Android to Android Tethering over Bluetooth

I have a Galaxy Nexus (GNex hereafter) phone and a Nexus 7 (N7 hereafter) tablet. Since the N7 is WIFI only, it’s not much use on the bus unless I use some kind of tether back to my phone. Until recently, I’d simply created a WIFI hotspot on my GNex and the N7 would happily pick that up. However, this method of tethering has several drawbacks :

  1. It’s not battery friendly – both devices need to run their WIFI full time.
  2. It’s a broadcast – the hotspot’s SSID can be hidden of course, but anyone sniffing the airwaves will still see my hotspot and may attempt to hack it. Unlikely that they’d succeed, given that it’s WPA2, but still.
  3. I have to manually turn on the hotspot on my GNex and wait 20 seconds for my N7 to see the connection and get an IP address.
  4. I have to manually turn off the hotspot on my GNex.
  5. I also have to remember to turn back on WIFI on the GNex, or it’ll just use 3G all day thereafter, because turning on a hotspot automatically turns off your WIFI.

Lately, I wondered if there was a better way to do things. Could I use Bluetooth and just leave the service running full time?

Well, since both my devices run Android’s latest “Jelly Bean” release, I thought it would be a doddle to set up. I was wrong, sadly, because there’s a fairly obscure setting you have to set up before hand. However, once you know about that, it’s very simple. In the hope it helps you, here’s the full step by step :

First, and most obviously, turn on the both device’s “Bluetooth” setting.

NetworkSettings

You’ll need to do that on both devices.

Then, pair them up by clicking “Search for devices” on one of the devices and clicking on the name of other device. You’ll be asked to verify a PIN number. It doesn’t matter what the PIN number is, as long as it’s the same PIN number on both devices.

Now, on the GNex, here’s the bit that caused me a headache. Go to Settings, choose More… then choose Tethering & Portable Hotspot. In there, you have tick Bluetooth tethering. If you don’t, the tether will (silently!) fail and you’ll be left, like me, scratching your head.

NetworkSettings-MoreTethering-PortableHotspot

Okay, now you’re ready to use the GNex’s internet via Bluetooth. All you have to do is tell the N7 to actually use it.

On the N7, go to Settings, then click on the word Bluetooth (not the toggle – the word). Finally, click on the name of your GNex you paired earlier. To get it all working, choose Internet Access.

BluetoothSettings

That’s it. Assuming that your GNex has some kind of internet access, then so now will your N7 tablet, via Bluetooth.

I’ve only just completed this myself and initial impressions are that the browsing on my N7 is significantly slower than over WIFI (despite my GNex using WIFI). Obviously, there’s a bandwidth limitation when using Bluetooth – but at around 2Mbits, that shouldn’t hinder web page rendering. Both devices are Bluetooth 3 capable, although the GNex apparently has hardware capable of Bluetooth 4. However, from what I could find, all Bluetooth devices communicate at around 2Mbits unless they use other technology to create high-speed channels, such as Bluetooth 3′s HS capability, which simply creates a WIFI 802.11 channel – which would kind of defeat the purpose of this anyway!

Here’s the advantages of this set up, assuming the speed issue is all in my head :

  1. Low power Bluetooth will preserve battery on the N7.
  2. The devices will pair up when they see each other, so no manual steps to get internet access on the bus. (I need to confirm this – I have a sneaky suspicion that I still need to tell the N7 to use the GNex internet each time they reconnect – which would devalue this for me quite a bit)
  3. I can keep WIFI enabled on the GNex and this tether will simply use that faster connection if it’s available.
  4. I’m not advertising an available WIFI hotspot to everyone on the bus!

Time will tell. I’ll use it for a few days and see how it goes.

21 thoughts on “Android to Android Tethering over Bluetooth

  1. Thanks for this Neil.  Top work.
    I ran a speedtest for each of the configurations and it does appear that going through bluetooth to the phone when connected to wifi it is severely restricted speed-wise.  The good news is that going through bluetooth on to the phone on 3G it is almost as quick as the phone is itself going straight out to 3G.  Not sure why that would be, but as I would only use it while I’m on the road, that’s fine by me.  Also, it does seem that you will need to enable internet over bluetooth on the N7 each time.  No biggie really - since the hotspot on the phone drains way more battery than the bluetooth running, it’s a small price to pay.

