Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

Blackberry Tour 9630 (Sprint)/Mac Tethering Notes

by Eric Stewart on Jul.20, 2009, under Cell Phones & Providers, Networking, Technology

10/11/09: Please note: there have been reports (as you might see in the comments on this post) that Sprint has disabled tethering on “normal” data plans, even for BlackBerries.  Also, since I no longer use a BlackBerry, I can provide no further assistance in this area and will no longer be answering requests for assistance on this topic.  I will, as I don’t see a reason not to yet, continue to approve valid comments from new users.

One of the features that I’ve enjoyed greatly from time to time is the ability to use my Blackberry as a modem via Bluetooth for my Mac.  Here’s the easiest way to set up a Blackberry Tour 9630 as a Bluetooth modem.  The Mac in this is running 10.5.7.

  1. Open your System Preferences on your Mac.  Under “Hardware”, look for “Bluetooth” and click on it.  For best results, you should remove all entries for existing Bluetooth capable phones (or your previous Blackberry phones), particularly if you won’t be needing them ever again.
  2. Open up your “Manage Connections” icon on the Tour.  Turn Bluetooth on, and then click on “Set Up Bluetooth”.  When prompted, choose “Listen” so that your phone waits for the Mac to connect to it.
  3. Click on the + sign under the list of devices (look on the lower left of the window).  This should open up the “Bluetooth Setup Assistant”; click “Continue”.  I suggest using “Any device” for the device type.
  4. Hopefully, your Mac will now find your Blackberry. Highlight it in the list of detected devices and choose “Continue”.  Your Mac will then attempt to collect additional information about your Blackberry.  When it’s done, choose “Continue”.
  5. The Mac will attempt to pair with the phone.  It will want you to type in an eight digit number into the phone.  Just use the keypad on the keyboard to do it, hitting enter when you’ve got all the numbers in.
  6. Next you’ll be asked if you want to access the Internet with the phone’s data connection.  Make sure the check box is there and click “Continue”.
  7. Make sure the Phone Vendor says “Sprint” (it may say “Generic”, and when you change it it will wipe out the number) and the “Phone Model” is “PCS Vision”.  Username and Password can remain blank, and the phone number should be “#777″ (I prefer having the checkboxes in the two “Show … ” options at the bottom, but this may be a preference thing and not necessary).  Click “Continue”.
  8. You should be told everything was successful.  Close out the Setup Assistant and also the “Bluetooth” System Preferences dialog.  If you have the “modem” icon on your menu bar, you should now be able to click on it and choose “Connect Bluetooth”.  As long as Bluetooth is on on your phone, the phone’s blue LED will start flashing and the Mac will attempt to “dial” through the Blackberry.  When you get a counter-clock running, that means your connection is live and you’re using your phone to connect to the Internet (assuming there aren’t any wired or wireless network connections running at the time).
  9. When you’re done using the Internet through your phone, click on the modem icon and choose “Disconnect”.

Things to watch out for:

  • If you haven’t told the Mac somewhere along the line that you’re using Sprint and a PCS Vision phone, you won’t have any success even though it may seem that everything is configured properly.  Go to “Network” in “System Preferences”, highlight your (not connected) “Bluetooth” connection.  Click on “Advanced …” and set your “Vendor” and “Model” appropriately.  My early attempts at setting tethering up defaulted to “Generic” as the Vendor.
  • Again, Username and Password should be blank – all you need is #777 for the Phone Number.
  • Neither your Mac nor your Blackberry need to be “discoverable” once the two are “paired”.  It’s safest to turn these options off (while keeping Bluetooth on) if you don’t need to pair them with devices.
  • Bluetooth needs to be on on both the Mac and the Blackberry.  It’s easy (if you’re security minded) to turn these off and forget that they are off on one or the other.
  • Finally, while connected, don’t expect to get email or phone calls on your phone.  While it’s possible (I’ve never tested it), it’s more probable that when your phone is busy being a modem, it doesn’t want to do anything else.

These instructions are probably pretty much the same on the more recent Blackberry phones.  Please note that if you don’t have an unlimited data plan (WTF is your problem?!  Cheapskate!), that using your phone in this manner will pump a lot of data through your phone and could easily overrun your limit, leading to additional charges.

While free wireless is becoming quite ubiquitous, tethering your computer to your phone and accessing the Internet that way might be somewhat more secure than connecting to any old offered wireless connection, and if you’re doing any authentication or data transfer that’s not otherwise encrypted (which, in and of itself isn’t the smartest thing to do), you’d be better off not using an open, shared medium that anyone with another computer could hop on and see what you’re doing.  And if free wireless isn’t available but you’re getting a decent 1XEV connection?  Fire up your Bluetooth modem and you’re good to go.

