Earlier today, Android Police spotted a new feature getting rolled out to some Android devices called “Instant Tethering.” The idea cribs from one of the best features that Mac and iPhone users enjoy: instead of pulling your phone out and manually turning on tethering, you can just turn it on directly from the device that needs internet. On the Mac, you just click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar and select your iPhone. On Android, it seems like it can pop up a request if you aren’t online.
This appears to be an Android-only feature that uses devices connected through a single Google account. So if you happen to have an Android tablet that loses internet, it can ask if you want to go online with your phone’s internet connection. The request for a hotspot goes over Bluetooth, apparently. The update is coming — as so many do these days — as a part of Google Play services.
According to Android Police’s source, the feature will come first to Nexus and Pixel devices — so the Nexus 9 and Pixel C tablets can get their connections from a Pixel phone. But the group of people who own those exact tablets and those exact phones is perishingly small. Hopefully the list of supported devices will grow quickly, and on both sides of the equation. Google declined to comment on Instant Tethering’s existence or availability.
With any luck, the fact that Google Play and Android can run on Chrome OS could mean that it’s feasible to set up an Instant Tethering connection directly on those devices. With Instant Tethering, we could see another bridging of the divide between Google’s operating systems that brings Android-exclusive features, and not just apps, to low-cost laptops.