[Android] Best free tethering (and WiFi hotspot) app

Tethering is the ability to share your mobile device’s (phone or tablet) internet connection with other devices, whether that be a computer or another mobile device. Being able to tether (and create a WiFi hotspot) is a native feature of Android. However, unless you are using a Nexus One, Nexus S, or Galaxy Nexus or running a custom ROM, chances are Android’s native tethering features have been disabled on your device. You can unlock tethering features on your devices by paying your carrier more money. Or, if you are someone who rarely uses tethering and cannot justify paying extra money for something you only do once in a while, you can use a free tethering app that allows you to tether for free.

This article explores the best free tethering/WiFi hotspot app on Android. It looks at both the ability to do wireless tether (via WiFi and Bluetooth) and wired tether (via USB).

[Note: Carriers have clever ways of detecting if you are tethering or not. Most carriers, once they detect that you are tethering, will prompt you to purchase their tethering plan. However, some carriers may automatically enroll you into their tethering plan without telling you if they see you are tethering. So be sure to monitor your phone bill to ensure you aren’t being charged. dotTech and Ashraf are not responsible for any charges you incur by using a tethering app.]

This article is part of our Best Free Android Apps repository. Drop by to learn more about the best free apps across a variety of categories!

Table of Contents

Best Free Tethering App (and WiFi Hotspot) App

App Name: Wireless Tether for Root Users

Developer: Müller, Lemons, Buxton

Download Size: 401 KB

Version Reviewed: v2.0.7

Requires: Android 1.5 and up


  • Allows users to do wireless tether via WiFi and/or bluetooth.
  • Creates a WiFi hotspot so multiple devices can be tethered at the same time.
  • Gives users the ability to password protect/encrypt WiFi using WEP/WPA/WPA2.
  • Has the ability to strictly control which devices are given tether access via “Access-Control” list.
  • Displays the total download/upload bandwidth consumed during each tether session.
  • Very easy to use — literally one tap required.


  • Requires root access.
  • Does not have the ability to do wired tether via USB.
  • Doesn’t have the ability to save download/upload bandwidth data for all sessions to get a total over the day, week, month, etc.


Wireless Tether for Root Users is an easy-to-use, minimal hassle, open source tethering app. Literally all you have to do is launch it, click the large WiFi button on the app’s homescreen, give it root access, and start tethering. Best of all, Wireless Tether for Root Users does not restrict any Internet traffic like PdaNet and EasyTether Lite do. Of course if you want to customize the settings you need to do a little more than one tap, but my point is Wireless Tether for Root Users is very easy to use.

Wireless Tether for Root Users allows users to tether via WiFi and/or bluetooth; and when doing WiFi tether it creates a WiFi hotspot so multiple devices can tether at a time. For security purposes, users are given the ability to password protect/encrypt WiFi connection with WEP/WPA/WPA2; and there is an “Access-Control” list which shows all devices that are trying to tether. The first time a device connects via Wireless Tether for Root Users, you have to manually grant it access via this Access-Control list; every time after the first connection, access is remembered so unless you manually ungrant access, that particular device will be able to connect automatically.

Other useful aspects of Wireless Tether for Root Users are

  • It shows a notification every time a device connects. If the connecting device has already been granted access via the Access-Control list, the notification is in green; if it hasn’t already been granted access, the notification is in red. You can, of course, disable these notifications.
  • The download and upload bandwidth consumed during a tether session is displayed. This helps make it easy to track how much data was consumed. Unfortunately this download/upload bandwidth data is session-to-session — there is no way to save the data to get a total number over a day, week, month, etc.

The biggest downside to Wireless Tether for Root Users is it requires root access. If you have not rooted your Android device, Wireless Tether for Root Users is useless. You need to either go root your device before downloading Wireless Tether for Root Users or look at using other tether apps that don’t require root access.

Overall, Wireless Tether for Root Users is excellent.

Runner Up

App Name: Open Garden WiFi Tether

Developer: OpenGarden, Inc.

Download Size: 850 KB

Version Reviewed: v2.1.1

Requires: Android 1.5 and up


Open Garden WiFi Tether is literally the exact same app as Wireless Tether for Root Users. (Open Garden WiFi Tether still requires root access and cannot do wired tethering.) You see Wireless Tether for Root Users is an open source app, so Open Garden WiFi Tether took their app, slightly modified it (there are no major feature differences as far as I can tell — only major difference I noticed is Open Garden WiFi Tether asks for fine (GPS) location app and read phone state and identity permissions whereas Wireless Tether for Root Users does not), rebranded it, and republished it. Now, Open Garden WiFi Tether is also open source and gives credit to Wireless Tether for Root Users; so OpenGarden, Inc. is doing nothing “wrong” per se — it is abiding by the GPL license. I just thought this is worth mentioning.

