Tethering on Google Android without root access

So you want to tether your brand spanking new Android phone (Google G1 or HTC Hero or alike) but you don’t want to bother with rooting your phone. Bad news: you can’t (wireless), sort of – read on.

Well technically you can but it requires a USB cable connection to make the phone act like a modem device which Windows (or Linux) can then use to ‘dial’ to the world wide web. The HTC Hero comes with this functionality built in (it just requires some HTC drivers which even works on Windows 7, albeit with separate installation of the drivers as the setup fails), for the G1 and others you can install PdaNet on your Android phone to do the same.

So in fact you can tether your 3G connection to your computer using an Android phone, but you can’t do it wireless. Bluetooth is incomplete and as such wont give you a DUN device so no dice there. And for the wifi tethering tool, you really really need root access. Why? Because it switches your WiFi card in your phone from normal to router mode. This allows other devices to connect to it and use the 3G device as a gateway.

So why shouldn’t you root your phone (besides risking to brick your phone)? You can’t buy paid applications from the Android Market anymore. For some no reason to hack their phone, I prefer to have the option to keep using paid applications. Perhaps in the future I’ll try to root my HTC Hero and I will post my findings.

Update: I rooted my phone after owning it for a year or so and I was able to by and install paid applications just fine. I forgot where I read this tidbit of information but it seems to be rubbish – rooting does not prevent you from buying apps.

General blog entries

HTC Magic and Android 1.5: epic fail…

After following the news around Google Android 1.0, I decided to wait for the next generation of phones so the small problems would be ironed out. Besides, the HTC Dream or G1 had some small disadvantages – for example the short battery life and the ugly design.

After the release of Cupcake (Google Android 1.5), HTC quickly announced the release date for their 2nd generation Android phone: the HTC Magic which would be sold by Vodafone in June 2009 (in the Netherlands). I was pleasantly surprised that I got an email from a webshop telling me they are now selling the HTC Magic, even without a subscription!

After toiling about it for 2 days I decided to give in and order my first Android phone. The next day it arrived and after taking care to open the box without damaging anything (so it could be returned if needed) I ran into the first bump on the road: it is locked to Vodafone.

A quick call to the shop I ordered it from didn’t help either: “…but it is obvious that it is locked to Vodafone, the brand is stamped on it!”. Apparently, making it possible to order without a subscription is not a hint that it can be used with any sim card. But I even called them before placing an order and the bloke that ‘helped’ me did not seem to find it worth mentioning that if I asked if it was sim locked (which it wasn’t) I probably would not want to know that it was provider locked instead…

After borrowing a Vodafone sim card I finally managed to start the phone and the first thing I tried was testing if the Bluetooth voice-dial and file transfer were fixed. File transfer did not work but I can live with that.

Next came the voice dial: I paired the phone to my car kit and pressed the button. The car kit showed “No voicedial” and broke the connection. So my new shiny, 400 euro costing phone that can play music over Bluetooth with a press of a button can’t voice-dial anybody…

After searching on the internet, it became obvious that the current voice dialer in Android 1.5 is cripple (it requires interaction with the screen) making actual voice dialing (while in a car for example) impossible. So Vodafone just stripped it out completely…

Needless to say, I called the shop where I bought it, explained why I did not want the phone any more and sent it back the next day by mail.

Shame on you Google for not even supporting basic Bluetooth features in the ‘big’ update for Android and shame on you Vodafone/HTC for not clearly pointing out that the would-be ‘iPhone killer’ is in fact crippled…