You won’t be able to ‘tether’ your laptop to an iPhone 3G

The Important Part: Unlike with other 3G and EVDO (broadband cellular) phones, according to CNet, users of the new iPhone 3G will not be able to “tether” (connect via Bluetooth or cable) their phones with their laptops in a way that allows them to gain access to the Internet with their laptops. Rather, they must have a separate 3G device and a separate account for their laptops.

Personal observations: The other day on Twitter, I wondered aloud if this feature would be allowed with the iPhone:

When I had a Treo w/ EVDO, I could connect my laptop to it via bluetooth and access the ‘net. Will I be able to do that w/ iPhone 3G?

I got my answer today with this post on the CNet site, iPhone Atlas: AT&T says, No! (Also, thanks to the article, I now know the term “tether” is used to describe what I was trying to explain with my less-than-fluent wireless vocabulary.)

I already have an AT&T 3G account that allows me to access the Internet using a Sierra Wireless USB modem. While I think it is ridiculous that tethering is not allowed with the new iPhone 3G, I can balance my disappointment with the knowledge that a Sierra Wireless USB modem can be shared by anyone in my office — all of the username/access codes are stored in the device. In a small business environment, especially one that has multiple employees traveling often, the ability to share the USB 3G modem saves lots of access fees charged by hotels and airports. In other words, our current 3G account is shared by many people, while an iPhone account — even if it allowed tethering — would not benefit us the way our current USB modem does.

  • scott

    tethering will be one of the first “hacks” for the 3g iphone.

    technically, my 3g att phone (samsung sync) didn’t “offer” tethering. guess what? all i did was download a script and then – bam! my macbook connected via bluetooth to my sync, and i was surfing the web on my macbook using the sync as a bt modem.

    att’s comment won’t stop the iphone dev community from coming up with a way around this – much like jailbreaking and unlocking.

  • Scott is right that tethering will be one of the first hacks. But it is better than just tethering.

    When you connected via bluetooth to your Treo, the bluetooth was slower than the EVDO connection and therefore limiting your speed. The way to get the best speed has always been to connect the laptop and phone via USB so that you can use all the available bandwidth. Plugging in a wire was a PITA though, so the slower speed of bluetooth was often acceptable (I did the same thing).

    WiFi is faster than bluetooth. I assume it will be almost no time before we see a hack that turns the iPhone into a WiFi access point. Lock it down or share a single connection with you colleagues at a conference or in the airport.

  • This is a bummer. If you look at some of the other smart phones offered by AT&T, there is a choice of three data plans. “PDA Personal” for $30 a month appears to be the only one iPhone 3G gets, at least according to initial reports. On other phones, AT&T also offers a “PDA Personal Bundle” which adds unlimited SMS messaging for $50 a month and something called “PDA Personal with tethering” which adds 5G a month of downloading for $60 a month.

    I’m almost more disappointed that the Bluetooth implementation is so crippled. In addition to no tethering, there’s no support for bluetooth stereo headsets, keyboards or apparently anything beyond simple bluetooth headsets for calls. And no file transfer or tethered Internet access, of course. Messing around AT&T’s web site, it looks like other smart phones do have these features enabled. Isn’t that kind of baffling?

  • scott

    no more baffling than:

    1) the lack of mms
    2) the lack of landscape typing in ALL apps
    3) the lack of a built-in im program
    4) the lack of cut and paste
    5) sticking with a 2mp-NON-flash camera in 2008. (mobile sites have picked up the leaked specs on their c905 phone with 8.1mp camera, both xenon and LED flashes (for still and video capture, respectively), GPS, TV out, DLNA certification, and HSDPA.

    i’d rather pay $399 and get something more than just 3g and gps – particularly when they should’ve offered at least the 3g last year.

  • I remember when I was with Sprint (and other networks) trying to tether my Treo. What I remember the most was the lack of support from the providers and just how difficult they made it – especially for my Mac. I’m at the point now where tethering is a cool concept, but beyond doing it through a hack, it’s a lost cause.

    Our solution has been to just pass around one of our two Verizon data cards here at work when we need something for the road. Fortunately, the iPhone pacifies my needs just enough with email and Web access, that I can usually wait to get to a hot spot with my notebook (or I use the Verizon 3G card if I have it, which by the way, completely rocks).