That said, there is little reason to grab Open Garden WiFi Tether when you can grab the original Wireless Tether for Root Users. After all, Open Garden WiFi Tether app updates lag behind that of Wireless Tether for Root Users because OpenGarden must wait for Müller, Lemons, Buxton to release an update to Wireless Tether for Root Users before the update can be ported to Open Garden WiFi Tether. The reasons I feature Open Garden WiFi Tether as runner up are

  • It is a very good tethering app. It may be a copy of Wireless Tether for Root Users but it is still a very good app.
  • Some cell phone networks block their users from downloading Wireless Tether for Root Users, e.g. T-Mobile USA users cannot download Wireless Tether for Root Users. In the case that your network blocks Wireless Tether for Root Users, you can either try to use an app called Market Enabler to fool Android Market into thinking you are on a different network or you can just download Open Garden WiFi Tether.

Honorable Mention 1

App Name: Barnacle Wifi Tether

Developer: szym.net

Download Size: 130 KB

Version Reviewed: v0.6.7

Requires: Android 1.5 and up


Barnacle Wifi Tether is another root-required, wireless WiFi-tether app. (Barnacle Wifi Tether does not allow wireless bluetooth tether like the previously two mentioned apps.)

Barnacle Wifi Tether is slightly more complicated to use than the previously two mentioned apps. But once you get it to work, it works very well giving you free, un-restricted WiFi tether. Barnacle Wifi Tether may be inferior to Wireless Tether for Root Users and Open Garden WiFi Tether, but it is still a viable option for those that can’t get download or use Wireless Tether for Root Users/Open Garden WiFi Tether

Honorable Mention 2

App Name: PdaNet

Developer: June Fabrics Tech

Download Size: 117 KB

Version Reviewed: v3.02

Requires: Android 1.5 and up


PdaNet is a two-part tethering app that allows users to do wired USB tether or wireless bluetooth tether — all without root access. I say “two-part” because in order to use PdaNet you must download the app on your Android device and then download the PdaNet program on your Windows/Mac computer.

In addition to tethering features, PdaNet includes an “SMS Agent” which allows you to send text messages from your computer while you are tethered.

The free version of PdaNet restricts users to HTTP connections only. In other words, if you want to visit secured websites (i.e. HTTPS) while tethering, you need to purchase PdaNet for $15.95. (You purchase PdaNet from the developer’s website — not Android Market.)

Aside from not supporting wireless WiFi tether/WiFi hotspot, obviously the biggest drawback to PdaNet is being unable to visit HTTPS websites in the free version. The advantage to PdaNet, however, is you need not have a rooted device — PdaNet does not require root. So it is a matter of a rock and a hard place: If you don’t have a rooted device and won’t/can’t root, then PdaNet is a viable choice for tethering — you just won’t be able to visit HTTPS websites.

Honorable Mention 3

App Name: EasyTether Lite

Developer: Mobile Stream

Download Size: 117 KB

Version Reviewed: v1.1.1

Requires: Android 1.5 and up


EasyTether Lite allows users to do wired USB tether without root access. (Wireless WiFi tether not supported.) Similar to PdaNet, EasyTether Lite is two-part and requires you to install the desktop program on your Windows/Mac/Ubuntu/Fedora computer. In fact, PdaNet and EasyTether are rivals and fight for the non-root-tether-app market share.

Compared to PdaNet, EasyTether Lite does not support bluetooth tether but it does support Ubuntu and Fedora computers whereas PdaNet doesn’t. Furthermore, EasyTether Lite doesn’t have an SMS agent that PdaNet has. Finally, EasyTether Lite restricts web access to tethered devices just like PdaNet — but EasyTether blocks more than just HTTPS. EasyTether Lite blocks HTTPS connections, instant messengers, and game console tethering. You need to purchase EasyTether Pro to get all those blocked features; EasyTether Pro also supports bluetooth tether. On the bright side, EasyTether Pro is cheaper than PdaNet — it costs $9.99 on Android Market or $4.99 on Amazon Appstore.

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