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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Comments (27)

27 responses to “Android is Getting an Instant Tethering Feature”

  1. 7039

    So, Paul may not know this because you have to use the product, but on Windows Mobile 10, you can connect your PC (laptop, tablet, etc.) to your phone via Bluetooth. Once you have that, the phone will automatically engage the wifi hotspot at the request of the PC. You do NOT have to manually engage the hotspot on the phone once you have the Bluetooth set up.

    • 7178

      In reply to prjman: Yeah, I this all the time, and it seems to be a much better functionality than what is described in this post. From what I understand, with what Google is presenting here, you have to first enable the hotspot on your phone, and then the PC connects to it, but on Windows you don't have to fumble around for your phone, simply open the wireless connection menu and press "connect".  

       

    • 2

      In reply to prjman:

      I literally wrote that implementing this in Windows 10 Mobile doesn't matter. But thanks.

      • 7039

        In reply to Paul Thurrott: You wrote: 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.
        This is incorrect, as I stated earlier, at least on a Windows 10 to Windows 10 mobile combination.

         

         

    • 9562

      In reply to prjman:

      Too bad Windows Mobile is abandonware.

  2. 556

    Paul this feature was around on windows mobile back in the day and the first one to implement like this was palm with webOS. With windows phone now you can also tether automatically without touching your phone between windows phone and win10. However the only ones holding this back are the carriers. They made most device makers mark thethering use seperatly than device data usage. So the users on android, iPhone, and windows hack in and change this so thethering can be used. Many carriers block thethering all together. I hope this move not only helps android but all devices. You should only need to pay data on one device. Well at least that's my opinion. I always wished someone would make a wearable that had phone/data capabilities and then you could just buy tablets of what ever size you wanted for a screen.

  3. 996

    I'm confused, this is available in Windows 10. I use it all the time :/

  4. 10166

    Hate to break it to you Paul, but this feature has been available in Windows/WP going back to Win 8.  As an outside sales rep I use it everyday.

    • 9562

      In reply to gwydionjhr:

      Apples v Oranges.  Google's implementation here is slicker and simpler.  

      • 5539

        In reply to BoItmanLives: How is it slicker and simpler? On my Windows laptop, I pop up the network panel and my Lumia 950 is there as an option, whether or not the hotspot is on. If I select it, it will instruct my Lumia to turn on the hotspot and then connect to it. It is like connecting to any other WiFi network. Never have to touch my phone. When I disconnect my laptop, in a few minutes the hotspot on the phone will automatically shut down. Again no touching the phone. Not sure exactly how the Google one works, but it seems that turning on the hotspot will automatically connect the laptop/tablet. I'm not sure I'd want that. I may not be activating the hotspot for that device. I think the device needing the connection initiating the hotspot turn on makes sense, and couldn't be much easier. MSs implementation has been around since WP8 and Win 8, as others have mentioned.

         

      • 5592

        In reply to BoItmanLives:

        Which doesn't make it stop existing.

  5. 6169

    I am tempted to call this "fake news"

     

  6. 6831

    Yes, this feature is on Windows 10 Mobile.

    I use it regularly, great when using my tablet on my way to work, and the phones in my bag, don't need to get it out to turn on mobile hot-spot.

    Of course Microsoft don't really advertise the feature, so I only found out about it by it happening on its own one day.

  7. 2525

    I have an s6. Yes I have to manually enable my hotspot, but I don't want my other devices using my mobile data willy nilly anyway. But once enabled I then quickly and automatically end up with my win 8.1 laptop, surface pro 3, ipad, Samsung tablet, classic surface rt and a couple of old Lumia 920s connected (I took a lot of devices on the last family holiday in my laptop bag). 

    If my phone auto-enabled a hotspot once it had no WiFi to access itself then it'd be completely automatic. I'm sure if I had a mac book it'd also get in on the party. 

    I'm obviously missing something here. Is it the ability to, from the tablet, enable the hotspot on the phone? If so, I guess that's the same as Bluetooth connection requirement others mentioned with win 10 mobile. 

    It reminds me of the old internet connection sharing where a pc on your loan could make the gateway pc establish its dial up internet connection automatically. Am I thinking on the right track? 

  8. 5530

    Is enabling hotspot on your phone and then connecting to it really so hard? I do it nearly everyday and it's definitely not the sticking point in my workflow.

    WiFi Sense in Windows 10 also automatically connects to popular public wifi connections even before you know it, and these are known to be reliable and secure. It's a feature that is missing from the competition.

  9. 442

    It's easy enough now, plus I never tether via WiFi.  Too much battery drain.  Plug in, good to go.  Seems pretty instant to me.  Plus, I could see the massive data overages becoming a problem (until the carriers wake up and stop their ripping folks off...)

