Instant Tethering, a new Android feature that lets select devices automatically use the same cellular data connection as your smartphone, is now available across numerous Pixel and Nexus products. Any Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, or Nexus 6P running Android 7.1.1 and above can be a “host” and share its internet connection automatically with another supported device signed into the same Google account.
“When you unlock a tablet such as the Pixel C, it will notice if there is no internet connection available, and will ask your Pixel phone if it has internet and battery life,” Google’s Omri Amarilio wrote in a forum post explaining the feature. “If it does, we will give you an option to enable a secure hotspot and pair automagically, without even taking your phone out of your pocket.” Instant Tethering was first spotted in early testing late last month.
You don’t have to enter any passwords or manually switch on the feature; it’s one of those just works things that could prove very convenient for anyone with multiple Android gadgets — so long as they’re of the Nexus or Pixel variety. Android pays very close attention to battery life during all this, according to Amarilio. If you’re finished with the tablet but forget to disconnect the Instant Tethering link, “we will notice that you stopped using your tablet and we will disconnect the hotspot for you to save your precious battery throughout the day.” This happens after about 10 minutes of inactivity.
Apple already offers a similarly effortless tethering function between iOS hardware and Macs. Android tablets are a first step, but if Google can make this feature work with Chromebooks, it would help ensure that the cloud-connected laptops never get stuck without data so long as your smartphone is nearby.