Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cut the cord, but stay tethered...

**This is just a warning, the following review requires rooting.  I do not encourage those that don't know how to root to blame me for anything that may go wrong with your phone.  Google the proper procedure for rooting, and understand the risks.  Now onto the review...**

"Blistering Barnacles!!!"  Don't worry, this isn't another iPad review.  You can find a billion of those on the web.  This is a review about Barnacle Wifi Tether for Android phones.

Now, what exactly is 'tethering'?  It's usually the process of sharing the internet connection of one device to another.  In the past, this was done via Bluetooth (in prehistoric times, this was done via USB cable... hahahaha... dinosaurs had such a difficult time since they had no opposable thumbs)

Granted, Bluetooth tethering is probably the most efficient way to do it, not all manufacturers (cough... Apple... cough... cough) enable Bluetooth tethering.  Bluetooth tethering is still my preferred method for 2 reasons, low power consumption, and connection stability.  I've rarely had any problems with BT connections to my laptop in the past, and given the low power drain, I'm willing to take a performance hit while on the move to conserve battery.  Although the bottleneck is rarely with the BT connection, and more often with your HSPA, EDGE, or GPRS connection.

Enter WiFi tethering.  Although rumored to come standard with FroYo (Android 2.2), wifi tethering is still a mod for Donut and Eclair models.  What this does is it turns your Android phone into a pocket wifi router.

So as far as your wifi devices are concerned, they think your phone is just a regular hotspot and connect with no fuss...well...minimal fuss.

Barnacle Wifi is a pretty simple app to use.  It's got a big START/STOP button and an ASSOCIATE (you press this in case your device can't find your phone) button.  The menu is quite simple, you can leave everything on their default settings and it should work 80% of the time.  With other phones, you may have to do a few tweaks to get it to work.  You can rename your hotspot ID (I renamed mine DOPPLERAUDIO in this review) and your device (iPad, iPod Touch, laptop, etc) should see it in their list of available access points.
Just connect like a regular hotspot and you're good to go!  Well... there are a few hiccups for now.  Depending on your phone model, you may have to play music in the background and turn down the volume.  Some power management systems on some phones will shut down wifi when the phone goes into standby.  Another option is to just keep your screen on the whole time but this will kill your phone in a very short time.

As you can see from the test photos, you can get respectable speeds using this app.  And it works quite well considering it's currently an unsupported app.  I'm betting things will just get better in a few months when the official Android tether option is released.

Now, some of you may wonder why go through all this trouble?  Why not just get a 3G iPad and a data SIM?  Well, quite simply, because I don't like having duplicate services.  Specially when I can't maximize both of them.  I don't bring my laptop, iPad, and iPod Touch with me all the time.  I also don't like bulky phones anymore.  My X10 Mini Pro is now setup to be the heart of my mobile communications, and that includes mobile internet.

Instead of having a separate SIM for each device to use, Barnacle Wifi acts like my mobile hub to all my devices wherever I am.  It maximizes my data plan, and I don't have to bring around a separate MiFi router or pay for another data plan.

Download Barnacle Wifi!  It's a great little app.  It's free.  You just have to root your phone.  It's not as difficult as it's sounds, but just know the risks and potential dangers.

Past Tech Gospels

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