back to article Palm politely cuts Pre tether

Palm has requested that the Pre Dev Wiki refrain from discussions about how to use a Pre for tethered internet access, explaining that such discussions risk upsetting Sprint. In a posting on the Wiki, the owner said that Palm has been in touch and politely explained that for the duration of Sprint's exclusivity, and perhaps …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bigger screens use more?

    Please tell me just how viewing a web page on my laptop uses more bandwidth than on my iphone? They load the same html, the same css, the same javascript, the same images, same bandwidth consumption.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    seems to be stuck in 1997. They'd probably prefer everyone to be still using dial-up

  3. Craig 12

    tethering = accidental downloads?

    I've sometimes tethered with my phone and windows has downloaded a few updates in the background... whoops!

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Bigger Screens!!

    Quoth TFA: " fact bigger screens consume a lot more bandwidth..."

    Seriously, What the F*** are you smoking?

    if you browse on a laptop, you'll download Java, ActiveX and Flash nonsense, which you won't from a Pre / iPhone etc, but that's only linked to the size of the screen in a very roundabout way!

    If you browse on a laptop, you'll likely have 4 or more open connections to the web server downloading HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Images concurrently, which you won't from a Pre / iPhone etc, bit that's also only linked to the size of the screen in a very roundabout way!

    Respectfully, stop smoking whatever it is you're on - perhaps that way you'll stop spouting Bulls***!

  5. npupp 1

    poorly researched?

    " to crack open a Pre and install your own software, though the latter process is still largely theoretical."

    orly? the wiki you mention has NES emulation instructions (running FCEUltra) for the Pre. do keep up!

  6. chris

    Dual Screen

    Presumably, I use double the bandwidth because I use 2 monitors?

  7. Andrew Ducker

    They do use more

    Because a lot of websites have a version for smartphones. My N85 has a bookmark for the mobile version of facebook, BBC News, etc because they read better on its screen. I suspect these are much less intensive than the fully fledged versions.

  8. Anonymous Coward


    Actually, they don't. The browser on the phone will give a different browser type, allowing the site to provide a different css, no java script, smaller images - consequently smaller consumpion.

    Additionally, your laptop is likely to have a number of apps in the background which may try to make use of internet (eg. your email client checking once every minute, rather than once every hour on your phone, or FireFox downloading an update in the background before asking you to install it, along with Skype, ICQ/AIM/MSN/Jabber keep-alive packets, maybe even having a torrent app on auto-startup.

    Much of the network usage on a phone is bursty - you download for 5 seconds, read it for 1 minute, download for 5 seconds, read for a minute. Consequently the pricing and network bandwidth is based on this. On a laptop, having a lot of network aware apps in the background are likely to make the usage a more continuous affair. Therefore what started as "unlimited web and email on your phone" and was sustainable across predicted usage patterns, suddenly costs more than they anticipated.

  9. Simon 31


    What you say is only partially true. Remember the iPhone ignores all flash content - much of which is quite bandwidth heavy. Also a lot of major sites (particularly media-heavy ones) detect the iPhone device and deliver images/video that are compressed or downscaled in some manner to improve the loading times and performance on the device. Once you tether your iPhone to a laptop you will see the full fat versions of many of these websites, including all the flash content which will impact the bandwidth.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    More bandwidth on a bigger screen?

    Bollocks, El Reg consumes MORE bandwidth on my G1 than it does on my laptop because of all the adverts (which Adblock gets rid of).

    It might have been true when mobile internet was in its infancy but now with mobile devices having good screen resolution and not being limited basically to text only its just not true any more.

    I'd love to have a proper tether for my G1, my old Viewty has a modem that works perfectly on Linux. But Google say that T-Mobile (US) wont let them allow tethering.

    Surely its up to ME if I want to breach my T&Cs and tether, as it is I just take my T-mobile sim out of my G1, slap it in the Viewty and off I go.

