Tethering a WiFi-Only Chromebook with a 3G Phone?

Someone recently asked me a very interesting question regarding phone tethering with my Chromebook. While I’ve obviously seen people tether their phones with their notebooks before, it’s not something I’ve ever done personally (I live in a big city that has a lot of Wi-Fi, and have only used 3G on car trips, out on vacations, and other such distractions).  However, I’ll try to explore this question since it seems to be a popular one for Chromebook users.

In essence, would it be a better use of money to purchase a lower-priced WiFi-only Chromebook without 3G, and just use your 3G-enabled phone to “tether” for an internet connection? It’s certainly something you could do. Personally, it seems like it would have made more sense early on, before the prices of Chromebooks came down a bit. Right now, the Wi-Fi and 3G Chromebooks are closer together in price, and going through the hassle of tethering to your phone whenever you need a 3G connection seems like a lot of undue work (or perhaps I’m just lazy).

It really depends on a few things (in no particular order other than this random one I just chose):

  1. How often do you need to use a 3G signal? Are you mostly connecting at home, work, coffee houses, or other venues that have ready high-speed WiFi access points?
  2. Does your phone support 3G tethering/acting as an ethernet access point?
  3. Are you lazy like me? Is tethering your phone to your notebook a hassle for you?
  4. What is your data plan for your 3G phone like? Is it an unlimited data plan, or will you likely go overboard surfing the net and using the apps on your Chromebook?
  5. Does your phone company penalize you for phone tethering using your existing data plan (most of the larger providers will not, but there are some that reportedly do if they feel like it– something to watch out for if you’ve never tethered to a computer before).

I can say with confidence that at this point in my life, I’d gladly pay the extra $50-100 in price up front to never have to worry about tethering with my phone, but you may differ from me in this regard. If you don’t need 3G that often/at all or don’t mind tethering, and are looking to spend the absolute least amount of money buying a Chromebook, go ahead and opt for the Wi-Fi only edition.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself using a 3G signal quite often or don’t want to tether to your phone for one of the reasons listed above, the price difference is not that great. I’d recommend just going for the 3G model Chromebook and put that tethering cable back in your case.

But, of course, it’s nice to know that the technology is there if/when you need it. What do you think? Would you opt for a cheaper Wi-Fi only Chromebook and tether when you need a 3G signal, or just go for one of the slightly more expensive models with built-in 3G? We’d love to know your opinion.

How-To Instructions

If you’re interested in doing this yourself, here’s how to tether your Chromebook to your phone with USB cable:

  1. First, enable tethering on your phone (sorry, this will be different for so many users that you’ll have to consult the manual for your specific phone if you don’t know how to do this)
  2. Use a USB cable to connect your phone into one of your Chromebook USB ports.
  3. Chrome OS will automatically switch over to wired networking via your phone. If the tethering process worked, the “wireless network” icon should change to a “wired network” icon much like if you are using a wired ethernet adapter.
That’s all it takes, pretty simple, eh? Try it yourself, and let us know what you think! Or, check out more information and chromebook reviews.

Related articles:

About Persephone

I write the Chrome OS App Reviews for Chromebook Ratings. I also do a lot of other things.