the music is much more stable then when i use DUN, as then its more likely to stutter when i trigger a new transfer (like say when i hit a link on a web page).

This however could just as well be a issue with limited cpu on my phone…

“Seems a shame that we seem to need different 3G devices for specific purposes, but that’s the way of the cellular world these days.”

You sure its not a US only issue? ;)

Faeiz Hindi

Kevin, since this is still unofficially supported by AT&T, what kind of charges are you expecting on your next bill?

Kevin C. Tofel

Faeiz, I’m not expecting additional charges of any type. I don’t see any provisioning for AT&T to determine how I’ve used their network at this point. I also only used the solution for an hour or so. Probably didn’t use more than 100 to 200MB of throughput, so I should have any 5GB cap issues either.


Since the iPhone knows you’re tethering (unlike with the jailbreak hacks), I’d not be so sure that it doesn’t tell the network about it :)

Kevin C. Tofel

Very true and if I get dinged, I get dinged. But I have yet to hear of anyone getting dinged for this yet. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but I’m not concerned. Believe me, I’m willing to pay a fee for the service. They just aren’t ready to charge me yet. ;)


I scoffed at the Mifi and still do to some extent but it certainly would be a handy gadget to have in some cases. So many devices these days do wifi and could benefit from having that connection.

Personally I tether my Windows Mobile device though, and carrying one extra little USB cable to do it with isn’t exactly hard; I have one that stays in a pocket of the laptop case constantly. WinMo may have its faults (many, many of them) but tethering my HTC is ridiculously easy – plug in and select “Internet sharing” on the pop-up on the phone and it’s done.

Old-school perhaps, but has its benefits; firstly, no extra power drain from active wifi connections or even bluetooth radios and an almost complete absence of fiddling aside from plugging in a cable. Also, of course, almost impossible to eavesdrop on if anyone was so inclined.

I think what would really be the ultimate though would be to have all gadgets 3G capable and being able to use them all on one account, say with a very minor initial hook-up fee that would get you a SIM card and license to drive more than one gadget at one time on your 3G network of choice. Everything connected all of the time.

Kevin C. Tofel

No question the MiFi is useful, but it’s yet another 3G device with a monthly fee. I have enough 3G devices with fees. ;) FWIW: tethering on the iPhone is simple as well. Turn tethering on in the Network settings once the Phone is paired. Or just plug it in with a USB cable. I like your “Everything connected all of the time” thought. It’s getting silly to have all of these 3G devices since they all have an additional cost involved. All of my devices have Wi-Fi too, but I don’t have to pay to use them all the time.


My Sprint MiFi keeps my AT&T iPhone in service when I have no coverage (frequently). That’s my cost for doing business on the network with fewer bars in more places.

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