  11. Tom Chiverton 1 Silver badge


    Not if (say) you use Mobile Opera, which only exchanges much compressed and slimed down web pages with Opera's servers, compared to as-is from your laptop.

    For example.

    Even without Mobile Opera, on a phone you are likly to use mobile-specific versions of sites where they exist, no ? Which will be lighter.

    Still, stupid telco. stuck in 19xx is right !

  12. Ysean


    The idea is that the bigger the screen the more "enjoyable" "surfing the net" is for the user. Thus, when they don't have to squint to see details on tiny smartphone screens they are more likely to do more on the internet and therefore use more data. THAT, my friend, is how bigger screens use more data.

  13. Bill Ray (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @ Bill Ray

    Sprint does indeed offer such a tariff, but it seems absent from the Palm Pre options as yet...

    There certainly seems little reason for Sprint not to offer PAM on the Pre, and hopefully they quickly will - we do a little research, when time allows.


  14. Samson Chan


    Y'know, I was wondering the same thing. Maybe if every single site has a mobile version, or if they were flash heavy (does the iPhone support flash now? I haven't been keeping up with the iPhone news, tbh), I can believe it.

    The last case is that your spend less time clicking actual links because you have to scroll down furiously to get to the bleeding thing...

  15. Steven Hunter

    Excuse me?

    " fact bigger screens consume a lot more bandwidth, and network operators would like to charge a premium for that connectivity"

    First off, no. Just plain no. What in the hell is wrong with you? The size of the screen is completely irrelevant to the size of the download.

    And second, I'd like the Pope would make me breakfast but it ain't gonna happen. To all those companies out there I'd like to say this: Don't sell me a fat pipe and then ask me not to use it. It isn't *my* fault you oversold your capacity by 3,000%. If you can't give me the speed you advertised in the quantity you advertised then you lied to me and can go fuck yourself.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Well in response to those comments, I can't name 1 site I visit regularly that uses java/activex, and I really need to get around to turning the browser crash monster called flash off.

    Sites giving me a "mobile" version means I use less bandwidth? It also annoys the hell out of my, ITV are the worst as you can't (or at least couldn't) even get the normal version. At least with the iPhone I want the non mobile version, so no I'm not likely to use the mobile versions.

    Spend more time clicking links? Come on, the point of a site is to read content, if I am going to follow a link it is because I want to read what is there, this applies to laptop, desktop, phone or whatever.

    If certain usage of "unlimited" is more than they expected then they shouldn't advertise as such, or accepting (and reasonably so) fair usage policies, just enforce that usage policy. 1 meg from a phone is the same as 1 meg from a desktop with dual 30" monitors no mater which way you slice it.

    The only possible reason given above is it is more comfortable to read on a bigger screen. The only reason I don't use a lot of data on my phone? Crap signal or wifi available.

    Re: Sprint and 1997, seeing how bad O2s 3G network is dial up speeds is exactly what will be available for tethering a pre / is available for other devices on their poor network.

  17. Brett Brennan 1

    It's the videos of course

    As many posters have already pointed out, there is a lot of flash that gets downloaded by "normal" users on full computers. And much of the really "heavy" flash are entertainment downloads - like TV shows, movie clips, etc.

    Mobile companies, on the other hand, have pay-for services that provide many of the same feeds you can get for free on a full browser computer. They really want to defend that source of revenue, as this is one of the few competitive revenue streams they have. Blocking Flash and limiting tethering are the only options to preventing erosion to this revenue stream.

    Personally I'd pay the extra tariff for full tethering ability: it's just too nice to have when sitting in boring meetings with my tablet PC. On the other hand, my Pre browser is pretty darn good, arguably equal to or just behind the iPhone for general WEB surfing. Especially if you have the WiFi enabled and are in a fast hot spot.