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23 Comments for this entry

  • hambone13

    Eric,

    Thanks a million for putting this together. Any idea how to get the provider and phone model into the set up process if I’m running 10.4.11 on the mac? I’ve poked around and there isn’t any place for that…also, is this the “free” method as we both know Sprint wants to charge us for this type of connection!

    Thanks..

    Jason

  • hambone13

    Additionally, do you have any suggestions as to how I might get a solid sync going. I was using Pocketmac with my 8703e BB which worked fine but it doesn’t even recognize the Tour! Anyway, thanks again.

    jason

  • Eric

    Hambone: You know, it’s possible that I had to download a modem profile when I did it under 10.4 – it’s been so long though I couldn’t tell you from where. A quick Google brought me to: http://www.blackberryforums.com/mac-users-corner/86122-how-tether-your-mac-blackberry-8830-a-2.html where one post has a link to a CDMA profile.

    As far as I know tethering should be part of any plan that covers a BlackBerry on Sprint … that being said, it’s *very* possible since I access a BES (mainly to get my contacts and calendar synced) and Sprint is charging a $20/mo additional fee for BES access that I will be using a (non-tethering, unfortunately) Palm Pre by the end of the day (still haven’t decided and should have another couple of weeks to do so). Haven’t had a chance to blog about this recent fustration …

    As for Mac syncing, since I’m on a BES currently, I have no need to sync, and have VMWare Fusion running an XP instance at work (and a PC at home) for the few times I feel the need to connect my BlackBerry to a computer.

    Sorry I couldn’t be of more assistance. :/

  • mikehugheshome

    Thank you Eric! The article couldn’t be any more helpful or precise. I was tethered to my tour in just a couple of minutes. Nice Job.

  • Eric

    Glad to be of service. :) Someone on Twitter asked me about the Tour vs the Palm Pre recently, and I told them that as soon as GMaps and BlackBerry get the GPS stuff worked out, as long as you’re not paying for BES access, the Tour should be a perfectly good phone. I’m sticking with my Pre, but I have heard disturbing privacy concerns recently about it reporting to Palm your daily activity …

  • jlivingstone

    Hey Eric,

    I have the BB Tour and just got off the phone with sprint. They told me that the tour isn’t modem capable.

    I tried everything about and for some reason I too don’t have a place for “provider” or “device”.

    Please help! Do I need to get the mac thing from sprint as well?

    Thanks in advance for your help and all you do.

    Josh

  • Eric

    Josh: This is just one example of how you can never be sure if the person on the other end of the line knows what they’re talking about.

    BlackBerry phones have always been able to be modems for Windows boxes using USB cables – it’s usually one of the selling points, and has been known to require additional software, and the Bluetooth modem capability is not new. However, that being said:

    It is possible (though I never managed to test it) that the “Everything Data” plan (that doesn’t cover “everything” per my post at http://blog.ericdives.com/?p=318 ) may not support tethering due to machinations on Sprint’s end. I would assume that if you have BES access (since you’re paying $20 more) that tethering would be included … I don’t really know, I’m just theorizing (also known as talking out of my ass).

    The instructions are also Mac OS X version dependent – if you’re not on 10.5, a lot of what you see might be significantly different (there were some significant differences in how things were arranged in System Preferences between 10.4 and 10.5; some things not originally in System Preferences were almost “shoe horned” in). I would guess that you’re not on 10.5 and should probably check out http://www.blackberryforums.com/mac-users-corner/86122-how-tether-your-mac-blackberry-8830-a-2.html and see if the modem profile works for you.

    I wish I could help, but I no longer have my Tour (per my blog post I note above) and also don’t have access to a Mac OS X version earlier than 10.5.

    Sorry I couldn’t be of more assistance …

  • jlivingstone

    Well Eric thank you so much for your help. I am still getting this same ole message and sprint can’t seem to do anything about it either. Maybe I’ll get luck and someone will read this with the same problem and have a solution.

    If i see this dumb message one more time I am going to cancel my sprint service. haha.

    “A modem error occurred. Please verify your settings and try again.”

    Thanks again for all your help.

  • Eric

    Hey – a quick Google sent me to:

    http://forums.crackberry.com/f62/how-mac-tethering-your-problems-solved-260401/index2.html

    Have you tried rebooting your Tour? They’re saying battery pull, but the ALT-RSHIFT-DEL reboot might work.

  • Eric

    Yo, Windows people: I sympathize with you but I haven’t seen decent instructions for tethering any BlackBerry via BlueTooth. HOWEVER, you should be able to set something up (last I knew) using the BlackBerry Desktop software and your USB cable. If anyone coming to this page does manage to find BlueTooth tethering instructions for any BlackBerry, please drop me a line either here, on Twitter, or via email.

    I do know that the “quality” of BlueTooth management software can vary quite a bit from vendor to vendor (and my experience has been that the default Windows software sucks). That might impact heavily the options available to someone when they try to even just pair their BlackBerry with their Windows system.

