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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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”.
- 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).
- 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.