    Alas, it *IS* a phone after all, and I can live without tethering for now. I am confident, however, that this feature will be allowed in the future. This seems to be the hot topic at the Sprint stores from customers looking to buy the Pre, and Palm is quite aware that this is also at the top of the list of the new owners. With Apple/AT&T still restricting tether on iPhones, and Sprint offering unlimited tether with most of their other devices, this issues still has plenty of time to play out.

    BTW, it seems that the OTHER hot topic at Palm on the Pre is the problems associated with pairing to several built-in auto hands-free systems (Lexus, BMW, Accura, Honda have been mentioned). This is probably higher on the list than tether right now.

    Also, just in passing, the Pre is missing an OBEX profile, severely limiting the utility of Bluetooth for sync and file exchange. It does (allegedly) have a PAN profile...working on how to tap that myself...

  18. Ian Davies
    Dead Vulture

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

    "in fact bigger screens consume a lot more bandwidth"

    Wait. What?

    What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What??????

    Bzzzzzzzzzzzttt!!! Sorry, you must leave the pitch immediately, thankyou for playing.

    Seriously, you're not very good at this, are you?

    How in the name of Farquar does viewing the same website somehow suddenly, magically, use more bandwidth on, say, an iPhone than it does on a MacBook? Same files, same graphics, same everything.

    Were you just sat on the toilet at some New Media Douchebag conference one day, and when you looked over at the toilet roll it said above it "Tech Journalism Degrees. Please take one."?

    Christ on a bike...

  19. Charles 9

    @Ian Davies

    Website reads your Browser tag (submitted when you make the HTML request).

    Reads a mainstream browser like Firefox or Opera--assumes you're on a full-on computer and delivers a media-rich website with elaborate style sheets, high-resolution images, and probably multimedia content of varying forms.

    Reads a mobile browser like Nokia's, iPhone's Safari, Opera Mobile, and so on and it delivers a trimmed down site designed for small screens, limited memory, and limited bandwidth. Pictures are resized and compressed more tightly, multimedia is scrubbed, and fancy layouts are eschewed. IOW, less bandwidth used.

    Try going to on each device. You'll see that it can differentiate between the two.

  20. Dale 13
    Thumb Up

    If they're going to censor their wiki pages,

    they may want to ensure they remove the page history.

    As it turns out, tethering with your Pre is only a short Google away.

  21. Robert Hill

    Rude idiots...

    Tethering a laptop into a mobile makes the mobile connection consume nearly an order of magnitude more bandwidth than the phone itself would use to browse the web, plus or minus a bit. If you want proof, go to and use the info to configure your Firefox browser to mimick the behaviour of a mobile phone (I suggest the N95, but feel free to use the list on Handset Detection to find a few faves). See what many of your favorite sites look like when they identify a mobile handset rather than plain Firefox. Smaller web sites don't really differentiate much, but larger ones, the ones that make up a huge amount of most user's web traffic, DO differentiate, and really compress the page content. That includes smaller graphics, no flash, etc.

    The other issue is that there is only so long that you can spend browsing the web on a 3" screen, whereas the limit of occular strain is much higher on a larger laptop screen. Even on my iPhone I find that after an hour I need a nice break, but on my 21" monitor at home I can go all day and all night, and on a good 15" laptop screen nearly as long.

    Lastly, the network operators are really scared - not about revenue, but about overloading their core networks with unlimited data. Simply put, current wireless networks were never designed to accomodate the strain of providing wireless data on the scale that unlimited tethering or even a large number of dongles will place on them. Until LTE is deployed, or even WiMax, that was never their design criteria. And it's not simply a loss of revenue they fear, it really IS a concern for the network stability (network operators obsess over this to a degree that is fanatical, despite appearances at times). Their is no easy fix for this until next gen networks are ready to roll-out, IMHO.

    So I guess the story is just because the phones support it, no one bothered to tell the network operators 5 years ago that they may want to plan for tethering loads and build the infrastructure to handle it - which would look like financial suicide for them at that time.

