We have recently covered how to use your Android phone to access the internet on your computer. This process is known as tethering. By connecting your phone, via a USB cable, to your computer you are able to use the phone’s data connection to browse the web on your computer. In places where there aren’t any wireless hotspots, tethering is incredibly useful.
Another useful method of sharing your internet connection is by setting up your phone as a portable wireless hotspot. The phone essentially creates its own network which your computer(s) can then join. The advantage of this is that you do not need a cable and you can have multiple computers sharing your phone’s internet connection. If you have already upgraded to Froyo (Android 2.2), you should have the wireless hotspot baked into it. Otherwise, for those who have taken the plunge and rooted your device, here are two great apps that allow you to share your phone’s data connection.
Note: It is advisable that you have an unlimited data plan before attempting tethering as it tends to use a lot of bandwidth.
Barnacle Wi-Fi Tether
After launching Barnacle Wi-Fi Tether, you will see a large “Start” button on the top of your screen. This activates the wireless hotspot function, but it is better to set-up a password before starting the Wi-Fi service.
Click on “Menu” and “Settings” to launch the options menu.
From the settings menu you can change the following options:
- Wireless Encryption
- Access Control
- Interface Settings (WAN or LAN)
- DHCP and NAT configuration.
The SSID is the name that shows up on your computer when you are searching for Wi-Fi networks, hence it is useful to keep the name memorable.
The wireless encryption options are limited to WEP (less secure than WPA), but it is still very important to encrypt your browsing by setting up a password here.
Finally, you can change the channel settings if you find that you are unable to connect to your phone from your computer.
Once you have made all the appropriate changes, launch the wireless connection by clicking on “Start”.
You will be asked for superuser permissions (advanced privileges to access certain settings to enable this app to work). Allow the app these permissions and it will immediately start the necessary services to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal.
On your computer you should be able to see the new Wi-Fi hotspot.
You will be asked for your WEP passphrase when you connect to this hotspot.
Immediately, after connecting you will notice that in the notification shade on your Android phone that you have an alert. Barnacle Wi-Fi Tether will have noted the connection attempt by your PC and it will display it.
Finally, you can view how much data is being transmitted by clicking on the “traffic” button.
To stop transmitting click on the “Stop” button and exit the app.
Android Wi-Fi Tether
Android Wi-Fi Tether works in mainly the same way, however it does offer a greater variety of features.
After launching the app you will see the green Wi-Fi bars logo.
Again it is useful to first make the appropriate changes to the options before launching the app. Click on “Menu” and “Setup”.
There are a number of options including:
- Option to use Bluetooth instead of Wi-Fi
- Wi-Fi encryption settings
- SSID settings
- Option to change the Wi-Fi frequency channel
- Enabling Access Control
- Notification settings
As with Barnacle Wi-Fi Tether it is important to assign a memorable SSID name and to use a strong password.
In addition, it is useful to switch on “Access Control.” This option enables you to decide whether you want a particular computer to connect or not (see below).
After you have made the appropriate changes to the options, go back to the main page and click on the green Wi-Fi logo. The app will start broadcasting a wireless signal.
Next, on your computer connect to the new network.
You will see the new network appear in the Android notification shade.
However, the connection has not been complete as you must grant your computer access to your phone’s data connection. You must click on your computer’s name in the notification shade and grant it access.
Once your computer is properly connected it will start transmitting data. To stop the wireless signal click on the grey Wi-Fi logo.
Both apps are very similar, however I marginally prefer Barnacle Wi-Fi Tether as Android Wi-Fi Tether does not appear to be in the AppBrain marketplace, making it harder to update automatically.
Finally, while these apps are great at what they do, once all Android phones are updated to version 2.2, Google’s built-in USB tethering and portable Wi-Fi hotspot features will make rooting and using these apps unnecessary. So, these apps remain useful to those phone still stuck on Android 2.1 or below.
Let us know how you would use a portable wireless hotspot.
Image credit: Daquella manera