The quirky conundrum of tethering and hotspots

Using your phone for a computer connection is very expensive, or it's free. It's a weird thing.

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The main pitch for ClockworkMod Tether is that it uses a bit of Android development know-how to pass your cellular connection along to a Windows, Mac, or Linux system without, supposedly, your carrier being able to notice the conversion taking place. Carriers have, in the past, shown that they can see exactly what customers are doing when they plug into their phone, whether by simply blocking the effort and showing a warning, or going a bit further and automatically adding a tethering plan to a customer’s service plan.. Some carriers have exerted their influence to make unofficial tethering apps unavailable to their customers in the Android Market, while Google, in its own line of Nexus devices, makes tethering and hotspots a built-in feature.

Using official or unofficial tethering apps, the connection is almost never as fast as it would be on just the device alone, especially when it comes to looking up new sites and searching. Nobody looks or feels in control when they have to fumble with two devices connected by a cord. And when you make a phone or tablet into a straight-up data pipeline, the battery life is about as good as if you were using it as a space heater. But a certain set of users will always want a backup plan, and the phone is the best one most of us have.

Do you tether your phone, on-contract or otherwise? When has it come in handy, and when has it been more hassle than it’s worth? I welcome your tethering and hotspot thoughts in the comments.

Photo and thumbnail image by davestone.

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