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Carriers generally expect to be paid an additional fee if you want to use your phone’s data connection to access the Internet from a laptop, tablet, or other device. Android has an integrated tethering feature, but — if you get your phone from directly from a carrier — the carrier has the ability to disable the built-in tethering feature. This encourages you to pay up for the privilege of tethering.

Luckily, there are ways to tether 3 Foolproof Ways to Create Your Own Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for Tethering in North America 3 Foolproof Ways to Create Your Own Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for Tethering in North America Do you want to give multiple wireless gadgets on-the-go internet access? Are you sick of getting ripped off by wireless hotspot tethering? There’s a variety of technologies that can help you – the two most... Read More on any Android phone, even if your carrier has disabled tethering. The first method we’re covering here doesn’t require root. Root users have more options when it comes to enabling tethering, but even people who don’t root can tether.

A Note About Tethering

The below apps will allow you to use the tethering feature without paying your carrier any additional money, but you’ll still have the same data limit you normally would. If you have limited data and go above your allowance, your carrier will charge you extra or throttle you as if you’d used the same amount of data from your phone. All the below apps do is bypass the additional fee that carriers No Longer Tied to a Cellular Contract? 10 Reasons You Should Switch To An MVNO No Longer Tied to a Cellular Contract? 10 Reasons You Should Switch To An MVNO Are you out of contract with your cellular provider? Rather than upgrading your phone, and signing a new contract, consider switching to a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO. You can save hundreds, even thousands,... Read More charge to actually use this data from another device.

Carriers say the additional fee is “because people will use more data when tethering.” In other words, you’ve paid for a certain amount of data and the carrier wants to charge you another $10 or $20 because you’re more likely to use the data you’ve already paid for.

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It is possible for the carrier to notice that you’re tethering. Internet traffic coming from a laptop or tablet looks different from traffic coming from a smartphone — if only because a laptop or tablet’s browser reports that it’s running on a laptop or tablet and asks for larger desktop websites. Some carriers may notice that you’re tethering without paying a fee and helpfully add the fee to your bill, charging you for tethering anyway. This will vary from carrier to carrier around the world.

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Wi-Fi, USB, or Bluetooth Tethering Without Root

FoxFi is an app that allows you to set up Wi-Fi tethering on most phones. Wi-Fi tethering allows you to create a Wi-Fi hotspot that you can connect your laptop, tablet, and other devices to. They’ll all use your phone’s connection to access the Internet.

FoxFi is available from Google Play. AT&T and Sprint have blocked FoxFi in Google Play on their networks. If you’re using AT&T or Sprint, download the FoxFi (Sprint/AT&T only) app instead. This app is identical, but is technically a separate “listing” on Google Play so it isn’t blocked. According to FoxFi, Spring and AT&T can no longer block the second listing “due to the latest FCC tether rules.”

After installing the FoxFi app, launch it and enable the Activate WiFi Hotspot checkbox. Choose a network name (SSID) and password for your WiFi hotspot. If everything goes correctly, you should be able to connect to the Wi-Fi network from your laptop, tablet, or any other Wi-Fi-enabled device. If you have a problem, be sure to read FoxFi’s description on Google Play, which contains information specific to different carriers, phones, and Android versions.

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This app’s Wi-Fi tethering feature doesn’t support every Android phone in existence, but it should support most phones in use today. FoxFi also includes Bluetooth and USB tethering features that will work for all phones thanks to technology from PdaNet. In the worst case, you’ll have to tether over Bluetooth or USB — but you’ll still be able to tether.

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The free version of FoxFi is somewhat limited. It will occasionally disconnect you and require you to restart the wireless hotspot manually from the FoxFi app. If FoxFi works well for you and you find yourself using it so often that the disconnections bother you, you can buy the FoxFi key for about $8 on Google Play. It’s a better deal than paying $10 or $20 every month for tethering access.

