That having been said, you know, and I know, that there are times when your cable modem goes down and you have a bandwidth emergency. You're not planning to abuse your data contract, but you do need a backup plan for those rare instances so you can get some work done.
Enter MyWi, for jailbroken iPhones.
Selling for ten bucks via the Rock Store and Cydia, MyWi enables tethering on your 3.1+ iPhone (2G, 3G, 3GS) and creates a personal Wi-Fi hotspot. It's as if AT&T had actually enabled the feature on-board. What's more, it works just like a real hotspot does.
Unlike other solutions that require you to create ad-hoc Wi-Fi networks on a Mac and then connect to them from your iPhone, MyWi works like the Sprint/Verizon MiFi. You can connect to your iPhone data from an iPod, a laptop, or even an iPad. They'll see your iPhone as just another Wi-Fi hotspot. If security is an issue, MyWi offers optional WEP with a customizable key.
TUAW is commonly provided with not-for-resale licenses or promo codes to permit product evaluations and reviews. For more details, see our policy page. Promo code requests are not guarantees of reviews.
This week, I had the chance to install and test MyWi on an actual iPhone. I found the purchase and installation process to be quite a bit more complicated than an App Store purchase, but then again, I knew it probably would be as this involves a secure transaction through third party software. I had to authenticate with my Google credentials as part of the process.
Once installed, I ran into a few little quirks. Getting the tethering service to turn off ended up involving rebooting my phone. This is a known bug with MyWi and once I moved past that first glitch, I had no problem starting and stopping service from then on.
I tested the software with both an iPod touch, while driving in my car and while waiting at a doctor's appointment, and with a Mac mini, that I disconnected from my normal wired net. The Wi-Fi hotspot worked very well in each instance, providing smooth data reception.
I could even quit the application and leave the tethering running in the background. (See screen shot.) For me, this was the single best feature of MyWi. I could continue checking my mail and surfing the web while my daughter, a few feet away, was able to watch her YouTube videos.
There is one really, really big elephant in the room though -- beyond the obvious AT&T Terms of Service one I mentioned earlier -- and that is battery life.
This application is a battery vampire. It's beyond a battery vampire. It's a battery Dracula. A battery bloodsucking monster. I mean it seriously, seriously, seriously consumes power. It will drain your iPhone battery even when fully connected to a power source. I had to test while docked to my Monoprice 2200 mAh external battery supply, and even then, I could see the battery level slowly creeping downwards.
This app really, really, really uses a lot of juice.
Mario Ciabarra of Intelliborn, the company behind the software, recommends that you keep your unit plugged in via USB or a power cord. Your unit will stay mostly charged with, what he calls, "reasonable surfing." He writes, "If you surf the web and say download [many-megabyte] files -- the 3G connection uses a lot of battery (no way around that :)). The Wi-Fi isn't too bad on the battery I believe."
I found that when I stopped surfing but kept the tethering option enabled, the battery did start recharging back up to where it needed to be. However, due to this issue, you'll want to use this technology sparingly, and not just because of your obligations to AT&T.
I personally rarely tether, but I'm really happy that I'll have access to this software when I need it. Especially during the winter months, when Comcast lines and connections tend to fail during the biggest snow storms, it's nice to know that I have an emergency backup that will allow me to use a full size computer if needed rather than falling back to just the iPhone.