Getting your computer online with a cell phone is very convenient. You don't need to mess with cables and Wi-Fi networks, and you can do it anywhere you have a 3G or 4G signal. If you have an iPhone, you can tether it to get online over AT&T's 3G network. When the iPhone is available for Verizon networks in February 2011, there will probably be options for tethering over that network as well.
Data Options for Phones
Commonplace data transfer for cell phones is relatively new; the first cell phones had no data options, and until the second generation of mobile phones moved into the world of digital communication, any kind of data usage was impractical. The third generation, called 3G, brought enough speed to allow downloads, uploads and Internet browsing at a usable rate.
Cell Phone Tethering
Tethering a phone means connecting it to a computer and using it to get online. The phone must have a data plan to make tethering even possible. A phone with a data plan already has access to the Internet and can send and receive any type of data, so theoretically it should be able to connect a computer to the Internet. However, not all carriers allow this and not all cell phones have software to enable tethering. When it's possible, the computer sends and receives all data for Internet access through the cell phone and over the carrier's wireless network.
The most recent versions of the iPhone, the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4, all support data plans, so you can access websites from your iPhone using the AT&T network. There haven't been options for tethering the iPhone until fairly recently, but AT&T does allow it, as of January 2011. You'll need iTunes 9.2 on your computer, a data-ready iPhone with iOS 4 installed and a subscription to the AT&T DataPro with Tethering plan. Of course, if you want to tether with a cable, you'll need the USB cord that came with your phone. Alternatively, you can tether with Bluetooth.
Tethering to a MacBook
The tethering process isn't involved or complicated. You have to turn on tethering on your iPhone, which is under "Settings," the "General" option, "Network," and finally "Internet Tethering." Then you can tap the option to change tethering from "OFF" to "ON." The phone is subsequently ready, and you just have to connect it to your MacBook. You'll receive a "New Interface Detected" message on your computer if you connect with a cable, and you'll need to click "OK" and then "Apply" on the next window. If you connect with Bluetooth, you'll need to select the "Bluetooth" icon from the menu bar in the top-right of the computer screen, then select your iPhone from the menu, then select "Connect to Network." Further details are available in the Resources section.
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