Share an Android Internet Connection with Wi-Fi Hotspot or USB Tethering

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So after a lot of requests from our users here is a guide about How to Share an Android Internet Connection with Wi-Fi Hotspot or USB Tethering.

Almost any Android smartphone can share its mobile data connections and turn itself into an Internet hotspot, an infinitely valuable one feature which allows you to connect Macs, PCs, iPad or Nexus tablets online via the cellular connection. Of course, the iPhone also has the Hotspot capability, but we’re going to focus on getting this one feature work with Android this time, and we’ll show it too how to also allows USB tethering to work between Android and Mac OS X, which, unlike Windows, is not a supported option on the Mac by default.

Please note that Wi-Fi hotspot and Internet tethering may be an additional service through your mobile carrier, and each data plan will vary depending on whether tethering is included in the standard bandwidth allocation or is available at an additional cost. Since all providers handle personal hotspot differently, the billing situation is up up to you to find out for yourself, and if you don’t have any hotspot options on your phone it’s probably because you didn’t pay for the service or because your provider doesn’t offer it. It’s also worth pointing out that, despite the incredible conveniences of hotspot features, it is very easy to use tons of bandwidth once you connect a computer to a smartphone internet connection, which is why you would have to do some simple tips to reduce data usage every time a Mac or PC is linked to a smartphone cellular plan.

How to Enable Wi-Fi Hotspot on an Android smartphone

Institution up wireless hotspots in Android is super simple, but it’s actually slightly different on different carriers. Why this is different is not entirely clear to me, but it may have to do with the decisions of certain carriers about whether or not to offer hotspot as default feature, or as an add-on data plan feature that costs an additional fee. Still, we’ll show you how to enable it on AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and, theoretically at least, any other GSM or CDMA provider.

Set up Android Hotspot with AT&T & T-Mobile

This should also be the same for AT&T, T-Mobile and any other GSM network:

  • On Android, open “Settings” and then go to Wireless & networks
  • Choose ‘More’ then select ‘Tethering & portable hotspot’
  • Choose “Portable Wi-Fi hotspot” to turn on connection sharing

If you’ve never used it before, you can select a password, share name and other configuration details. Otherwise, the specific hotspot configuration can be accessed through the “Configure Wi-Fi hotspot” option under the “Tethering & portable hotspot” menu.

Now on the Mac (or iPad or PC) all you have to do is connect to the Android hotspot network through the Wi-Fi menu and you’re online.

Configure Mobile Hotspot with an Android on Verizon

Verizon and some other CDMA networks take a slightly different approach to enable the Personal Hotspot on Android phones:

  • Go to Settings, choose ‘More settings’ and go to ‘Wireless and networks’
  • Turn around “Mobile hotspot ”to ON

With hotspot enabled, you can now connect to the Android network through the Wi-Fi connection menus in OS X, iOS, Windows, or whatever you’re trying to connect to the Internet.

Again, why this is different isn’t entirely clear, but either of the two methods above should work on just about any Android phone with 4.0 or later. If for some reason the options above are not available, or if tethering doesn’t work after going through the setup process, your wireless carrier may have feature are added to your data plan before it becomes usable.

How to Set Up USB internet tethering from Android to Mac OS X

Windows supports USB tethering directly from Android devices, but that is not the case with Macs. Oddly, there is no native OS X support for Android to Mac USB tethering, but the good news is that it’s really easy to add using a free kernel extension called HoRNDIS. You can think of kernel extensions (kexts) as drivers and for tethering to work, you need to install one yourself:

  • Download the Horndis package (free) and install it on the Mac
  • Turn WiFi OFF on the Mac by pulling down the menu and choosing ‘Turn WiFi Off’ – this is not necessary but makes setup easier to determine when things are working or not
  • Connect the Android to the Mac with a USB cable

After the Android phone connected to the Mac, you must enable USB tethering on the device itself. This may vary slightly per Android version, but it should follow the same basic steps as outlined:

  • Open Settings on Android phone, and go to “Connections” and “More”, choose “Tethering and portable hotspot”
  • Enable “USB tethering” in this menu and in a few seconds the Internet connection should now be shared via USB

At this point, the Mac should automatically detect the Android phone and set it as the primary internet connection. You can confirm this by trying to use the Internet, or by going to > System Preferences> Network and looking for the Android device name in the connection list. If you have Wi-Fi turned off and are using the USB tethering, there will be an icon next to it and says “Connected”, and you will see that the IP address, DNS and router information are all set.

Android to Mac USB Internet tethering

If the package installer fails for some reason, you can install the kext using the traditional manual installation method described here, although it is a bit more advanced. Likewise, you can remove the kext that way, and if you’re not sure you have the extension installed at all, just use the ‘kextstat’ command to list every single kernel extension in OS X.

Wi-Fi hotspot vs USB tethering

Wi-Fi hotspot is of course much easier to use and set up up, but some mobile carriers limit the number of computers or devices that can connect to an individual hotspot. That’s where USB tethering is a huge advantage, as you can tether a Mac to the Android smartphone to use the Internet connection, then use Internet sharing on the Mac to turn the Macintosh into its own wireless hotspot. This then broadcasts its own signal, but forwards it through a single MAC address, allowing a potentially infinite number of machines to connect to the linked connection without being detected by a cellular provider. Cool huh?

Some people also swear that USB tethering is more reliable than wireless tethering, although in our own testing we didn’t have any issues with a Wi-Fi hotspot feature this is not directly related to the overall strength of the cellular connection, but your experience here may vary. So use whatever works for your situation, which will likely be the simple Wi-Fi hotspot option in most cases.

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