Tethering: What’s Your Best Option?

Dec 13, 2018

I love working at my local library. It’s quiet, clean, and less distracting that the average office space. The only problem is the SLOOOW library Wi-Fi, especially when the building is full of patrons, all trying to connect to the same network. My favorite work-around is to tether my MacBook to my iPhone. However, last week I noticed several available hotspots, which made me wonder about performance and security. Is Bluetooth the best option? Is it better to bring a USB cable to ensure total security? Should I just keep using my MacBook to iPhone routine? I tested all of these methods so you won’t have to!

So much faster than public library Wi-Fi. (Source: Apple)

Bluetooth Tethering

Bluetooth is the least attractive option. You get connection interference and slow data transfer. The only fast thing is the drain of your battery . A no-win situation, especially when you’re in a crowded place with lots of other Bluetooth devices. If you’re in a pinch, Bluetooth tethering works, but don’t expect steady connections or lightning-fast speeds. And don’t forget your power supplies. You’ll need them.

USB Tethering

Connecting your devices with a USB cable works, but you pay the price in speed. Your battery lasts longer than with Bluetooth—a good thing, because the data you transfer will take a lot longer. USB transfer speeds are about half of Wi-Fi tethering, so be patient. With the direct connection, you won’t experience interference, so if connection quality is more important than speed, this may be the way to go. Special note for iPhone users: I learned the hard way that you need the latest version of iTunes on your computer to connect. Update at home!

Wi-Fi Tethering

If you have the available phone data and the battery life, Wi-Fi tethering is the still your best option. Just turn on your phone’s “mobile hotspot,” connect your computer to the network, and you’re off. The speeds are much faster, and the connection stability far surpasses Bluetooth. You may experience occasional connection drops, but the speed you gain puts it miles ahead of the other options.

Most mobile data plans include mobile hotspot options, but you should check your specific plan before tethering. You don’t want a surprise on that next phone bill because you couldn’t tolerate the slow Starbucks Wi-Fi! Although Wi-Fi tethering is the best option of the three, any of these are more attractive than the average public Wi-Fi network. On any network, watch for suspicious activity and stay vigilant!