    In the end, they will compromise - they will end up allowing it, charging for it, and capping it eventually. At least until LTE is deployed...

  22. Anonymous Coward

    The Palm Pre comes locked down

    Well, if I had any doubts about buying a Pre, that's definitely killed them. As in, what's the point of buying it, again? 95% of the advantage of the old Palms was the sweet apps you could get for it.

    It's funny... I work at a big tech company, and few people have even heard of the Pre.

    I hope Sprint bends 'em over.

  23. TomD65

    Sprint is not rational


    Nah. A lot of mobile phones can be set to run desktop mode in browser. more and more are 640 x 480 (eg htc touch pro 2) and this will continue.

    You can also run a redfly which does NOT count as tethering since it is only a screen and keyboard replacement. I run my redfly off of my Treo 800w at a resolution of 800x600, and I think it can actually do 1024x768 on some. Is Sprint going to claim redfly is tethering?

    It is all pretty simple. Sprint has a limit of 5 GB. They should charge people who go over and leave the rest of the issue alone.

    Anything else stinks of the days when cable TV companies claimed that installing a splitter in your house was a violation of their TOS and when ISPs claimed a router was a violation (Verizon originally forbade routers and claimed using one to hook up two computes at home was a TOS violation) all those were BEATEN down because they are irrational.

    Sprint is rational to have a cap, but they are irrational, and not one single legitimate reason has been posted, to limit how you use that 5GB cap

  24. Roni Leben

    Treo history repeats itself

    What a load of bollocks from the US operators & Palm.

    Why are they allowed to call their plans unlimited if in fact they are not?

    Well, Palm has a looong history upsetting it's customers - with limited DUN functionality, limited (or non existent) BT,...

    My operator gives me 1GB of data included in my plan. For me this is enough even for occasional browsing from the laptop over BT DUN.

    I can get 10GB for a few extra € or unlimited (supposed to be truly unlimited) for €30

    I'm a 'Pre' user myself since 2003 - Back then I had the Handspring Treos 180 & 270, which officially according to Handspring (now merged back to Palm) did not have a tethering ability over it's IR connection (something about not being able to use two applications at the same time - GPRS & IR). Luckily there was a SW called WModem, which enabled dial-up connection (to carriers GPRS) over IR. And it required a special "procedure" to do this - firing up browser first, disconnecting browser, starting WModem,...

    Same story with Treo 600.

    Then I had Treo 650 (GSM, ROW - officially unlocked), which finally (5 years behind world + dog phones in EU) had BT. It did have DUN over BT, but you could either use Web access (with DUN disabled) or enable DUN first in order to use it (and then had to switch it off to use browser again). And it was not without problems again (requiring several BT restarts, DUN connection attempts from laptop,...) for each and every time you wanted to connect...

    In the same period I had several Nokia & Sony Ericsson phones, which all worked flawlessly using DUN over IR or BT (either GPRS or UMTS) out of the box, without any limitations whatsoever...

  25. RichyS

    Stop Reading Everything so Literally

    Dear god Reg readers. Stop taking things so bloody literally.

    A bigger screen does not (necessarily) mean that each individual web page is bigger to download. Not until ISPs and network operators start charging for data by the square metre.

    But it is well known within the network operators that the bigger the screen, the more web browsing and other internet usage the user does. It's simply to do with how the user browses -- multiple windows open, browsing to bandwidth intensive sites that render badly on the small screen, background applications, Windows update, etc. etc.

    Why do you think the operators charge more for data on a USB dongle compared to data attached to a phone contract? It's not because they can get away with it, it's because dongle users make use of more bandwidth.

  26. Gordon Jahn

    Why is tethering Bad in the US??

    Is this just a US problem? I've tethered my phone for years and as long as I pay for the bandwidth, my Telco seems happy enough (well, there's also the "don't use IM, etc" clause, but that's fine). Is there just more bandwidth to go round in the UK than in the US, or are US Telcos just luddites who fear people doing new things??

