About a year ago, I beta-tested a cool new application for BlackBerry smartphones called "TetherBerry" that let you quickly connect your BlackBerry to your PC to share the smartphone's data connection.
I was immediately a fan of the app, since it eliminated much of the tedious process necessary to employ a BlackBerry as a tethered modem for your PC--a process I wrote about in depth multiple times on CIO.com. And the software let you tether and connect to the Internet without paying certain wireless carrier's tethering fees.
In one year's time, the app has grown by leaps and bounds: the company released a version for Mac, in addition to the PC edition; it announced a Bluetooth version that does away with the formerly-necessary USB connection cord; the app was rebranded simply as "Tether;" and a new build for devices running Google's Android mobile OS is now in the works.
Shortly after I began testing the initial beta release, BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) also made it much easier to employ a BlackBerry as a tethered modem for your PC, by tweaking its BlackBerry Desktop Manager software to include an "IP Modem" section. Now setting up your BlackBerry as a PC modem is as simple as connecting to RIM's free desktop manager and following a quick set of on-screen instructions.
So why, you ask, would you want to dish out a pile of cash--Tether's not exactly cheap--when you can tether to your BlackBerry using RIM's free software? Here are five reasons, from Tether's Patrick Hankinson:
- Based on the company's internal testing, Tether speeds are about 50% faster than Desktop Manager tethering speeds. Test results are available on Tether.com.
- Tether is simpler and takes up less space on your computer than BlackBerry Desktop Manager.
- The Tether system is "carrier agnostic," which means if you have an international data roaming plan and travel the world you do not need to know which carrier you're on; it's "plug and play."
- Tether uses USB and Bluetooth to connect mobile devices to both Windows and Mac machines. BlackBerry Desktop Manager for Mac does not yet offer IP modem functionality via USB or Bluetooth.
- Most carriers charge for the usage of BlackBerry Desktop Manager-based tethering. Tether suggests consulting your bill and your contract to ensure you don't see any additional fees.
I can attest to some of these claims myself, but I also suggest contacting your carrier for additional information before purchasing Tether. I've used a T-Mobile BlackBerry on a pre-paid data plan to connect to the Web via PC a number of times, and I was never charged for tethering, so an application like Tether is unnecessary for that particular device.
To celebrate the one-year anniversary of Tether's release, the company is not only giving away six custom smartphones, but it promised free application licenses to 25 of you, my readers. If you want one of these complimentary Tether licenses, simply follow me on Twitter--I have a "protected" account, but I'll (probably) accept your request--and let me know you're interested. I'll randomly select winners in a day or so.
According to BlackBerry App World, RIM's mobile app store, Tether works on all major U.S. carriers, except for Metro PCS. And it's currently available for a special price of $29.99 until March 16, so if you don't get a free license from me, you can still pick up Tether at a discount for the next week or so.