If you have a smartphone with a high-speed data connection, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to use that connection with your laptop? PdaNet from June Fabrics Technology is an application for the Palm OS and Windows Mobile that lets you do just that.
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When writing a software review, there are two types of applications that I dread. One is apps that are so complex that it takes hundreds, if not thousands, of words to properly describe them. The other is the type that’s so simple that there’s almost nothing to say. That’s the type of application PdaNet is.
Set up and use are as easy as you could hope for. After installing the app on your device and Windows desktop or laptop, you hook up your smartphone, click a button, and you’re connected to the Net.
It’s that convenience you’re buying with PdaNet. Anyone with a goodly amount of expertise using a smartphone, and who is willing to spend some time on the Web looking up obscure settings for their particular carrier and then entering them into their PC and mobile device can probably do exactly what this application does. Or you can pay your $34 and be up and running in less than 5 minutes. It’s your call.
Here’s how simple this app is to use with a Windows Mobile smartphone. When you hook your device up to your PC, an ActiveSync session will start. At the same time, a windows will pop up asking if you want to connect to the wireless Internet. Tap on that window and PdaNet will connect you. That’s it; you’re done.
The process for connecting up a Palm OS-base Treo is almost as simple.
If you have your smartphone set up to synchronize with your PC over Bluetooth, you won’t need wires to use PdaNet either.
One thing you have to be aware of is that PdaNet is not going to give you free wireless access to the Internet. You have to have a data plan from your wireless carrier (Verizon, AT&T, etc.).
Having a voice plan is not the same thing as a data plan. You’re going to need to pay extra for the ability to access the Net on your mobile device. Rates for this vary from carrier to carrier.
If you don’t have a data plan and you use PdaNet anyway, you’re going to get a shockingly huge bill at the end of the month.
When you talk to your carrier about a data plan, don’t mention that you’re going to be using your smartphone as a wireless modem for your laptop. Many carriers charge extra for this, which is, technically speaking, bogus.
One of the nicest parts about PdaNet is you don’t need to pay for one of the more expensive laptop plans. A standard “unlimited” smartphone plan will work fine. That can cover the cost of this application in a month or two.
But there are limits. Carriers monitor how much wireless data their customers use, and when you buy an “unlimited” plan, you need to be aware that there definitely are limits. If you’re a very heavy downloader, you’re going to get cut off. You should be fine with web surfing and email, but if you start doing some file sharing, expect to get nasty emails from your service provider.
Not surprisingly, there is one version for Windows Mobile and a set of others for Palm OS, and they aren’t cross-compatible.
The June Fabrics web site has the most current list of compatible devices, so I’ll just say you need to be sure to buy the version for your specific device, whether its Windows Mobile 5 for Pocket PC or Windows Mobile 6 Professional, or one of Palm’s Treo smartphones.
The desktop or laptop can be running Windows XP, Vista, or 2000.
I wish there was a simple guide I could point you to that would tell you how to set up every smartphone that’s ever been made so that it can be used with every wireless carrier as a modem for every PC operating system, but it just doesn’t exist.
But PdaNet takes care of that for most Windows Mobile and Palm OS users quickly and easily.
There’s no doubt that $34 is at the high end of the range for mobile software, but you have to think about what your time is worth.
If you decide to try and do your tethering setup yourself and get frustrated, that $34 might soon seem like a bargain.
PdaNet is available from the Brighthand Software Store:
Versions for earlier Treo models can be found on the June Fabrics Technology web site.