I’ve recently (following a saga of customer service that was shockingly awful) received my Nexus 7 tablet, and I rather like it. But of course, there’s no 3G, as many reviewers have noted.
That shouldn’t, I thought, have been much of a problem – I’ve managed fine in the past using my iPod touch, tethered to my Nokia E72, which runs the JoikuSpot hotspot app. So, thinking it would all be fine, I fired up JoikuSpot, and tried to connect to it from the Nexus.
No dice. And it turns out after searching online that the reason is that Android simply doesn’t come, out of the box, with the ability to connect to an ‘ad-hoc’ wifi network, which is the sort that JoikuSpot creates (since it can’t do an ‘infrastructure’ mode on Symbian phones). I’ve never had that problem with other devices, like the iPod, or my MacBook, and even a Windows laptop – they’ll all happily talk to an ad-hoc network. But Android won’t, unless you root the tablet (ie open up access to the underlying OS) and do some manual tinkering – and, the Nexus 7 appears to be so new that so far no one’s actually made that work, though you can solve the problem for earlier Android devices that way.
No problem, the phone has Bluetooth, and again, I’ve successfully managed to use it as a modem in Bluetooth Dial Up Networking (DUN) many times, with various different computers.
But, here too there’s a problem. Android doesn’t support the Bluetooth DUN profile – even though it’s been around for years – and instead wants to use the PAN (Personal Area Network) to connect, and the E72 – in common with quite a lot of other phones – doesn’t support that. So, again, it looked like no dice.
Fortunately, a bit of Googling turned up the solution. It’s called BlueVPN, and you’ll find it in the Play Store, in versions for Ice Cream Sandwich and earlier. I’ve installed it on my Nexus 7 and it works pretty well, allowing me to run some – but not all – apps that need a net connection. Bluetooth isn’t going to be as fast as using WiFi (though given the speeds I experience via Orange’s mobile data network, I’m not sure I’ll notice much difference), but it should be less harsh on the battery.
How to get going
Obviously, you’ll need to have paired tablet and phone beforehand, via the control panel; it helps if, on the phone, you set the tablet as authorised. Then download and install BlueVPN, and you’ll see your phone listed in one of the slots on the main screen.
You can just tap the name of your phone to connect, but that probably won’t actually work right away; instead, tap the settings option, and in the ‘GPRS options’ section of the screen tap Access Point and enter the internet access point name (APN) for your mobile network – for Orange it’s orangeinternet. You don’t need a user name and password for Orange; other networks may vary, and you can find a list of APNs here.
There’s one other tweak I had to do to make things work – that was ticking the option ‘LCP Compatibility’, without which the tablet didn’t manage to connect properly, so if at first thing don’t work, try that. I didn’t need to change anything else – though I have ticked the box to turn off Bluetooth on exit.
My email (ProfiMail) and web browser (Dolphin HD) both work fine when connected this way; so too does the Facebook app, Plume, Chrome, FlickFolio, eBay, ZipCar and other apps.
However, the Guardian, Netflix and Ocado apps report that I don’t have an internet connection, as does SpeedTest.net’s app. So, either there’s something in the way that BlueVPN sets up the connection, or in the way that those apps check for one, that means they won’t work in this way.
But, if you just need to check a few things quickly, when you don’t have WiFi available, but you do have a phone in your pocket that supports Bluetooth DUN, then BlueVPN seems like a very useful thing to install on your Nexus 7.