This post is a little bit outside the world of web design and development, and yet it’s not. More on that in a minute.
When I first made the switch from a regular mobile phone (A fancy Motorola Razr!) to a smartphone (Palm Pre Plus) a few years ago, the feature I loved the most was the built-in WiFi hotspot. This feature was actually included in my Verizon plan at no extra charge and allowed me to easily get online with my MacBook Pro using the Pre’s 3G Internet connection. I thrive on being able to do my job from just about anywhere, and this made that possible. It was also a nice backup in the event of an router failure or internet outage.
My switch to the iPhone
The Pre worked great for a little while, but then it started to have problems. Verizon sent me a replacement and that worked fine for a while longer. Finally, that one died as well so I made the long-awaited leap to the iPhone in early 2011.
Everything about the iPhone was better than the Pre: Better graphics, better speed, better apps. But the one thing that was missing was the WiFi hotspot which was no longer included in my plan. For an extra $20/month I could add this feature onto my plan, but it’s hard to pay extra for something that 1) I use, but not on a regular basis and 2) was once included in my base plan.
So for the past year or so I’ve gone without the WiFi hotspot. Let’s be honest: I’ve survived. But with the prospect of a few family road trips this summer, it might be nice to be able to get some work done in the car. Being able to tether my iPhone and my trusty MacBook Pro would be ideal.
One option for tethering the iPhone in the past has been jailbreaking the phone and installing non-Apple-approved apps. I’m not into jailbreaking, though. I like my iPhone the way it is.
A few months ago, another option appeared: An Apple-approved tethering app in the app store called iTether. The app was released by Tether (fitting name) and if I remember correctly, it was something like $15 or $20. However, the approval of the app may have been an Apple mistake and it was pulled within 24 hours. I’m assuming the likes of Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint complained about the app as it essentially eliminated most of the need for their hotspot add-ons.
The awesomeness of HTML5
Well, Tether didn’t hang their heads and give up. Instead, they got smart and decided to launch a browser-based mobile app built on top of HTML5. That way anybody could use their app – no app store approval needed. I decided to take the leap and purchase a subscription and here is the entire process:
1 – Purchase an annual subscription at Tether.com and create the account. I paid a special rate of $15 for the first year, but the regular rate is $30/year. Still not as good of a price as the included hotspot on my Pre, but much better than an extra $20/month.
2 – Download and install the Tether app on your Mac or PC. This app sets up an ad-hoc network with a name and password. It might seem a little backwards because your computer essentially becomes the WiFi connection, not the phone.
3 – Connect to this newly created network from the WiFi settings menu on your iPhone. Also, set Auto-Lock to “Never” under General settings. Your phone will need to stay active to keep the connection active. Here’s what it looks like when you are properly connected:
4 - Navigate to Tether’s iPhone app using Safari on the iPhone. Enter your credentials and then you are good to go. You should see this on your computer:
I don’t get blazing-fast speeds using this tethering setup, but I get good enough speeds to blog, code websites, etc. Obviously I won’t be using it to stream from Netflix or anything like that. That’s okay.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this does have at least something to do with web design in the sense that this app demonstrates the power of HTML5 which can be used to create app-like functionality on websites. I honestly haven’t even scratched the surface as to my exploration of HTML5, but apps like this intrigue me and I’m excited by the possibilities.
It’s your data
With the recent trend of wireless providers capping the amount of data you can use per month, I’ve wondered why they haven’t just included the WiFi hotspot option at no extra cost. If you have a 5GB cap, does it matter how you use it whether on your phone or as a hotspot? The rise of mobile web apps like Tether could force this eventually.
In the meantime, Tether should do the trick.
If you jailbreak your iPhone you can pretty much install whatever you want in terms of tethering apps. Check out these guys (affiliate link) -
- iPhone app announcement on Tether’s blog
- Mashable: Tether For iPhone Returns For $30 a Year
- The Verge: iTether for iOS is back with HTML5 version, no App Store needed
Lead image by Flickr user ijafri