Tether Review

Reviewed by: David Coppola, July 2010
Published by: Tether
Requires: Works with Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and Windows 7, XP 64-bit, Vista 64-bit, and Windows 7 64-bit; & Mac OS X or higher, a RIM BlackBerry series handheld with OS v4.5 or higher; USB sync cable, PC, laptop or netbook; BlackBerry Desktop Manager v4.7 or higher, USB or Bluetooth connection; Android compatibility is coming

MSRP: US$49.95

Description

Tether was formerly known as TetherBerry (read our review) and has now been re-written and re-branded as Tether.

Tether is a small utility for BlackBerry smartphones (an Android version is in development). The utility is designed to connect your portable PC laptop, notebook, subnotebook or netbook to the Internet via your BlackBerry's wireless data connection, allowing you to surf the Web, check e-mail, chat, instant message, etc., obviously without any need for an Ethernet connection or the presence of a wireless hotspot. The Tether utility basically converts your Blackberry into a mini modem that uses the cellular network as your connection. Tether uses your phone's data connection and does not eat up any of your existing voice minutes. After a rigorous public beta test and release of V1.0.7 of their software, TetherBerry was launched in March 2009 with great fanfare. We originally tested TetherBerry on two BlackBerrys: a CDMA Curve 8330 and a CDMA World Edition 8830. We recently re-tested the updatedand re-named Tether utility with a BlackBerry Bold 9700 and Curve 8520.

 

Features

Tether has taken the task of connecting your Blackberry and laptop to a whole new level of simplicity. Tether consists of two pieces of software: a) a small utility that installs on your BlackBerry device via over-the-air (OTA) link using the browser, and b) a PC/laptop software component that you download after purchasing the product at the Tether site.

Use and Testing

Setup went flawlessly on the Bold 9700 running OS v5.0. We tested Tether using a BIS connection only. Our test laptops were a Dell Vostro 1400 running Windows 7 Pro 64 bit and the latest Blackberry Desktop Manager v5.0.1. We also tethered the Curve 8520 running OS4.6 to an Acer Aspire Netbook running Windows with SP3.

Today most cell carriers want to charge you a fee for tethering a PC to your BlackBerry. In most cases you have to install some sort of utility software from your wireless provider on your PC. The utility is used to track your tethered usage. Cost varies widely from carrier to carrier, and some offer package pricing and flat fees ranging between $15-$30 extra per month on top of all your other voice and data subscriptions. Some carriers will add a per-megabyte tethered usage charge of as much as $9/MB (and more in many cases). So if you tether, for example, 1MB a day for 30 days (checking email and web browsing while on the road) you'll find a whopping $270 worth of tethered usage charges on your cell phone bill in addition to your monthly voice and data subscriptions. Justifications for such outrageous tethered usage rates charged by the competing carriers remain opaque and difficult to understand. We've asked, repeatedly, for some sort of rational explanation for such exorbitant fees but never received a coherent answer. The carriers are free to charge whatever they want, so they do.

The Tether developers win hands down because they have basically been able to figure out how to tether your BlackBerry and laptop to use the data portion of your subscription and avoid those extra tethered usage charges. Be aware that those who have capped data plans must still keep track of the amount of data used during connected sessions. The Tether desktop application does this for you per session. Break through the limit and you'll pay heavy rates no matter how you're connected or tethered. For anyone who regularly needs online access while traveling (with or without a BlackBerry or Tether), one of the many so-called unlimited data plans is strongly recommended. Be warned though that even unlimited data plans have monthly caps in many cases, so try to avoid streaming video from YouTube and TV shows from Hulu or you'll find out very quickly that your unlimited data plan actually has some very real limits.

Value

Tether is great for those who travel and have difficulty finding a free hotspot, but who still need to connect. With Tether, as long as your BlackBerry can find cellular coverage, you've got your data connection too. Your connection speeds will be determined by how strong your cell signal is and the type of coverage you are in, e.g., 3.5+G, 3G, Edge, 1X, 1XEV. Overall we had download speeds that were more than adequate to check e-mail or surf the web. Compare data connection and usage costs with the same connectivity using Tether and the excellent value becomes readily apparent.

Cons: No Android support yet although Tether is working on it. We have also heard that there are some compatibility issues with some Blackberry models and RIM operating system versions out in the wild. All we can say is that this software product is already quite solid and can only get better. With time, and as it continues to mature, all the kinks should be ironed out. Our usage during the review period was trouble free.

Pros: 7 day trial version available. Ease of use and quick setup. Decent connection speeds, primarily limited only by your carrier's network speed. Great first release of this software. As Tether matures, additional features will be added (so say the developers). Excellent technical support and busy user support forums provide lots of help and advice. Thirty day money back policy if you're not satisfied. If you need mobile access on your laptop and you normally have trouble finding free hotspots or wired connections, Tether may turn out to be the godsend among all your BlackBerry utilities. Highly recommended.

(Ed. Note: Some wireless carriers will care about your use of Tether, some won't. Some wireless data service plans actually specify that third-party data service access software is strictly prohibited. We're not particularly concerned, but we're still obligated to advise that you check with your wireless carrier before installing and using Tether).

KSN Product Rating:


 

 








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