by Jim Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.com
I have had my new Verizon phone for a couple of weeks now, and I like it. You don’t need to be a Geek to want one. If you are one of the many folks who want a phone just to make calls, the Droid is way overkill. For a phone, it is expensive at $200 with a 2 year contract. It’s cheap for a computer, though.
Droid showing Sliding keyboard. Optional desk dock.
Droid as Computer
The Droid is essentially a computer that can also make phone calls. It is connected to the Internet through the Verizon cellular data network or a local WiFi network. You can browse the Internet, send and receive emails, stream or download videos/music and so much more. Texting or entering data is easy using one of the three keyboards (touchscreen vertical or horizontal and slideout keyboard).
Some people I know could use the Droid and never need a conventional laptop or desktop computer.
Droid as Internet Connection for your Laptop
The Verizon data plan for the Droid is unlimited. There is no 5GB limit as with cellular data cards or tethering my old phone using VZaccess Manager. How about using the Droid’s Internet connection to connect my computer like I used to do? Well, I can. I just need PdaNet software for the Droid from June Fabrics.
Tethering is the term we use to describe the hardware and software needed to connect a computer to the Internet using the cellular data connection from a smart phone. It is usually a USB connection, but could be wireless using Bluetooth DUN (dial-up network) or WiFi. A wired connection to the computer is simplest and most reliable. The necessary cable comes as a standard attachment to the Droid.
There are two parts of the system. A program that runs on your computer and stays in the system tray and an app on the Droid. Installation is easy. Follow the easy instructions. Download the installation program from the website and run it on your computer. Plug the Droid into an available USB port. Let the program talk to the phone for a moment to establish communication, and you are ready.
First, start the PdaNet app on the Droid phone and Enable USB Tether. Then, on your computer, click the PdaNet icon in the system tray and connect.
This is a broadband connection and speed is determined by the cellular network. In a good Verizon area, the speeds are excellent. You can easily stream video and not worry about going over your monthly data limit.
The Droid is not the only smart phone that allows tethering. PdaNet has been available for PalmOS phones, BlackBerrys and Windows Mobile phones for a while.
If you want to use PdaNet for the iPhone, you need to “jailbreak” it, voiding the warranty.
The price of a single license is $23.95. It is a one time purchase for the Android version. One license covers one phone (you can reuse the license if you switch to a new Android phone). There is no limit on the computer side and your license gives you unlimited free upgrades.
Droid as Internet Connection for your Network
So far, there is no support for connecting to our Cradlepoint router, but I expect that fairly soon.
We’ll show you how to network the connection with software in a future post.
Jim Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.com
Computer Education for Travelers
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This sounds great, but what is the advantage over an air card? I am confused (and inexperienced with cell phones). Are you bypassing the set data limits? Most of the plans I looked at are about $70 a month.
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Now my home network will not work until I get home.
I will not have to worry about the wife being on facebook or making posts on craigslist personals during the day.
At night, I can monitor the usage (when she isnt in the kitchen making dinner)
I was just looking at verizon’s site. Started to buy. Clicked on details for data plan and this is included.
“The Enterprise Email and Web and the Personal Email and Web features cannot be used to tether your device to laptops, personal computers or other devices for any purpose other than syncing of data.”
I undertood that DROID is the name of the operating system. What hardware did you buy from Verizon? What are the differences? Thx.
One day the internet providers will get their head on straight and realize they are missing out on millions, yes millions, of $$$$ in business by making “locked-in” plans. I am a Canadian snowbird, most of which spend 2 to 6 months in the lovely warm southern U.S. (p.s. thanks for the hospitality) and I am not going to lock-in to a two year plan to use a few months of the year. That’s just pure waste, plain and simple, and my Scottish ancestry will not permitted such looseness with my hard earned pension $$. I, like most Canucks, would gladly lock-in to a plan for two, three or even four years, IF we could suspend service for the months we’re not south. If Verizon or AT&T or whomever put out such a plan, then if they got 3 plans signed for 4 months each, they would have sold a year’s subscription. Have you been in a Yuma parking lot in January. There’s almost as many Canadian license plates to be seen as U.S. ones. It is certainly a business opportunity that is being missed.
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Here’s the Verizon official page on tethering and Mobile Broadband:
It does not cover the Droid however. Our last conversation with a Verizon service rep confirmed if you want to tether the Droid, use PDANet.
I was wondering if you looked into any of the other tethering Apps?
I’ve been using AT&T data plan with a Sierra Wireless Air Card for 4 years with great success. The Air Card comes with an external antenna which increases it’s range. However, the antenna is only a few inches tall and we like to stay in remote areas so I have a Wilson RV/Truck roof mounted antenna. To avoid holes in the roof, I converted an expandable paint roller by replacing the roller with a flat aluminum bar that extends 14 feet. The bar is about 18 inches long and I drilled it to accept the Wilson antenna on one end and a marine Wifi antenna on the other end. When expanded, I velcro the pole to my mirror and set the base in a one gallon Arizona Tea jug (a perfect fit) and fill the jug about half full of water. It greatly improves the range of both devices. When in really remote areas, I also use a Wilson booster between the antenna and the Air Card.
I agree with Mcep – this all sounds lovely, but at what price and what plan? I *don’t* make money off my internet connection – it is purely an expense. If you read the article that was linked in the first comment, it also seems to contradict the notion of using the Droid as a tethered interface to a computer, I can’t find confirmation (or much of anything detailed enough to make a real decision) on the Verizon site. Any hope of getting some more info here?
When you speak of high speed, have you performed a speed test to one of the speed sites like Speakeasy? I was just curious of the actual download and upload speeds.
I’ve had a Droid since it’s release and I LOVE it! There are loads of useful Droid apps in the Android marketplace and the JuneFabrics tethering software is free if you don’t have a need to connect to https sites. I used the free version for a couple months and then decided to upgrade because I needed to access some SSL sites for work. This is a terrific mobile solution for folks on the road. I can read email, listen to music, watch movies, stream TV shows, listen to podcasts, read B&N books – oh yeah, it has DocsToGo for MS Office stuff (um – have to get some work done). All it needs is Audiobook software for my Audible book collection (coming soon) and Mobipocket eReader app. But I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.
I have been using the Droid for about 3 months. I love it. I use it every time I travel. Nothing is perfect, but I can honestly say that the Verizon Network and the equipment (Droid) are working flawlessly. I was originally worried about big Bro, but as a computer security professional, I can honestly say they do not need a phone to collect data. They get enough data from credit cards, phone calls, Internet surfing, etc. Bottom line… The droid rocks!
Great article! Helping me to decide on a Droid! I have been using the plug-in air card through Verizon for internet access with my laptop, but $60 for occasional use is a bit steep. Could you fill me in a bit more on what plan or plans you have with Verizon? They seem to be continually changing! Do you need just a phone and data plan or what?
Don’t get locked in on your opinions based on the Verizon offering. T-Mobile had the G1 and now the G3 before Verizon. I just got my wife a G1 for $99. Yes with a 2 year contract, but we have been with T-Mobile for 11 years. And she is no tech geek, but she finds it does what she wants easier than her old Blackberry
This sounds too complicated for this ole goat
I read something on Tech Republic that talked about the Droid and the fact that Big Brother Google is watching and collecting data on everything you do. Any comments on that?
Here’s a link: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/tr-out-loud/?p=1439