Free, Unlimited Wi-Fi Tethering With Root Access

If you have a rooted Android device Why Doesn't Android Come Rooted? Why Doesn't Android Come Rooted? Rooting your Android phone is a rite of passage. It unlocks the functionality that separates Android from iOS and opens a realm of almost infinite customization. Replacing the entire operating system is possible on a... Read More , you can get free apps that allow you to tether with no limitations 3 Cool Things You Can Do With A Rooted Android Phone 3 Cool Things You Can Do With A Rooted Android Phone By now you will know that there are a bunch of us here at MakeUseOf that love Android phones. Paul's article on writing an Android app is a good example of how thoroughly we dig... Read More . For example, Wireless Tether for Root Users will work with almost every phone, won’t disconnect you, and won’t cost a cent — although the developers do request donations. This app isn’t for everyone because it requires you root your phone and have a netfilter-enabled kernel running on it.

If you’re a geek, this may be a good option — but if you’re an average user, $8 is a fairly low price for avoiding the hassles of rooting, especially since you’ll have to re-root every time your phone gets upgraded to a new Android version.

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What app do you use to enable tethering on your Android phone? Leave a comment and share any useful tips you have!

Image Credit: Johan Larsson on Flickr

  1. Bill
    October 12, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Used FoxFi for years on older Motorola Droid Maxx. I paid for the full version and it always worked flawlessly. That phone died and I got a new Motorola Droid Maxx II. FoxFi no longer works. I have an old unlimited data plan with Verizon and after talking with the developer they say they have not found a way around the hardware and software limitations of my phone. I still keep it installed hoping they will find a work around.

  2. Steve Smith
    September 29, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    I still use a HTC Rezound on Verizon with unlimited data and tether to my Samsung tablets with Pdanet and Pdanet Tablet. Have Foxfi, but Wifi hotspot does not work on my phone. Tethering to tablets via bluetooth works great and very reliable. Just got a ZGPAX S6 smartwatch phone running Android 4.4.2. Awesome gadget and would like to be able to tether to it via bluetooth also, just haven't found a way yet.

  3. Kriz
    May 23, 2016 at 1:55 am

    Works beautifully on japanese blocked networks from my S7 edge.

    Note that I use a VPN on my PC anyhow, so no way they could see my traffic anyhow.

    (Note that native android Hotspot does NOT work itself)

    • katherine
      June 26, 2016 at 7:44 pm

      can you give me more details, can I download my app on my laptop or do i have to do it on my device. I have a global surfer III

  4. Bruce
    May 13, 2015 at 3:12 am

    how do you uninstall the lock screen if I didn't like the app?

  5. Joey
    April 11, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Tried the Foxfi (sprint/at&t only) solution but while trying to connect all i get is this error msg - "Hotspot Error you are not subscribed to hotspot service. Do you want to see subscription options?" Well no shit I'm not subscribed, why would I be using Foxfi if I were? Any answers to this delema?

  6. Baruch
    December 12, 2014 at 9:47 am

    I hope someone has run into this issue and solved it. In Israel there is law banning the carriers from restricting your use to particular devices. That doesn't prevent them from turning the connection into one that is hard to use on computers. What they have done is restricted the amount of simultaneous connections. I don't mean WiFi connections but pipes or data streams. Let's say you opened 3 Web pages at the same time while Dropbox and teamviewer were connected but not active. Not all of the Web pages would open and in fact the connection won't work without resetting it on the phone. I proved this theory by using a vpn that routes all traffic through one pipe and it worked flawlessly. The ROM is the same one from another carrier that didn't have this problem but obviously the sim is different. So I am wondering if there is a hidden setting that the sim is changing or is this done on the carrier's server? Before you assume that the sim cannot change settings, I can tell you that the sim configured the data settings without me doing anything so I think it's possible.

    • Helpful Person
      February 13, 2015 at 8:33 am

      If the carrier is restricting your connections in that manner, it is almost certainly doing so in their equipment, not within anything on your phone.

      And you've already found the solution - use a VPN to make all traffic be just one connection. (You don't have to use a "paid for" VPN service either - you can easily set up a VPN terminator at your home or work on your hard-wired broadband connection, either on a Linux server, or in something like a router running OpenWRT, DD-WRT, or something similar.

  7. Mark
    March 9, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    FoxFi DOES NOT work on my Sprint Samsung G4. If you have not paid the tethering service fee, foxfi will fail when you attempt to start it stating that the service has not been paid for. Silly me... I thought the whole point of the apps in this article was to enable tethering without paying twice for your data! Did I miss something? Or does FoxFi just not work?

