Subtitle: How to Tether a Cell Phone
I have owned a Mi-Fi card for several years and love it. This is a small device that connects to cell towers and provides wireless data connections for laptop computers and other devices when traveling. The Mi-Fi card connection speed is about the same as that of a DSL broadband connection. Unlike wi-fi wireless, it has a range of about five miles. As long as I am within range of a cell phone tower, I have always had a high-speed Internet connection. The Mi-Fi device is about the size of four or five credit cards stacked on top of each other.
I have carried the Mi-Fi card all over country, usually by carrying it in my pocket. It has turned out to be surprisingly reliable, even providing high-speed Internet connections while traveling in rural Vermont and in Wyoming. However, last night I discovered that the Mi-Fi device isn't as rugged as I would like: it didn't even survive a single trip with my laundry through the washer and dryer!
I'll let you guess how I made this "discovery."
I then learned how to "tether" my iPhone.
Tethering is a method of sharing the Internet connection of an Internet-capable mobile phone. I can use the iPhone to surf the web and simultaneously use it to supply an Internet connection to a laptop computer, to a wi-fi equipped mobile gaming device, and to other wi-fi-equipped devices. This sharing can be via cable, or wirelessly over Bluetooth, or by Wi-Fi. The tethering feature is often branded as a "mobile hotspot" and can support several devices simultaneously. Most cell phones that allow tethering can support simultaneous connections from four or five devices. When traveling, you and your spouse and your children can all surf the web simultaneously, even when traveling down the highway or when riding a train. You can learn a bit more about tethering at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tethering
All iPhones with the latest software from Apple have the capability of tethering, although not all cell phone companies allow it. Most iPhones sold in the United States use the AT&T cell phone network, although a Verizon model also was introduced recently. AT&T and Verizon both allow tethering, although the companies charge extra fees for devices that have tethering enabled. I am not sure about iPhones sold in other countries. If you live outside the United States, check with your cell phone provider to see if tethering is allowed.
Many Android cell phones also support tethering, although not all of them do.
You can find two methods of tethering on an iPhone, one that I will call "the legal way" and the other I will call "the questionable way." The legal way is available on all iPhones with the latest software, if your cell phone company allows it. Tethering is now built into the iPhones' menus and, in typical Apple fashion, requires only a few seconds to configure.
The questionable method of tethering your iPhone will work on any cell phone provider, perhaps without the cell phone company finding out and without that company charging you for the extra capabilities. I'll call this questionable as the cell phone companies claim that tethering a cell phone without paying for the privilege and without the knowledge of the company is a violation of the user agreement you signed when you signed up for the company's services. In short, violating that legally binding user agreement supposedly is illegal. Others will protest that the user agreement is not legally binding and that tethering a cell phone under U.S. laws is legal. I am not a lawyer and I will not argue the point. Instead, I will make you aware of the issues and advise you to investigate for yourself.
To tether an iPhone "the questionable way," you must install software not approved by Apple. In short, you have to hack into the phone. The process is usually called "jailbreaking," unlocking all features of the iPhone's operating system, thereby removing limitations imposed by Apple. Once jailbroken, iPhone users are able to download additional applications, extensions and themes that are unavailable through the official Apple App Store.
Be aware that iPhones that have been jailbroken frequently stop working after installing any new software upgrades provided by Apple. However, iPhones that use the officially approved legal method should never encounter any problems when the software is upgraded.
In the United States and in many other countries, iPhones running the latest officially-supported software from Apple do not need to be jailbroken if you are willing to pay the extra fees imposed by the cell phone company.
You can find many web sites that describe how to tether an iPhone, both legally and questionably, if you start at http://goo.gl/tikb4. If you use the legal method, you probably don't need any instructions. Simply use the iPhone, touch SETTINGS, touch GENERAL, touch NETWORK, and then follow the menus. The process required about 30 seconds when I did it last night.
I have used my legally tethered (non-jailbroken) iPhone only for a few minutes now and it appears to work well. My laptop computer easily detected the iPhone's shared connection and made a connection to the Internet. Speed on the AT&T network has been surprisingly good. I am leaving later this morning on a trip to Phoenix and expect to use my new wireless Internet connection from airport waiting lounges and from a few other places along the way.
I also promise to be more careful in the future about checking what is in the laundry!