    Surely it's up to individuals to realise that if they go to YouTube and watch videos or download big files from iTunes, there may be a cost to that, but that's exactly the same with capped home packages.

  27. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    One of the few sensible points made in this discussion bogged down by screen size

    regards applications. My old Tungsten T3 is still going strong (after battery transplant), and has a host of third-party apps on it. I tested the later T5 and TX briefly, but their slower processors and memory were a pain, so I stuck with the old T3. None of the products offered by Palm (or any other) seemed interesting until the Pre came along. However, by making apps development exclusive this whole old ecosystem is lost, and I will therefore NOT move to a Pre.

    Sorry Palm, no dice!

  28. Jim Coleman


    I don't understand all the fuss over tethering. Windows Mobile phones have had tethering capabilities built in since Queen Victoria died, and nobody's networks have melted yet. I tether my laptop to my HTC Touch Diamond 2 regularly and surf away, never breaking my 1GB limit, so what's the frakking problem eh?

    How the hell a telco can charge users of iPhones and Pres for tethering when WinMo users get it for free beats the hell outta me.

    I'm starting to come to the conclusion that WinMo is the only truly open and unlocked mobile operating system.

  29. jwernerny

    Locked = no sale

    I got my first Palm in '98. It was a then new Palm III. Over the years, I have upgraded several times, finally ending up with a Sony Clie TJ-37 (best Palm OS device made, IMHO). When I finally decided to retire the device, I looked around, found the current Palm offerings a step back from the 5 year old Clie. I had started to hold out hope for a Pre, but since it doesn't run old Palm OS apps, why bother? My solution: A Nokia n810 with Garnet VM. I can still run the Palm Apps, and I get a real OS that I can add things to.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @RichyS you are incorrect.

    "Why do you think the operators charge more for data on a USB dongle compared to data attached to a phone contract? It's not because they can get away with it, it's because dongle users make use of more bandwidth."

    Umm. for the same reason Cable TV operators used to charge you extra for an analog run and no cable boxes but your installation of a splitter in your home for a bedroom TV -- because they want to charge for no extra system load.

    They do charge for dongles because they can get away with it. On my first ISDN line my ISP tried to charge me for using two different PC's at home.

    Using tethering is NO DIFFERENT than using a router at home. ISPs used to say that required extra fees.

    Sprint and any provider can monitor a cap. They have a cap in place. Trying to disallow tethering is on the basis of additional use is not a logical argument.

    My wife, who does not tether, uses more data than I use, and I tether once a week for an hour.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    @Jim Coleman

    It's got absolutely NOTHING to do with the OS and EVERYTHING to do with greedy operators. Still if it helps you feel like a big man, you are right, Windows mobile is the bestest most brilliant and openest OS ever, after Windows 7, obviously.

  32. Rodrigo Rollan

    NOT LITERAL !!!!

    Dear Readers please note that "in fact bigger screens consume a lot more bandwidth" is another way of saying, "while on a device with bigger screen (laptop, desktop computer) you tend to consume more bandwidth". This is true IMHO. You download lots of things while in a full blown computer (torrents, mp3, Videos, etc) that you most likely would not download on a portable device.

  33. Wortel

    Ah, so

    Just another brand NOT to buy, then.

  34. Jim Coleman

    @Mac Phreak

    "It's got absolutely NOTHING to do with the OS and EVERYTHING to do with greedy operators. "

    I beg to differ. My WinMo phone can be used to tether, for free, on any network, including O2, so we know O2 do support tethering. However, the iPhone CANNOT be used to tether on ANY network except O2, and even then you have to pay a fee. Therefore the fee O2 charges is directly related to the phone OS you are using. The iphone OS must somehow flag to O2 the fact that it is being used to tether, and that's how O2 know to charge you for it. That function is part of the OS.'re just plain wrong.

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