  8. aj45
    February 8, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Both apps work on my T-mobile s4 but they automatically turn my built in hotspot on. How can I avoid this?

  9. John
    February 7, 2014 at 2:30 am

    YYYAAAYYY!!! Works fantastic for me. Thanks for the article!!

  10. od
    January 7, 2014 at 4:44 am

    I went for the FoxFi option and was only able usb theter my laptop. For some reason, my phone would wifi theter. I'm glad I can have my 3G data plan hook up to my laptop anyway.

  11. chupon
    November 4, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    If you have root, why not just use the standard USB or WiFi tethering that comes with the OS? Why bother installing/installing an app at all?

    • Mark
      March 9, 2014 at 7:20 pm

      Because root or not (on Sprint anyway), you still have to pay an additional service fee to use the built-in tethering option. I thought that was made relatively clear in the article.

    • Helpful
      February 13, 2015 at 8:21 am

      Mark: If your phone is rooted, you can almost always usually modify the phone to bypass the carrier tether-authorization check.

    • Helpful Person
      February 13, 2015 at 8:30 am

      There's a more effective way to use the phone's cellular Internet on a computer, over USB, that doesn't involve having to enable the official "tethering" support on the phone. It doesn't require root, a custom rom, or any special modification to the phone. And if you have a "home" or other outside unlimited broadband Internet connection you can use as a VPN termination, you can make it mostly undetectable by your carrier even if they are specifically monitor you- they will be able to see you are using data, but they will not have any way to identify that its not just some app on the phone itself using an encrypted connection. I've left my email - if the author of the article wants details you can email me. It is however a disposable one that I don't check very often, so no guarantees as to how quickly I'm likely to respond.

  12. 1910ki@nive.c0.pl
    October 19, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks - it's nice to have wifi outside of the house...

  13. Liz Anderson
    September 22, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    AWESOME! I sure could have used this in the past! I will never be stuck with having to pay for access when travelling again!

  14. Ms Hanson
    September 22, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Has anyone tried PdaNet+ yet? I use AppBrain rather than Google Play for downloading apps on my Droid, and PdaNet+ seems to have ratings above 4.0/5.0, and 5 times the downloads as FoxFi apps.

    Would be interested in knowing your exoerience.
    I could save myself that monthly fee for the Hotspot I currently pay extra for.

  15. Johann
    September 19, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    If you're scared that your carrier will inspect your traffic and see you're tethering then use SSH tunneling on your laptop and send your data over that - the traffic is no different that if you were using an SSH client on your phone which is obviously acceptable to them. If you do a 'normal' SSH port-forward obviously not all traffic is sent over the SSH connection, so you can try using something like SSHunnel instead.

    Alternatively on your phone connect to a VPN prior to tethering... this is even better.

  16. Don Gateley
    September 19, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Wireless Tether for Root Users does not work for many people and it is not supported. If it doesn't work your only choice is to uninstall and keep looking for something that does.

  17. Martin K
    September 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    On my trip to the US (Florida to be specific) I was looking for a prepaid data SIM (GSM) that would last me for 3 weeks so I could tether my Galaxy S2 (with Cyanogenmod installed) since I didn't need it as a phone during my holiday anyways.

    I ended up buying a 30-day plan from a provider called Net10 which I think is serviced by AT&T but to my surprise, the data connection would only work as long as I didn't activate my mobile hotspot. My expectation stumbling upon this article was to find a solution to this problem but as far as I understand, this article only compares various Hotspot-Applications.

    I found it both fascinating and bumming that seemingly my provider was able to identify my attempts to use their precious bandwidth from a device that didn't contain their sim-card. Of course I can only claim that this is what happened and since I'm not in the US right now I can't really double-check the circumstances but in case this really is what happened I would love to find out how to circumvent this.

    I guess the most foolproof way to differentiate a mobile phone from a laptop that sits behind it using a hotspot is to compare MAC-Addresses or something like this but since I don't know how they accomplished it I still have no idea how to solve this.

    • vanierstein
      September 21, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      ClockworkMod No-Root Tether-14-day free trial, $4.99 thereafter. It WORKS !!!

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