How-To: Use Your iPhone as a Wireless Laptop Modem

By Mike Keller

Feb 17, 2009 5:52 am
I travel a lot. And if you’re a geek like me, you can’t go a full day sans internet access without experiencing some severe withdrawal symptoms. Luckily, my iPhone, with all its WiFi and 3G goodness, has been instrumental in feeding my addiction while on the road. But thoughApple’s smartphone provides the best mobile browsing experience out there, the small screen and touch controls still don’t compare to the pixel real estate and tactile qwerty speed of a laptop. Not to mention such luxuries as Flash compatibility, page caching, and tabbed browsing.

So the next time you’re stranded without an open WiFi network (but your 3G signal is going strong), you’ll be glad you installed Addition’s iPhoneModem 2 (free to try, full license is $9.99). Unfortunately, Apple has apparently deemed the app to be in conflict with its App Store Terms and Conditions, so it is only available for jailbrokenphones via Cydia. Here’s a quick guide:

1) Jailbreak your iPhone.
Download and install QuickPwn, an easy-to-use jailbreaking application for Windows and Mac (the latest version works with iPhone OS 2.2.1). Run the software and follow the onscreen instruction very carefully!

2) Install iPhoneModem by Addition.
QuickPwn installs an app on your phone called Cydia, which is essentially the App Store for apps that were rejected from the official App Store (or, for whatever reason, the developer chose not to release through Apple). Run Cydia, search for iPhoneModem by Addition and install it. Keep in mind you can only delete Cydia installed apps via Cydia’s Manage-Sources function. Now download and install the helper app on your laptop and you’re almost ready to go.

3)Set up the network.
Run the helper app and hit Connect. The helper app sets up an ad hoc wireless network that can be accessed via iPhone. The default network it creates is called “iPhoneModem” and does not have a password (you can change this in the Preferences of the helper app). Now open up your iPhone’s Settings and tap WiFi. Make sure WiFi is turned on and select the network “iPhoneModem” (or whatever you called it). Type the password if you assigned one. Open up the Modem iPhone app and everything else will configure automatically. After a few moments the helper app and the iPhone app will confirm that a connection has been established and you can browse away with all the comforts of your laptop!

While 3G seems plenty fast on a phone, it feels a little slow on a laptop. Also, most major web browsers work but not all are supported. In addition, a lot of other internet applications aren’t supported, but for all intents and purposes, you should be able to browse just fine.

*Note: If you haven’t already discovered, jailbreaking your iPhone opens up a world of possibilities, including themes and apps that aren’t allowed in the App Store. While it technically voids the warranty, you can easily return your device to its original state with the “Restore” feature in iTunes, wiping all traces of the jailbreak hack.

"How-To: Use Your iPhone as a Wireless Laptop Modem" Comments

Wed Jan 14 23:01:29 PST 1970
I highly recomend PDAnet ( It offers the option to use your phone as a modem via adhoc wireless network or just by plugging your phone in to charge with the USB cable. (and since using 3G and wireless consumes a lot of power you will want to do this anyway) 

Using PDAnet I have achieved download rates as high as 500kbps (3G network in Atlanta, GA area) 3G is not required, but recomended. The Edge connection is extremely slow.

In addition, PDAnet works for iPhone, Windows Mobile, and Palm platforms. Free to try, full license is $19.99.
Wed Jan 14 23:01:30 PST 1970
"Not to mention such luxuries as ... tabbed browsing." ???
The iPhone has great tabbed browsing.
Wed Jan 14 23:01:33 PST 1970
Thanks for the PDAnet recommendation, I'll be sure to try it out!

While Apple has certainly implemented the best tab-like browsing feature on a mobile device, I don't consider it true tabbed browsing as it requires a few extra gestures to get to other open pages. Also, the iPhone's limited site caching means that you usually have to wait while the page reloads every time you switch "tabs." They've done a great a job, but there's always room for improvement.
Wed Jan 14 23:01:35 PST 1970
I would certainly second a recommendation for PDANet. While I have not used the iPhone version, I have used the Palm version for YEARS and it works extremely well. I would assume their iPhone version would be just as good.

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