Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, June 25, 2009

iPhone tethering – it rocks

iPhone tethered small3.jpgWith the 3.0 update of iPhone software, you can ‘tether’ your iPhone to your computer so the computer uses the iPhone’s Internet connection. (The word ‘tethering’ is used to imply that the phone is physically connected to the computer, although in practice mostly people tether now using a wireless bluetooth connection.)

Some mobile network operators overseas won’t allow tethering, because they want to be able to charge you separately for a data device. Others charge you more to be able to use tethering, and threaten to cut you off if you use tethering without owning up and paying them extra. I’m delighted to see that Vodafone New Zealand has done neither of these things, but is happy to allow tethering. They do warn about the possibility of blowing your data use cap, though.

I have an iPhone and a Vodafone 3G card. XU870.JPG I tend to use the 3G card when I’m out and about and can’t get free wifi. It’s on a 1Gb per month data plan which I have never exceeded, although some months I have come close. So, I thought that iPhone tethering would be only a curiosity to me. But that’s not how it turns out.

Like most other Apple stuff, tethering an iPhone to a MacBook Pro just works. All I do to connect my laptop to the Net is pull down the Bluetooth menu and it just happens. I don’t need to do anything to the phone. So, I can connect the laptop quickly, wherever I am, without finding the 3G card, inserting it, and telling the laptop to use that. It’s so slick it’s nearly magic. Or sufficiently advanced technology.

So, I’m delighted that Vodafone New Zealand chose not to lock the iPhones they sell us, and they don’t have a problem with tethering. I’ll probably keep using my 3G card for lengthy sessions on the mobile Internet, but being able to hop on fast is a real benefit. Good on them.

You can make tethering work on the iPhone 3G – last year’s model – once you have downloaded the 3.0 software. Which you should definitely do, unless you have jailbroken or pwned your phone – and you’d know if you had done that.

Here’s instructions to set up your iPhone and your MacBook (Pro) to do tethering. Takes two minutes. You can do it by bluetooth or by wire, but to my mind bluetooth is a lot better. I’m sure you can find instructions that work for Linux and Windows out there on the Interwebs.

Happy tethering! Just watch you don’t burn up all your iPhone’s data allowance. Or, if you use tethering a lot, consider moving your plan up a level to give you more data.

Update: I just tried tethering using a Telecom XT SIM in my iPhone. (The XT network has better coverage for iPhones than Vodafone because of the frequencies it uses.) It’s a no go. The iPhone won’t even give me the option for tethering.
Further update: You can put the latest Telecom Carrier bundle on your iPhone which is supposed to solve several problems including tethering. It looks a bit high-risk for me, but I’m happy to believe it works. Anyone tried it?

posted by colin at 3:03 pm  


  1. Sounds good. I can use my old Nokia 6630 as a bluetooth modem, but it is of course slow, even though it is a “3G” phone. One question: how is the speed on the Macbook over bluetooth? Would a cable not be faster?

    Comment by Paul — 25 June 2009 @ 8:35 pm

  2. Paul

    The speed of the bluetooth tethered connection was OK – I didn’t measure – but that could be due to the location and 3G speed. I didn’t try the cable to see if it was faster. I intend to use it for quick connections while keeping my phone in my pocket.



    Comment by colin — 26 June 2009 @ 10:09 am

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