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(Retina) MacBook tethering: WiFi, Bluetooth and USB. iPhone and Android.

Posted by jpluimers on 2014/12/15

Out of the box, a MacBook can do tethering using:

I’ll point to two things about this below:

  1. WiFi is not always the best wireless tethering method
  2. USB is not restricted to iPhone only

About wireless tethering

Sasmito Adibowo explained two reasons for the first in Do Not Use Wi-Fi for Tethering your iPhone, and I’ll add a third I found on Life Hacker:

  1. When your practical cellular speed is not large (low signal, busy network, etc), WiFi tethering gives you the same speed as Bluetooth tethering
  2. You can initiate Bluetooth tethering without putting your phone from stand-by (this is the same for iPhone and Android; I’ve not tested this on Windows Phone yet)
  3. Bluetooth tethering uses less energy than WiFi.

I did some measurements on speeds for the 3 ways of tethering:

  • USB: 10 mbit downstream, 1 mbit upstream
  • WiFi: 10 mbit downstream, 1 mbit upstream
  • Bluetooth: 1 mbit downstream, 1 mbit upstream

So the practical cellular limit is about 1 mbit. Which for email and light web browsing is more than enough.

Sasmito then adds “Of course it’s better to use USB tethering when your laptop is connected to an AC adapter since you can charge both the phone and your laptop at the same time”, so lets continue with enabling this for Android on OS X: 

Enabling Android USB tethering on OS X

Yes, the title is correct: this is not an Android limitation, but the lack of an OS X USB tethering driver that supports Android.

The best solution I found is the HoRNDIS (horrendous) driver for OS X. It is an open source driver hosted on GitHub by Joshua Wise.

There is also an EasyTether app for Android, but this HoRNDIS works so well, that I didn’t even try EasyTether.


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