Ever since the introduction of the iPhone over two years ago, it has been evident that
But despite that, you can't hook up the iPhone to a computer and share its cellular network connection, a curious deficit in its functionality. This ability, sharing a phone's EDGE or 3G connection with a computer via Bluetooth, USB, or Wi-Fi, is referred to as "tethering."
Using a phone that supports tethering, you'd be able to get your computer onto the Internet anywhere you have a cellular signal. That's handy on those occasions when you find yourself needing an Internet connection on your computer when you've only got it on your phone.
Whereas the older EDGE network is only capable of theoretical speeds of up to 236.8Kbps--in practice, quite slow even for cell phone use, let alone a Mac or PC--AT&T's newer 3G network currently boasts of theoretical speeds of up to 1.7Mbps, which is pretty fast whether you're on a phone or a computer. AT&T also claims that it has been able to achieve speeds of 7.2Mbps in its labs and plans to
As great as tethering sounds, there are several potential reasons why both Apple and AT&T may have been hesitant to bring it to the iPhone until now. First and foremost, it's quite evident that keeping Bluetooth or Wi-Fi turned on and transmitting data over the 3G network for extended periods of time can kill the battery life of the phone, perhaps necessitating that you charge it every couple of hours or keep it plugged in while tethering.
Furthermore, it's well known that AT&T doesn't have the most robust network in the business and its recently upgraded 3G network sometimes
However, it is evident that both Apple and AT&T are indeed working to bring tethering to the iPhone. Apple executives said during the question-and-answer session at the end of
Likewise, at the Web 2.0 Summit in November 2008,
Meanwhile, in the wake of the announcement that tethering would be supported in iPhone 3.0, developer Steve Troughton-Smith
Although Apple will tell you otherwise, iPhones running OS 2.2.1 are capable of supporting tethering, although it requires you to jailbreak your phone in order to get it to work, and the experience is not as elegant and polished as the official solution will presumably be. Applications that allow you to do this include
Another application called NetShare, which would let you do the same thing,
Given the state of the telecom industry in the U.S., it shouldn't come as a surprise that carriers charge extra for the ability to tether your phone to your computer. AT&T hasn't
If you do decide to tether your iPhone to your computer, or are doing so already, I should remind you that tethering isn't currently supported by either carriers or Apple and could have unforeseen consequences for you, such as a foot-long monthly bill for having overshot your data limit. Although AT&T currently offers an unlimited data plan with the iPhone, we're not sure the same rules would necessarily apply if you were to tether your iPhone to your computer and it was somehow detected.
Once all is said and done, it's clear that tethering is an important feature and one in demand among iPhone users. Clearly, both Apple and AT&T are actively trying to bring it to the masses. Of course, any discussion about when that will happen and how much it will cost falls firmly under the heading of speculation and we'll only know the actual details when Apple and its partners are good and ready.
This story, "Tethering & the IPhone: Start of a Beautiful Friendship?" was originally published by Macworld.