    As for figuring it out myself .. well, if you look around the site you’ll find out that I’ve switched to a Palm Pre and no longer have a BlackBerry to play with.

  • bmason

    hey eric,

    great walk through i cannot thank you enough! everything worked perfectly aside from my mbp repeatedly telling me there is no phone number listed. on my previous phones the dialing #777 for vision was fine and i don’t know what the problem is here. sadly, i’m on 10.5.8 and do not know if they’ve disabled this due to AT&T barking up their tree.

    let me know if you have any recommendations.

    thanks again !

  • Eric

    No idea what to tell you. Not sure what AT&T has to do with it unless you’re using them as a provider (and last I knew they didn’t have the Tour). Don’t know why your MPB would say there wasn’t a phone number as long as you had the #777 in the phone number blank.

    Wish I had some clue but I don’t know what else to suggest.

  • bmason

    my notion regarding AT&T is because i was reading that Apple had implemented something in 10.5.8 to disable tethering (due to iPhone/AT&T and people not paying for the feature specifically in their contracts).

    10.5.8 = FAIL im going to try to go back..wish for once i’ve used time machine ugh. If I come across a solution, I’ll be sure to note it.

    Again, thanks.
    Cheers

  • NestMac

    Hi Eric,
    Thanks for all the info. I had been using my MacBook Pro with a BB Curve 8330 with no problem at all. About 2 weeks ago I decide to change my phone to a BB Tour 9630. The phone is gorgeous. As I did before with the 8330, I paired with my MacBook Pro and started using the Tour as a Modem until today. Simply the Tour as soon it establish the connection with the Mac, it dropped the connection. I tried to again and again with no luck. I cleared the device on the Mac, as well on the Tour and paired again. At this moment I can pair the Tour with the Mac, but when I’m going to set the connection to use as a modem, all the alternatives are washed out in gray and I can’t input anything on it. I talked to a friend that works on Sprint and he told me that the system now can recognizes these phones when you are using them as modems and automatically drop the connection after certain time. If you want to use it as a modem you have to pay for a package for that use.
    I’m going to talk to customer service to verify this an what can be done about.
    Regards

  • Eric

    I wish I could say that this surprised me, but it doesn’t. As I’ve noted in another post, Sprint has been tightening the availability of tethering through their service more and more, and it was just a matter of time before they stopped it from working as part of “regular” plans on BlackBerry phones. I would assume that if you’re using a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (and paying the $20 surcharge Sprint is now requiring for using one) you’ll probably get tethering as part of that plan.

  • NestMac

    Hello,
    After my post here I kept searching the internet for solutions to my problem with the Tour. I was under the impression that tethering a Blackberry with Mac was only possible via Bluetooth and NO usb cable. I found that using an app called “Tetherberry” you can tether using and usb cable. I downloaded the app for the Tour and for the Mac, and “voila”, tethering on my Mac with the Tour using usb. The app runs a cost of $49.95, but is better the $20, $25, $30 or more that Sprint is charging for tethering with this new devices. One of the options that I had when I was going to upgrade the phone was moving myself to AT&T and buy and iPhone, but with all the extras and features the monthly cost was huge comparing to Sprint, also I have a Shared Plan with my kids and wife and most of my family and friends are on Sprint. The service have been good so far, but if Sprint starts charging like AT&T, I will have to move.
    Regards..

  • kevfer

    Help! I did as was posted on my mac (10.6.1), but my tour keeps on stating connecting…………but never does.

    Any ideas???

  • kevfer

    Sorry, what I meant to say was that my mac keeps on stating ‘connecting’ but never does. I got the bluetooth to connect, and my service provider is Sprint. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • Eric

    The best I can do at this point (since I no longer have a BlackBerry) is to check your settings for phone number, vendor, and model. As you’ll note above, some folks suspect that Sprint has disabled tethering for most plans.

  • kevfer

    Thank you. When you same phone number do you mean my number? In regards to the model its a Sprint Tour and my mac has the latest operating system (snow leopard). Thx

  • Eric

    No no – I mean in the Mac modem settings (#777 & Sprint/PCS Vision).

  • quesnoy

    Hey guys,

    I was able to set up bluetooth tethering using my Sprint Blackberry Tour 9630 and Mac OSX Version 10.6.3. I, however, did not have to enter any of the information discussed in this thread. I simply kept Vendor as Generic and did not have to enter #777. I basically just kept every field blank and it works. I should note that I currently have a phone as modem plan through Sprint. Has anyone tried this (keeping all fields that are not automatically filled in blank)? Let me know if it works for you.

  • tfulton

    Excellent instructions. I was stuck in the boondocks without a connection and only my blackberry. Worked without a hitch, and absolutely nothing required to install. Great stuff!!!

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