The idea of “tethering” a phone to your computer is nothing new. However, as data plans become cheaper and more inclusive, the appeal of tethering is far greater than ever before. The basic idea involves connecting your iPhone to your Mac or PC – either over Bluetooth, or using a cable – to provide access to the web on your computer over 3G.
There are numerous solutions to achieve this, and we’ll be looking at a few different options today. Some of them depend heavily on the country you’re based in. Tethering isn’t officially supported in the US on AT&T yet, but rumours suggest that it’s coming in the next month or two.
Read on to find out how tethering works, and how you can start sharing that data connection with your computer!
The Official Method
We’ll start by walking you through the official way to set up tethering with your iPhone. You’ll need an iPhone 3G or later, and an iPhone cable or Bluetooth enabled Mac or PC. If you use a Mac, you’ll need at least Mac OS X version 10.5.7 or later.
It’s worth looking into how your carrier bills for tethering (it’s usually not included in your contract price). Here are a few links to common carriers and their information pages:
Depending upon how you’re billed for tethering and data, it might be worth taking a regular look at how much data you’re downloading. This can be done through Settings > General > Usage.
Start by going into General > Network > Internet Tethering. From here you can flip the slider to mark the service “On”. You then need to connect your iPhone to a computer, using either:
- USB: This uses a standard iPhone USB cable and, when connected, the iPhone should show up as an available device in your Network Preferences (Mac) or Network Control Panel (Windows). It’s just a case of choosing to use this device for internet access.
- Bluetooth: Make sure that Bluetooth is turned on, then proceed to pair the iPhone with your Mac or PC (usually done through Bluetooth settings or preferences). The same process should then be followed to set the iPhone as your active network device.
When you’re connected, you’ll see a glowing blue band at the top of the screen. This lets you know that the phone’s internet connection is being shared:
The Easy Unofficial Method
This all depends upon whether you’re running the latest version of the iPhone software. If you are, then it’s unlikely that this method will work for you. If you’ve stuck with iPhone 3.0 (or somewhere around that mark), then you may have more luck.
You start by navigating to “http://help.benm.at” on your iPhone, and flicking through to find the correct profile for your particular network provider. When you’ve done that, download and install the file provided, and proceed to activate tethering as you would if you’d subscribed to your carrier’s plan.
Depending upon whether you have a suitable version of the iPhone OS, either everything will work perfectly, or you’ll see something quirky such as your “Tethering” option disappear. Don’t worry – nothing is irreversible, and it’s worth giving the process a try if you’re not running the latest OS release.
The Complex, Unofficial Method
The third and final possibility requires you to be happy to tinker with your iPhone at a more technical level, “jailbreaking” the operating system to allow the installation of third party apps. We don’t officially endorse this, but it has become far easier recently with a few apps taking away most of the technical difficulty.
If you’re running the latest 3.1.3 operating system, this guide might help to walk you through the process (though it’s still far from straight forward).
Unless you really need tethering and it’s unavailable in your country (or you’re not happy to pay for it), I’d suggest steering clear of jailbreaking your iPhone just for this reason. It can turn into a fairly time-consuming process and cause problems upgrading.
That said, if you’re on AT&T and are desperate for tethering, it’s probably your only solution until Apple announce that it is officially supported.
Another Solution – The MiFiA different gadget that seems to have taken the world by storm is the MiFi, a product that connects to a 3G network and creates a local Wi-Fi network to share the connection. Smart, simple, and compatible with any device that connects to Wi-Fi (your iPad, Mac or PC).
It’s available in the USA and increasingly in Europe for fairly reasonable prices. I would definitely recommend taking a look if you’re wanting to share a 3G connection with multiple devices, and find tethering a little too constraining.
Tethering your iPhone can be a great way to share your internet connection with your Mac, and hopefully it won’t be too long until it’s available universally. Until then, there are a few options you can pursue.
The alternative is to invest in something such as a MiFi that lets you easily connect several devices to a 3G network. This is the option I prefer, as it lets me hook up my Mac and iPad for the same price as tethering. A great deal!
Is tethering something that you use on a regular basis? How do you go about it, and have you gone down the route of jailbreaking? I’d love to hear what you have to say!