Despite my problems with my Nexus 7 Android tablet, I use it a ton and carry it with me just about everywhere. Most of the time I am in reach of a known WiFi access point, such as my home or work. But sometimes I am at places without WiFi coverage or at places where I don’t want to connect to available access points. Some places, like airports, will charge you for access. Other places, such as Starbucks, will offer free but unprotected access. It’s trivial to pick out information like your Facebook username and password as long as the connections you are using aren’t encrypted.
In either case of non-existent or less favorable access points, I turn to FoxFi, which allows my mobile phone to serve as a wireless access point.
How it works
Note: as of this writing, the only Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) device FoxFi only works with the Verizon Galaxy Nexus. If you are running an earlier version of the Android OS, such as Ice Cream Sandwich/4.0, you are good to go.
FoxFi bypasses any carrier-installed restrictions on using your phone’s wireless broadband connection as a WiFi access point. Basically your phone becomes a WiFi point, and you share your phone’s connection to the Internet. This is much more secure than using an open WiFi, or even WiFi access points with WEP encryption.
The app is free from the Google Play store. Installation is super easy: you can tap on the Network Name to give your device a personal name. You can also add a password (obviously recommended). All traffic is encrypted with WPA-PSK.
When you’re all done, tap the “Activate WiFi Hotspot” area and you’re good to go. That’s it.
Things you should know
First off, using your phone as a hot spot is going to drain the battery faster. I don’t have any metrics on my Galaxy Nexus, but just like using a “real” mobile hot spot device you may want to consider plugging your phone into a power source.
Your phone’s data plan still applies. I’m grandfathered into the unlimited data plan on Verizon, so this doesn’t concern me very much. However, if you’re on a “block” plan where you pay as you go or in MB or GB chunks, you might want to keep an eye on your data usage.
Lastly, some carriers, like Verizon, don’t want you to use your phone as a mobile WiFi spot without paying extra money. Essentially they are double charging you for data, and also making you pay for acting a a WiFi hotspot, which is a native Android feature. Using the free FoxFi app could save you any hot spot tethering charges. That being said, if your data usage is excessive your carrier may investigate your usage. This has not happened to me, but it’s something you should think about.
I’ve found this app to be very useful for my limited tethering needs. This allows me to use my tablet on the Internet via my unlimited data plan from Verizon. Someone asked me if only Android phones and tablets could connect since the hotspot was set up by an Android app. Any device can connect to the access point, just like your home.
If you travel much and want to use your WiFi-only tablet on the Internet, give the FoxFi WiFi tether app a try.