Mobility

How to use Instant Tethering on your Google Pixel or Nexus device

Google recently rolled out its automatic tethering feature to some Nexus and Pixel devices. Here's how you can use the feature to stay connected.

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Image: CNET

Staying connected on the go is a constant struggle for business professionals and everyday techies alike. However, a new feature from Google called Instant Tethering could offer a more intelligent way to keep your devices online.

A recent product forum post by Google product manager Omri Amarilio explained that Instant Tethering uses Bluetooth to allow to Google devices to communicate. The devices, such as tablets and Pixel phones, must be logged into with the same Google account.

"When you unlock a tablet such as the Pixel C, it will notice if there is no internet connection available, and will ask your Pixel phone if it has internet and battery life," Amarilio wrote in his post. "If it does, we will give you an option to enable a secure hotspot and pair [automatically], without even taking your phone out of your pocket."

SEE: How to decide if you should stick with Hangouts or switch to the new Google Voice

When you are finished connecting from the tethering device, you can turn off the service manually, or Google will automatically disconnect you after a certain amount of time to save your battery, the post said.

If you're interested in using the feature, here are some things to keep in mind.

While manual tethering works with a host of devices, Instant Tethering is limited to a select few. According to the Google help page, the following phones can act as a host to share their data: Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P running Android 7.1.1 and later. In terms of devices that can automatically utilize the shared data connection, Google listed the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel C, and Nexus 9 running Android 6.0 and later.

Before you get started, it's important to note that tethering does count against your cellular data plan. And, as the help page noted, some carriers have placed limits on tethering or charge extra to use it. Be sure to check for any such limitations with your carrier before getting started.

To get started, it's important to make sure that both devices (the host and the device sharing connection) have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled.

To set up the host device, first make sure it is one of the supported devices that Google listed, and that it is running running Android 7.1.1 or later. From the home screen, tap the settings app, and under the "Personal" section, tap "Google." On the next page, under "System," you should see an option for "Instant Tethering." From there, make sure that the slider next to "Provide data connection" is on (blue). Now you can use this device as a host.

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To allow your device to use the data of a host device, the steps are very similar. First, make sure your supported Pixel or Nexus device is running Android 6.0 or later. From the Settings app, again tap "Google" under the "Personal" section. Tap the "Instant Tethering" option again, but this time make sure the slider next to "Get data connection" is blue. Now you can connect to other devices' data from this device.

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Instant Tethering should be on by default on these devices, but you can use the aforementioned steps to turn it on or off whenever you'd like.

Connecting the devices with Instant Tethering is simple, the help page said. Once you have the option enabled on both devices, and you unlock the device that currently has no internet access near your internet-connected host, a notification will pop up. When you see that notification, which will say "Wi-Fi hotspot available," tap it and then tap "Connect."

If you have multiple devices set up to provide data as a host, you may need to select which device you want to act as a host. If you change your mind and don't want to connect, the page said, simply tap the "Not now" option. You can always connect later by tapping "Settings," then "Google," then "Instant Tethering," and then "Connect."

With some cellular carriers, Google noted, you may see a verification notification, and you should just tap "Continue." Once you are successfully connected, the host phone should display a notification that says "Sharing data connection" as long as the connection is active. Tap that same notification to disconnect, or Google will automatically disconnect the devices after 10 minutes of inactivity.

If possible, plug in your devices before tethering, as this feature tends to use a lot of battery power, the page noted.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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