One of the beautiful things about Android is the ability to tether the device, that is, to share the Internet connection on your Android smartphone with other devices. WiFi tethering was introduced in Android 2.1 and Bluetooth tethering was introduced in Android 4.0.
Some carriers block the ability to tether between devices unless you pay for the service, or charge you extra. If you want to start tethering on your Android device, check with your carrier first. Neither I nor AndroidSocialMedia can be responsible for tethering charges from your carrier.
I use both WiFi and Bluetooth tethering between my Android smartphone and other devices. Some devices can only connect to the Internet using WiFi, such as the Kindle ebook reader or the Chromebook whereas other devices will connect via a Bluetooth tether (notably the 2012 and 2013 Nexus 7 tablets).
When I am able to, I’ll favour the Bluetooth tether over the WiFi tether. There are three reasons for this.
Firstly, once the Bluetooth tether has been enabled on the Internet-enabled device, I generally don’t need to touch it to tether. I write “generally” because this assumes I have left Bluetooth and mobile data turned on.
Secondly and this is the main reason, the Bluetooth tether uses significantly less power at the modem end.
The third reason is that you can share your WiFi connection over Bluetooth tethering. This is especially useful when you are staying in a hotel and they’ve given you one WiFi code but you have a couple of devices you want to connect up to the Internet.
There are a few disadvantages associated with using a Bluetooth tether. Firstly, it’s more awkward to connect from the device wishing to connect to the Internet. On an Android device, you typically need to go into the Bluetooth menu, then go into the device you are connecting to and enable the data connection, then tap “OK.” WiFi tethering just needs the WiFi radio enabled.
Secondly, it’s usually harder on the connecting devices’ battery compared with the WiFi tether, but this depends on the version of Bluetooth being used. On my 2012 Nexus 7 the tablet consumed around twice as much battery for a data intensive operation compared with over WiFi. Luckily, the tablet has a much bigger battery than the handset, which mitigates the issue somewhat.
Next, the available bandwidth over Bluetooth is much less. You may find your data transfer speed is slower compared with WiFi. And whilst you can connect multiple devices over Bluetooth, you generally can’t connect as many compared with WiFi.
And finally, not all applications recognise Bluetooth as a proper Internet connection and may not synchronize data as desired, even if the modem side of the connection is using a WiFi network.
Let’s take a quick look about how you set up your devices for Bluetooth tethering. First, you need to pair the two devices up. Then, visit the Tethering Settings on the modem side of the connection. You’re looking for a toggle for Bluetooth Tethering: by default, Android turns this off at every reboot.
Then, grab the device you want to connect to the Internet to over Bluetooth and go into the Bluetooth Settings. From here, go into the Settings for the modem Android smartphone. In here you’ll see a simple toggle for Internet Use.
When you toggle this, you’ll be tethering.