Android is Getting an Instant Tethering Feature

Posted on January 21, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, Mobile, Windows 10, Windows Phones with 27 Comments

A Google Play Services update has started rolling out on Android, providing an excellent Instant Tethering feature. We need this on Windows.

News of the update, and the Instant Tethering feature, comes by way of Google+, and has been linked to by every tech blog on earth.

Basically, this feature lets you configure a second Android device to connect automatically to the cellular data connection on your Android smartphone. The theory here is that you have the one smartphone with data and just share, automatically, with your other Android devices, which do not have their own data connection.

The advantage of such a thing is obvious, and while you can share a cellular connection from any smartphone to any Wi-Fi-capable device, it’s typically a manual operation: You have to first find and then turn on the tethering feature on your phone and then connect to that connection from your other device.

If you use Apple devices, you know that iOS and macOS already support this functionality, which Apple calls Instant Hotspot: Your iPhone’s shared Wi-Fi network always appears on your iOS devices and Macs, and if you connect to this network, it is automatically enabled on the phone.

(Apple also provides incredible cross-device functionality called Continuity, plus Auto Unlock for Mac. But let’s start with the basics here, shall we?)

On Windows 10, well … this gets a bit sticky. You pretty much have to manually enable a phone-based Wi-Fi hotspot manually, regardless of whether you’re using Android, iPhone, or Windows 10 Mobile. And then manually connect to it from your Windows 10-based tablet or PC.

So what does it even mean to say “we need this on Windows”? After all, adding an instant hotspot-type feature to Windows 10 Mobile benefits just about nobody, and Microsoft doesn’t control Android or iOS. (Update: I know we have this with Windows 10 Mobile. That is the same thing as not having it.)

It’s a good question. But like Chromecast, which I believe Microsoft should natively support in Windows, I feel that Microsoft should investigate letting Windows 10 users use Android’s new Instant Tethering feature (and Instant Hotspot from iPhone).

Even in the Android community, being able to instantly share a phone-based connection to an Android tablet is very limited. This feature makes the most sense when it works with Chromebooks, as well as Windows PCs and Macs. So I expect Google to add it to Chromebooks soon. Why not more device types?


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