Using cell phones as portable 3G/WiFi routers
This guest article was submitted by Andreas Ødegård.
Last week, Chris King touched on the mobile broadband subject with his article on whether or not integrated 3G is really necessary. Among the alternatives for on-the-go internet access mentioned, Chris listed USB modems and mobile routers as his favorites.
While I agree that these are great choices, I'd like to share with you a method I've been using for a while now that allows me to have the functionality of both these two devices with no additional hardware.
The way this is done is using my Nokia E51 cell phone running Symbian S60 and an application called Joikuspot. Joikuspot basically takes the 3G data signal and turns it into a WiFi network that any WiFi device can connect to. You, of course, need to have a S60 phone that has both a data connection and WiFi to be able to do this. There's both a free version and a paid version of the application; the free one will only give you access to http and https protocols – meaning no email, etc. With this application you also have a device that supports three methods of tethering, which beats the standalone devices.
I've been using this for a while and it works like a charm with all my devices. I previously had a N800, and as some of you might know the N800 supports tethering over Bluetooth. This is a lot slower than using WiFi due to the bandwidth limitations of Bluetooth, so even if you have such a device you'll benefit from using WiFi instead of Bluetooth.
My main use of the system at the moment is for connecting my iPod touch over 3G while out and about, which sort of makes it an iPhone.
The downside is battery life. Running both a 3G connection and a WiFi connection drains the battery, so if USB is an option that is always better. It's still usable, though, and the benefits of needing no cables and no special hardware or software on the receiver end (besides WiFi) is well worth having to recharge the phone more often. With a phone you also have the ability to carry spare or external batteries, and although they add some bulk it's a nice option if you use this for extended periods of time, in which case you probably have a bag anyway.
While Joikuspot is S60 only, WMWifiRouter will do the job for Windows Mobile devices that have 3G and WiFi. No such applications currently exist for the Blackberry or iPhone however, so if you don't have a WM or S60 device you're unfortunately out of luck.
All in all this is a method of getting mobile broadband that is both cheap since you don't need any additional hardware (if you have a phone that can run such an application) and works great. I hate carrying extra devices with me and even though I have a USB 3G modem, I very rarely use it. The phone, however, is always with me, so if I need to check something quick a WiFi signal is only a few keystrokes away.
Andreas Ødegård is currently finishing the second year of a three-year bachelor's degree in Economics and Administration at Lillehammer University College in Norway. He loves gadgets of all sorts and has been writing for Anything But iPod since January 2008, as well as updating his own DIY blog.