    •  I’ve been using this on the bus for the past week now and it’s been rock solid. Speed wise, it may be a touch slower, but not noticeably so. I do indeed have to “start” the internet connection on the N7 each time I want to use it (assuming the devices have ever been out of bluetooth range of course), but it’s much easier and quicker than starting a WIFI tether on my phone, if only for the fact that I can now just keep the phone in my pocket – it’s the N7 that starts the connection now.

      All in all, I’ll be sticking with this setup – it’s pretty much pain-free.

      • Hi Neil, Found your site from a google search – was trying to do the same thing with my nexus 7 tablet and Galaxy s3.

        To ‘fix’ the auto connect to internet issue – I use Tasker App with the 3rd Party Bluetooth Auto Connect plugin.

        I have a task running on the nexus 7 that detects when not on Wifi – and auto connects via bluetooth to my phone (devices previously paired).

        Not sure if on your phone that you need to manually start the bluetooth tether option – on mine you do – but there is a fix for this too – from the same makers of the above plugin. It auto starts the bluetooth tender option on phone start.

        Phil

      • Nice one. I’d personally be a bit reluctant to use this, as I’m often sitting next to my tablet in the house with my phone in my pocket, so in that scenario, I’d rather the tablet use the house WIFI, rather than Bluetooth tethering to my phone. Although it does sound like Tasker can handle that, so it’s something I think I might have to look into.

        It’s the tethering option that annoys me the most. Why does it randomly switch itself off? It’s not just reboots either – it seems to be a timed option, or perhaps a battery saving mechanism (switch it off when battery is <10% or similar). Pretty annoying.

      • Hi

        The task also disconnects the bluetooth connecting if the tablet can connects to a wifi network.

        With me – at home – connects to wifi – leave home (connects to phone), then at work connects to wifi dropping bluetooth connection until leave to got home.

  2. Will this charge my verizon account? I called. They don’t know either. They said if it didn’t say anything about terms and condition don’t worry about it
    So will someone let me know anything?

    • Hi Greg. Yes, it will very much charge your Verizon account. You’re taking your tablet device and using the data plan on your phone. So you’re using your phone’s data plan to provide internet access.
      Worse than that, because the tablet just sees an internet connection, it will possibly do things that ordinarily it wouldn’t. It may, for example, try updating its apps – which can result in big downloads.
      To be fair, the same is true if you’d used your phone to make a WIFI hotspot, but just to be clear, regardless of how you connect to your phone for internet, it’s definitely your phone’s data plan that is impacted.

      • I have same problem.
        I unpaired then re-paired them and still didn’t get the option to select Internet Access (the only options are rename and unpair ). Any idea?

      • Don’t know how I missed your post until now, Lew. Just unpair your devices, then repair them again. You should be able to tick the “Internet Access” option once again.

      • I’m having the same problem. I repeated it many times. But no “Internet Access” popping up. Please help. I’m using Alcatel onetouch glory 2, and Onetouch tab 7HD

      • Not sure how I can help, Inoreenyan. Your alcatel is running Android 4.1 so the instructions above should work. I wonder if your telco might be blocking tether – I hear that’s quite common in the States, so maybe elsewhere too. Sorry!

  3. I am trying to bluetooth tether my Galaxy 2 tab (android 4.0.3 ics) to my Galaxy S phone (android 2.2, can’t be officially updated) but neither seem to have a bluetooth tethering option in the settings menu.
    Is that right?
    If so i guess i just need to stick to battery-draining but effective wifi tethering…

  4. Thank you very much for this. I had the same trouble getting a bluetooth tether established between my N7 and a Motorola (both with latest Android). If Motorola have instructions about this on their website, they are very well hidden. Your instructions set me straight in 2 minutes. Thanks again.

  5. Great post! I just got a Nexus 7 and wanted to use my Galaxy Nexus for tethering. When I realized I could to Bluetooth tethering instead of Wi-Fi, a quick Google search less me here. Like Phil, I have my setup automated, but I’m using the Secure Settings plugin (since I already have it) on the Nexus 7.

  6. Right now, we’re on New Jersey transit, my wife’s playing Where’s my water with our three year old on my nexus 7, and I’m writing this on my S4, thanks to your post. We did this on the way down, to, and the S4 did stop sharing its Internet connection over Bluetooth. I had to go in and check the box again.

  7. Thank you for this post! I couldn’t get this to work on my own — I didn’t realize I needed to enable bluetooth tethering on the phone. I have the same Gnex+n7 setup.

  8. Pingback: Internetverbindung via Bluetooth - Android-Hilfe.de

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