This is a neat little hack that I discovered last week when looking for a new cell phone plan. I had just gotten a BlackBerry Pearl, and the plan from T-Mobile came with unlimited data transfer for wireless internet on their EDGE network. (By the way this also works with other blackberry’s on other networks, and possibly other smartphones.)
I immediately installed mobile versions of GMail (never even bothered to look at the standard BlackBerry Mail app), Google Maps, and a 3rd party program to sync with my Google Calendar. I was quite happy with the whole experience given that I’d assumed it would cost a lot more for the whole “internet on a cell phone” experience. Remarkably enough, it didn’t. I was paying the same monthly rate ($59.99) as before with Cingular, except now I was getting all these new “web” features.
But then I discovered the killer app that was truly LifeHack.org worthy! A way to get that unlimited wireless on the cell phone to transfer over to my laptop.
In essence, some people have figured out how to use the blackberry as a wireless modem for their laptops using bluetooth. This has two big advantages:
- While regular wireless internet is only available in limited locations, this wireless is available everywhere (or at least everywhere you have cell phone service)
- Unlike T-Mobile’s HotSpots or other paid wireless services, this is free (or another way to look at it: you’re already paying for it)
And the really cool part is that if you have a laptop with integrated blue-tooth (the MacBook in my case, although some PC’s have this as well) then the entire process takes place wirelessly. In fact you never even have to take the phone out of your pocket! You can just connect at any time, as if it were a modem, in a few seconds.
(Note: if your laptop doesn’t have blue tooth, it will still work through the USB cable.)
To be fair, the speeds you get aren’t exactly blazing. It’s been years since I’ve used a 56k modem, but from what I can recall (and what others have reported) the speed you get with this setup is comparable to a 56k modem.
What this means is that it’s perfect to have in case you need to pull up GMail in an airport or remote location, but you aren’t going to be getting serious work done on it. Still, it has saved my behind a few times already, and after all it’s free if you have the blackberry, so why not take advantage of it.
Brian Armstrong is an entrepreneur who spends all his time “working” in coffee shops, by the pool, or at home in his underwear. Today he seeks to help others break free from the corporate world and start their own business. You can get three free chapters of his book, Breaking Free, and hear interviews with self-made millionaires at his website.