Tuesday, April 14, 2009

PdaNet—Tethering For Android

One of the great untapped potentials of smartphones is the ability to tether them with a laptop and use their high speed connection to surf the Internet when there is no other kind of connection available. Unfortunately, the phone companies don't like this idea and tend to try cripple any tethering on their phones. Users often have to resort to measures like Jailbreaking in the case of the iPhone and rooting in the case of Android in order to get around phone company restrictions. Unfortunately these methods are difficult, unreliable and sometimes even dangerous to the phone's hardware. It's not uncommon for Jailbroken iPhones to be bricked by official Apple updates. And the Android rooting process makes Google's over the air updates impossible. As a result, I've tended to shy away from these tactics with my Android powered T-Mobile G1.

Luckily PdaNet, a tethering application that was popular on PalmOS and Windows Mobile smartphones has now come to Android. It is not, as far as I can tell, available from the Android Market. In fact there has been some controversy surrounding the Android Market as Google has apparently removed some tethering applications from the Market recently. So I had to install PdaNet the old-fashioned way. I downloaded it to my computer and installed it like a normal Windows application. Then I attached my T-Mobile G1 to it with its USB cable and let PdaNet install itself onto the G1 and as a modem for Windows. Finally I turned on PdaNet on my G1, turned off my netbook's wifi, and connected the PdaNet modem. I was connected at 2.4 Mbps to my phone, considerably slower than what my wifi connection allows, but plenty fast for most purposes.

The best thing about PdaNet is that it requires no dangerous tricks like rooting. It installs as a normal Android application and works without having to revert to an older, buggier version of the Android operating system (this is essentially what rooting does even if rooting can be used to unlock features which would otherwise be blocked on the phone). PdaNet has traditionally been fairly pricey for a phone application but for users who spend a lot of time on the road with no wifi, it can be worth it.

No comments: