Now that I?ve become a proud owner of a super-mobile HP TC1100 Tablet PC, using mobile devices (smart phones) as external modems have became essential for me. Up until now, I?ve done most of my Web browsing, YouTube watching outdoors with some of my mobile devices. Having multiple mobile Internet access subscriptions, at times, I?ve used several of them at the same time ? for example, watching a YouTube clip on my Nokia N95 while checking my mail on my BlackBerry; therefore, modem usage wasn?t that important for me. Now, the situation has completely changed: I take my HP almost everywhere, thanks to its (and the computer case?s) low weight and, of course, need (cellular and, preferably as fast as possible, that is, HSDPA) Internet connection everywhere. This was the most important driver for my scrutinizing all the possible solutions and comparing them battery life-wise to know how I can maximize battery life. Another driver was the brand new Internet / Connection Sharing category I?ve created in the Smartphone & Pocket PC magazine Best Software Awards 2008: with brand new titles / categories out there, I prefer to give my readers a very thorough review of them so that they see what the new categories are all about and why I've created them in the first place. Finally, I wanted to publish a greatly updated sequel to my previous, related articles and tutorials (see the Appendix for links).
This Bible is multiplatform, as with many of my recent, other tutorials and roundups: in addition to Windows Mobile, I also discuss Symbian s60v3 and BlackBerry. Please don?t come telling me "Why one Bible for all these operating systems and why don?t you break this into three separate articles?" The answer is manageability: with three separate articles, I?d need a lot more time managing, updating, quickly editing, changing them in the future. Also, the stuff I discuss has cross-references; for example, in the Symbian s60v3 and BlackBerry sections, I refer back to the Windows Mobile section. Separating this info, also meaning reusing the same sections, into separate articles would have been a pretty complicated task. Finally, if you have smart phones you?d like to utilize as modems with not only one operating system, you?ll certainly welcome having all the information in one place, not needing to find my other, related articles. Just skip the sections not discussing your particular operating system if you disagree with my approach.
(Incidentally, now that even Smartphone & Pocket PC magazine announced they would start covering the iPhone with a dedicated paper(!)mag, you may ask when I start doing the same. First, I'm European and, as you may already know, it's far harder for us to get an officially (!!) unlocked phone here. It's only now that Finland, at last, has become one of the countries where iPhones are sold that I can buy such a phone without having to travel to another country. Too bad it seems it won't be unlocked, which is plain unacceptable for me. That is, I may need to rely on factory-unlocked phones imported from Italy. And it still isn't known how much they would cost. Just a comparison: in Finland, the locked TeliaSonera 8GB model costs 477?, including the 24*1,99? of the cheapest 24-month Minun Sonera contract. In Italy, the unlocked iPhone costs about the same - but that's in Italy. I wouldn't buy a locked iPhone because, however much unlocking works just great now, it's in no way guaranteed this will be true of future firmware revisions. All in all, I'm still not sure whether I am able to purchase the iPhone 3G or not.)
As you?ll see, using current smart phones may prove better, power consumption-wise on the notebook side, than the currently used USB or PCMCIA modems ? or the built-in WAN support (HSDPA modem) in some higher-end notebooks and UMPC?s like the Lenovo Thinkpad X300. If you use an external smartphone not taking any charge from the USB port like a Nokia N95 tethered to your notebook, you can increase your notebook?s battery life by 5?40% (depending on the notebook used, the CPU load etc.) because, in general, the power usage difference can be as high as two Watts. I very thoroughly discuss these questions as well in the notebook power consumption-related sections.
1.1 Setting up the connection
In here, I explain how you can set up the connection from Windows-based desktop (notebook etc.) computers. On non-Windows client machines, the situation is pretty much the same if you plan to connect to Bluetooth (BT) Dial-Up Networking (DUN) (or, with the now-rare Widcomm BT stack, BT Personal Area Network (PAN)) or Wi-Fi connections; consequently, I don?t spend much time on it. I can, however, publish a Vista update if I receive a lot of feedback asking me to do so.
In the next three main sections, I explain the three ways (USB cable, Bluetooth DUN / PAN and Wi-Fi) you can tether your smart phone to your desktop PC ? or, of course, other smart phones, PDA?s or wireless-enabled gaming consoles. I don?t discuss infrared connections (IrDA) because very few current Windows Mobile smart phones support them any more. On Symbian and BlackBerry, where IrDA is still very common, you still don?t really want to use them because of the slow speed. (Very few ? if at all ? smart phones use Fast Infrared [FIR]; the rest only operate at 112 kbps at most. Even Bluetooth is much faster, let alone cabled (USB) and Wi-Fi connections.)
In the first subsection, I explain the most power-saving approach: tethering smart phones acting as modems (from now on, "modems") to your notebook. (From now on, I refer to the client as a "notebook". Please note that it can be anything: a desktop PC needing cellular Internet connectivity; a UMPC or even a non-Windows-based mobile device. For example, I?ve successfully used Symbian smart phones using a Windows Mobile modem - and vice versa. That is, it, the client, doesn?t even need to have a desktop operating system to be able to use the Internet connection of the modem. I even provide compatibility info in the main charts below on using smart phone clients.)
As USB connectivity requires no wireless connections (Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) between the modem and your notebook, in cases, it can be the most power-efficient solution on both the notebook and the modem side. Using Bluetooth decreases battery life by, in general, some 2...20% on both the notebook and the smart phone side. Using Wi-Fi can have an even more dramatic impact on the battery life, particularly those of some Symbian smart phones like the Nokia N95, where the battery life can be reduced by 50?70% if you opt for going for Wi-Fi.
Note that as it?s only desktop operating systems (Linux, Windows, Mac OS X) that have USB drivers and very-very few mobile devices (like the HTC x7500 / x7510 Advantage and the HP iPAQ 21x) have hardware USB host functionality, you can?t use USB tethering (cabling) between other smart phones or gaming consoles and modems. Also note that tethering has another major problem: the cable itself, which, in cases, can really hamper the usability, mobility etc. of the notebook, particularly with truly handheld UMPC?s and small Tablet PC?s often rotated between portrait and landscape orientation in "slate" (no-keyboard) mode. For example, look at the TC1100-in-use shots in my last Misc news article showing an external USB HSDPA modem. The shots certainly show how awkward it is to use USB cabling in a Tablet PC, particularly if you plan to walk around with them (the typical healthcare Tablet PC usage) and/or plan to rotate it while keeping it in your hand. Now, think of walking around with a cable or, even worse, a USB modem on a short cable sticking out from the tablet PC, swinging all the way around and/or getting caught by obstacles like doorhandles.
In the latter cases, you will want to prefer a wireless tethering solution (Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) between your modem and notebook.
22.214.171.124 Windows Mobile
As with the case of Bluetooth, there?s a huge difference between how old(er) and new(er) Windows Mobile modems behave. The former constitute all modems running an operating system before WM5 AKU3. (This major OS uprade was released in Autumn 2006; see THIS for more info on its networking if interested. Note that the article is pretty technical and is not required for the understanding of the current Bible.)
WM5 AKU3 has completely (!) changed the way Windows Mobile modems act: Internet Sharing has been introduced and the old approach entirely abandoned. It?s entirely different, both when used over USB and Bluetooth.
Note that some unofficial, "cooked" WM 6+ ROM?s (for example, the latest, 7.7 version of Tomal?s HTC Universal ROM) support both approaches ? that is, not only the newer Internet Sharing-based one, but also the older, standard approach. It's also possible to "hack" the "old" approach to some (not all!), current devices - see THIS for more info.
(1, note that you don't need ActiveSync to be installed for this to work. You can, of course, install it.)
2, on the phone, go to Modem Link or Wireless Modem. On some MS Smartphones (for example, the HTC Oxygen / s310), the latter is inside the "Accessories" folder.
3a, in the first, press Activate (left softkey) after making sure USB is selected in the topmost "Connection" drop-down menu and the right access point name in the bottom-most "Access point name" one:
3b, in the second, press Menu (right softkey) and, inside the menu (after making sure USB is selected in the "Connection" list), 1 Start:
4, now, connect the phone to the desktop. The latter will ask for a driver, which is a single INF file. Just unzip THIS file to a subdirectory anywhere and pass its path to the driver set-up dialog.
5, after the driver has been installed, start USBModem_Dialer.exe, which can also be found in the above ZIP file. You will only need to change the APN string in there, unless your APN is the same as the default "Internet". (Several GSM operators, for example, T-Mobile in several countries like the U.K., use "Internet" as the APN. With them, you won’t need to change this.) Unfortunately, you’ll need to repeat this every time you restart USBModem_Dialer.exe. After doing this, press Dial and voila – the connection is built up.
Note that you don’t necessarily need USBModem_Dialer.exe. THIS tutorial explains how you can create a "true" connection link on your desktop. It also has the advantage of not having to enter the APN every time you start a connection and that auto connection initialization (for example, from inside Internet Explorer) can also take place. On the other hand, it requires a bit more work to set up.
126.96.36.199.2 The WM5 AKU3+ / WM6 / WM6.1 approach
1, start Internet Sharing on the phone
2, click Connect (the left softkey), making sure "USB" is selected in the upper and an already-defined network connection is selected in the lower, "Network Connection" drop-down list:
3, connect the USB cable; the client desktop PC will automatically notice the new network. No other desktop-side clicking or starting of apps is necessary.
1, make sure you set up Nokia PC Suite on your notebook. Start it.
2, on the phone, go to Tools / Settings / Connection / Packet data and edit Access point:
3, now, by clicking the "Connect to the Internet" (the uppermost one in the right) icon in Nokia PC Suite, you can initiate the connection:
Note that, as with the pre-WM5 AKU3 USB case with Windows Mobile, you can also avoid using applications - here, Nokia PC Suite - for dialing in if you use some standalone modem drivers. They're available over the Web; run a Google search to find them. See for example THIS for a N95-related discussion and THIS for modem drivers for some old models.
Also note that, once you install Nokia PC Suite, it'll also install a driver called Nokia USB Modem in the system, which will already be accessible from New Connection Wizard; that is, if you set up a connection (by, basically, just providing *99# as the pseudo dial number) using this modem, you no longer will be forced to use Nokia PC Suite for dialing in every time you need to set up a connection. See section 188.8.131.52.1.2 for more info.
First, you’ll need to install BlackBerry Desktop Software (any version over 4.1; I've tested this with the latest, 4.5 version) in order to set up a virtual modem driver using the name "Standard modem". It’ll be accessible in Start / Settings / Control Panel / Phone and Modem Options. If you can’t find it there, reinstall BlackBerry Desktop Software.
Go there, select Standard modem and click Properties:
Go to the Advanced tab and enter your init string as is explained in section 184.108.40.206:
After this, you’ll need to set up a new modem using the usual Start / Settings / Network Connections / New Connection Wizard as is explained in the second half of 220.127.116.11.1. Here, of course, you’ll need to select "Standard modem":
Everything else is done in exactly the same way as under other operating systems: please refer to section 18.104.22.168.1.2.
As with USB-based, wired tethering, the approach to Bluetooth-based modem usage mostly depends on the operating system version. Hence the two subsections that follow.
22.214.171.124.1 The Pre-WM5 AKU3 approach
Setting up a modem and a connection is a two-step approach. First, in Phone and Modem Options, you add a modem (by, for example, pairing the modem with the notebook). Then, using the name of the modem provided by the system, you set up a connection (with a real - or, as is the case with cellular connections like GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA etc., pseudo - phone number) in New Connection Wizard.
Knowing the difference is very important as it's in Phone and Modem Options that you can look up the names of your hardware modems connected to your desktop (and, incidentally, it's in here that you can define the so-called init strings, which will be of extreme importance with BlackBerry modems.)
The following two subsections show how Phone and Modem Options and New Connection Wizard need to be used. Note that I'll very often refer to particularly the second, New Connection Wizard-related section as it's with it that you will need to configure your non-Windows Mobile-specific connections as well. This is why I'll refer to it from the Symbian- and the BlackBerry sections too.
126.96.36.199.1.1 Bluetooth pairing the phone with the desktop in Phone and Modem Options
1, make the Bluetooth on your phone discoverable. On touchscreen-enabled Pocket PC phones, it’s done in the following way:
On touchscreen-less MS Smartphones, by selecting Discoverable in Bluetooth Settings:
2, go to Start / Settings / Control Panel / Phone and Modem Options. (Alternatively, you can quickly get here by entering telephon.cpl on your desktop in any command line - for example, Start / Run or Total Commander). Go to the Modems tab and click Add:
Click Next. The OS will search for a dial-up modem. In the following screenshot, it displays two. Of them, I select SPV C100 (the Orange name for the HTC s310 / Oxygen MS Smartphone):
Press OK; now, enter a passkey; for example, 0000. (Note that many tutorials state this should be as complicated as possible. This is completely wrong – the passkey is a one-time passkey only and can, therefore, be very simple like 0000):
On the phone, just acknowledge the message about being connected; then, enter the same code (0000) as on the desktop and press Next / Done (the left softkey) several times. On the desktop, just press Finish. You'll be presented a dialog like this:
There, I've highlighted the changes compared to the state before pairing the phone with the notebook; for your convenience, it was the following:
It's this modem entry that you will need to refer to upon configuring a connection in New Connection Wizard, which is the subject of the the following subsection.
188.8.131.52.1.2 Configuring a connection in New Connection Wizard
Now, on the desktop, go to Start / Settings / Network Connections / New Connection Wizard. After the initial Next, just press Next (that is, just leave the default "Connect to the Internet" intact):
and, on the following screen, select "Set up my connection manually", followed by Next:
The next dialog screen should be left alone (that is, the default "Connect using a dial-up modem" will be just fine):
On the next screen, untick the uppermost checkbox (if there’re more than one entries) and check the one ("Modem - Standard Modem over Bluetooth link (COM4)") that has just been added in Phone and Modem Options:
Note that, in some cases (particularly when setting up Windows Mobile phones as modems), there may two new entries Phone and Modem Options creates upon pairing the modem with the notebook. That is, Windows has the tendency of creating two modem entries upon discovering the first Bluetooth DUN modem if it's a Windows Mobile one. In these cases, just tick in one and if it doesn’t work (because it’s linked to another phone), just edit the connection, untick this one and tick another one. To do this, in the dial-up dialog (see the last screenshot in this subsection), just press Properties and, in the uppermost modem selector list ("Connect using"), just untick the current one and select the other as can be seen HERE. A case like this is shown in the following screenshot:
Now, enter the name the shortcut / connection should be called. It can be anything; in this case, I used ‘vodafone’:
After pressing the Next button, enter *99# as the phone number:
In the next username/ password input field, with most mobile operators, you don’t need to fill in anything. You, on the other hand, might want to untick "Make this the default internet connection" if you also have other, more preferred connections. Press Next:
On the final screen, it’s worth ticking in "Add a shortcut to this connection to my desktop" so that you can quickly find it (not just under Start / Settings / Network Connections) to connect:
After pressing Finish, the dial-in dialog appears. Just leave everything alone, except for ticking in "Save the user name and password for the following users":
Just press Dial and the connection is established.
Note that with both Pocket PC’s and MS Smartphones you’re required to have a connection set up for this to work. Otherwise, the system won’t even know the server (the APN) it should connect to. That is, if you encounter mysterious "Error 734: The PPP link control was terminated" error messages upon trying to dial out, make double-sure you’ve defined the right connections and that they do work in the built-in Internet Explorer Mobile. Note that this isn’t necessary with, for example, the pre-WM5 AKU3 Windows Mobile USB approach – there, you don’t even need to configure an access point on your handheld.
184.108.40.206.2 The WM5 AKU3+ / WM6 / WM6.1 approach
This will be MUCH easier than with the BT DUN approach.
1, start Internet Sharing on the phone
2, click Connect (the left softkey), making sure "Bluetooth PAN" is selected in the upper and an already-defined network connection is selected in the lower, "Network Connection" drop-down list. Internet Sharing will automatically make your phone discoverable.
3, start Start / Settings / Network Connections / Bluetooth Network Connection on the notebook. Click Add:
4, On the next screen, check "My device is set up and ready to be found" and click Next:
5, After the desktop finds the BT PAN-capable phones, it lists them. Select the one you’d like to connect to (in this case, "Werner Ruotsalainen"):
6, Click Next. On the next screen, just enter the passcode and do the same on the phone – in exactly the same way as explained in the previous subsection on setting up BT DUN.
7, after the successful pairing process, you’re returned to the Start / Settings / Network Connections / Bluetooth Network Connection dialog; now, it already lists the connection we’ve just set up:
Just select it and click Connect; the connection will be automatically set up.
Making Symbian work is done in exactly the same way as the BT DUN in Windows Mobile – see section 220.127.116.11.1. In Symbian, you need to make the phone visible under Tools / Bluetooth / My Phone’s Visibility – make sure it reads "Shown to all".
It’s pretty easy to set up a Bluetooth modem under BlackBerry. Basically, it’s exactly the same as with Windows Mobile and Symbian; the only difference is that you MUST supply the so-called "init string" to the phone. Without it, it simply won’t work. Note that there is an official, but long-outdated and, therefore, not recommended tutorial HERE.
1. Start Bluetooth Settings on the BlackBerry; select "Allow another device to find me" as is depicted in the following screenshot:
2. On the notebook, from Phone and Modem Options, add the device as usual: Add, search for the device, select it:
Don’t leave yet for Start / Settings / Network Connections / New Connection Wizard, unlike with the other two operating systems! Here comes the tricky part especially important with BlackBerries. For the new modem records just created in the initial modem list under the Modem tab of Phone and Modem Options, we need to define the init string. To do this, select the just-added record and click Properties:
There, go to the Advanced tab and enter the init string of the form
where your APN is dependent on your wireless operator. In the following case, it’s "Internet" (that of T-Mobile):
Now, go to Start / Settings / Network Connections / New Connection Wizard and set up your connection as usual, as is already explained in the second half of section 18.104.22.168.1. Everything needs to be done as is explained there.
There may be cases you will want to prefer connecting via Wi-Fi to your smart phone to be used as a modem. Some of these are as follows:
- you want to prefer a cable-less solution because, for example, cables make using your gear awkward. This is a very common case with UMPC’s and tablet PC’s. With them, a USB cable make mobility much harder.
- your notebook (or any other Wi-Fi capable client) doesn’t have Bluetooth (or, for that matter, USB), ruling out all the other connection methods. Currently, with recent notebook models, this happens much more frequently than the lack of Wi-Fi.
- Bluetooth is plain slow for the line speed of your modem. This may be the case even with UMTS (see my benchmarks with the HTC Universal), let alone HSDPA, where, using current gear (very fast modems like the Nokia N95) and currently attainable line speeds (about 2000-2500 kbps for an extended time), the difference can be three- or four-fold.
Unfortunately, none of the mobile operating systems support Wi-Fi tethering connections out of the box. However, nothing is lost! There’re several solutions for both Symbian and Windows Mobile that do what you want; some even free. In the following, I explain all these solutions.
Another note: In addition to the differences (that is, except for the possible power usage issues, advantages), the Wi-Fi approach has another very important advantage over the traditional ones: it allows for more than one clients connecting. All the reviewed Wi-Fi sharing applications support the connection of at least five notebooks (clients) over Wi-Fi. This also means that, except for the somewhat weaker security (some of these apps only support WEP, not more advanced encryption forms) and the need for using ad-hoc connections and not the traditional Access Point mode, they can fully replace the currently still very expensive (around 150-200 euros / dollars at least) 3G hardware routers like the $699+ (!) Proxicast's LAN-Cell 2 3G Cellular Router, the TDT Router Series, the D-Link 3G Mobile Router DIR-451, the Vodafone / Linksys / Cisco Systems' 3G / UMTS Router and the 2N(R) OfficeRoute for UMTS network. These Wi-Fi sharing apps can almost entirely make the (expensive) hardware routers unnecessary - all you need is a 3+G phone and a sharing app, and your mobile office, all your co-workers, is ready to have 3G access over 3+G.
First, I quickly explain how you can access your phones from Windows XP SP2+ as this info applies to all the available mobile phones and Wi-Fi applications running on them.
When you start a Wi-Fi server on your phone, it’ll create an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network. (Except for the free ICS Control on Windows Mobile, where this needs to be manually created.) Note: traditional Access Point-based networking doesn’t seem to work, even when some of the internet connection sharing apps do offer the ability to switch to Access Point mode. For example, in the Symbian (but not the Windows Mobile) version of WalkingHotSpot, you can, theoretically, switch to the other mode. However, it just won’t work.
To access these networks, on the notebook, all you need to do is going to Start / Settings / Network Connections / Wireless Network Connection and, probably after clicking "Refresh network list" in the upper left corner, highlight the mobile phone you’d like to connect to and, then, press Connect in the lower right corner:
That’s all you need to do on the notebook side. Fortunately, with third-party apps, setting up the Wi-Fi network sharing on mobile phones are also very easy. Basically, the default settings will just do with all of them (unless you want to protect your share with a WEP key or want to change the name of your ad-hoc network): after invocation, you just press the "Start" or "Connect" button and you’re set – the ad-hoc network is started and your only task is finding it inside Wireless Network Connection on the desktop (see the previous screenshot) and just connecting to it by clicking Connect – again, as has already been explained above.
You may also want to ask whether using Wi-Fi results in a much worse battery life. On the modem side, it’s, unfortunately, true – both Windows Mobile and Symbian* platforms suffer from major battery life degradation if you opt for using Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth. I’ll show you a lot of real-world benchmarks later showing this.
*: I don’t know of similar Wi-Fi apps for BlackBerry and the current BB’s are all 2.75G – non-3+G – only, meaning Wi-Fi would be pretty much an overkill for them as the (theoretically) maximum attainable speed of non-EDR Bluetooth, 723 kbps, is well enough as it’s still far higher than the ~200 kbps practical maximum speed of the 2.75G EDGE. This is why BlackBerries are not discussed in here.
On the desktop / notebook side, the difference isn’t so pronounced. For example, with the HP TC1100 Tablet PC, there’s little difference in power usage between Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB-based access (assuming the latter doesn’t recharge the battery of the smartphone because, for example, it’s unable to – the case with the Nokia N95). That is, never ever think Wi-Fi equals much higher power consumption and much shorter laptop / notebook battery life. It’s simply not (always) true. In some of my measurements, Bluetooth DUN and PAN have even turned out to consume more power than Wi-Fi.
You may also want to ask how commonly used USB HSDPA modems like the Huawei E220 compare to wireless solutions as, as opposed to the wireless (cable-less) solution, it’s only the notebook battery that these modems draw the juice from. I’ve also made some thorough benchmarks (again, with the TC1100 and the Huawei E220 with the latest firmware) and found out that, on the whole, it resulted in an additional 1W of power consumption when continuously operating in HSDPA mode (and downloading a huge file) and 0.5W when idling, compared to the (on the whole, pretty much equal) Wi-Fi and the Bluetooth DUN / PAN figures. Compared to using a non-powered USB setup (benchmarked with the Nokia N95 acting as a USB HSDPA modem and disabled Wi-Fi / BT wireless on the tablet), the power usage difference was about 2 Watts while in transfer and about 1W when idling. Frankly, I expected considerably worse figures. Still, with a battery-friendly notebook (one that is continuously under 10W) – that is, at least a Pentium M / Centrino with low CPU load and not very high backlight level -, even these two Watts can mean as high as 20% battery life difference!
22.214.171.124 Windows Mobile
There are three alternatives for Windows Mobile: WalkingHotSpot (WHS), WMWifiRouter and ICS Control.
126.96.36.199.1 WalkingHotSpot (WHS)
WalkingHotSpot, which is already well-known on Symbian, is pretty much welcome on Windows Mobile. Apart from some (minor) differences like animation (which I find pretty much counter-productive, as it pretty much slows down navigating menus – the WHS folks promise a solution to the problem) and the lack of being able to make the server work in Access Point mode (which is pretty much redundant on Symbian as it just doesn’t work), the Windows Mobile version is exactly the same as on Symbian: you just start it, press Start and can already connect to it from up to four client devices. (Note that I've tested a non-public alpha version of the forthcoming, HTC Universal-compatible version 1.5. The currently available, at the time of writing, older WinMo version may be different from what I explain.)