On my international journey, I averaged 1.5Mbps for downloading and 640Kbps for uploading. I used the Droid 3 hotspot connected to the HP laptop and an iPad to view digital maps, listen to Internet radio, watch videos, play a few games and update a website. The biggest surprise was that while on a Eurostar train rolling from London to Paris, I had more than enough bandwidth for mapping the next stage of the trip and reading the headlines to know what was going on back home.
There is a downside to all this data consumption. Using the Droid 3 as a hotspot for an iPad playing online videos chewed through the battery in 3 hours and 15 minutes, compared to about 15 hours for typical on-and-off data and voice use. In other words, if you plan to use the hotspot abilities of a phone, be sure to bring the charger with you and keep an eye out for AC outlets.
Also note that building out the mobile data networks here and in Europe is a work in progress, and I encountered lots of dead zones in my travels. For example, while driving from Paris to the Loire Valley as well as cruising on I-80 in central Ohio, I had intermittent data access.
All in all, though, I found that having my own Internet connection inside my phone most places I went was an incredibly liberating feeling. But be warned: It makes it harder than ever to hide from work.
Next: Chart: Smartphones that support Wi-Fi tethering
Brian Nadel is a frequent contributor to Computerworld and the former editor in chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine.
This story, "Wi-Fi Tethering 101: Use a Smartphone as a Mobile Hotspot" was originally published by Computerworld.