  10. 8121

    You know one of my favorite things Windows Weekly is when Leo and Paul mimics internet posters whining. Funny stuff guys.

  11. 8444

    I agree about the native chromecast support. However Google hasn't released an SDK yet for Mac/Windows/Linux.
    Only chrome has this implemented by default.

    The Groove apps should include chromecast support as well on Android and iOS. Every other streaming app has support and I constantly use this.

  12. 5234

    Where's Ordeith to argue that this is bad?

  13. 2371

    I don't know Paul, Windows 10 Mobile lives on with all our phones in my family.  Along with a number of other people commenting here.

  14. 5485

    Windows 10 "has" this feature. The "has" is in quotes because I tried to use it with several Windows 10 Mobile phones (Lumia's) and it was unreliable in my experience!!!! Meaning, sometimes it would work, other times it would not. Worst, sometimes it would mess up so badly that I had to disable Wifi on the Surface Pro and re-enable it, making me waste even more time. This intermittent ability defeated the purpose, leading me to use the process that always works, meaning, doing it manually every time. 

    Hopefully in Android works flawlessly between Android devices as it does with the iPhone and the iPad or Mac's. So much so that in the Apple ecosystem this ability totally replaced the need to have a com card on the iPad when out and about. Its so natural.

    PS: My mobile internet provider does not charge any extra for tethering. 

  15. 5416

    In reply to Braumin: Yes it was GDR3 http://winsupersite.com/windows-phone/windows-phone-8-update-3-preview

     

  16. 1146

    Paul,

      A little more research please, you are in danger of falling into being yet another journalist that uses Apple products exclusively.  If I wanted that point of view I would read TheVerge.

    1 - As other posters will no doubt point out, this has been available on Windows for ages - your area of expertise.

    2 - I dont understand why Samsung SideSync is ignored? It is like Continutiy for Mac allowing notifications, phone calls, screen remote control and file transfer, except it works for PC.  Again ypur professed area of expertise.  It allows you to completely pilot your phone from your PC, making and receiving calls via a WiFi connection to the phone on your pocket. You appear to have no knowledge of this.

    I was a windows mobile hold-out until just before Christmas and went down the Samsung route, but if I had known about the excellent integration features for PC provided by Samsung I would have switched earlier. This has really fit into my workflow brilliantly.

    Is there a rational reason not to base your commentary of Android based on the most popular (and capable as it turns out) phone on the market.  It seems clearly the best smartphone choice for people who are invested in Windows.

    Also another thing that you should know is that for MFA on Microsoft and O365 accounts only two wearables are supported by Microsoft:

    1 - Apple Watch

    2 - Samsung Gear

    Note: not Android Wear.

    I think if you are serious about Microsoft you should also include Samsung in your analysis.

    Cheers

       J.

     

    • 6448

      In reply to jboman32768:

      No need for personal attacks. Just share your knowledge.

    • 224

      In reply to jboman32768:

      What do you mean that MFA only works on Apple Watch and Samsung Gear? The notification from MS Authenticator also pops up on my Android Wear device and I can hit Yes or No on it...

      • 1146

        In reply to lecter:

        That's good it's working for you - and Im not saying it shouldn't, its just that when Microsoft states what is supported they say Apple & Samsung.

        https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/enterprisemobility/2016/07/25/microsoft-authenticator-coming-august-15th/

        I have been in Windows mobile land for along time so maybe I missed the memo, but why wouldn't Paul include Samsung in his analysis? Forgive my simple viewpoint but if 80% of the smartphones in the world are Android, and most of those are Samsung, and Microsoft explicitly support it, that would kind of make it an important brand to consider. Perhaps the most important. 

        http://www.idc.com/promo/smartphone-market-share/

        I think at some point Paul decided anything Samsung is garbage, and so he doesn't review anything Samsung, but coming from a Lumia 950 myself the Galaxy works with my existing wireless charging pads and my Miracast adapters - something I wouldn't get with the much more expensive Pixel, and then I found out about the excellent SideSync capabilities - and I think this makes the choice obvious for the Windows user. Aka Paul's audience. 

        Switching from the Microsoft band to the Gear S3 has been night & day - great hardware and interface.  Much faster and easier to operate than an Apple watch with the rotating bezel. 

        But not enough for Paul to review either product, instead he has started recommending people go down the Apple lock-in path and extolling the virtues of Continuity - Apples biggest play to get you into sticking with 100% Apple products.  Would have thought Paul was smart enough to recognise this, and also that the future is cross-platform something core to Microsoft's strategy lately. 

        Weird. 

         

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