October 25, 2014

Open Garden app review

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Share mobile data connections among all your devices with this free Android app.

Face it, you don’t want to pay for a tethering app and you’re not in a hurry to add another $10 a month to your data plan.  Many of you don’t even want to bother with “rooting” a phone.  Why bother spending extra money for a tablet that only needs a data connection every once in a while?  Why jump through hoops? What to do? Download and install Open Garden, that’s what.

Open Garden lets users share their mobile data connection with laptops, tablets, and other device. No rooting needed, no charges to worry about. FREE.

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Let’s say you have a phone with a 4G data plan and a tablet that you want to take with you for a road trip.  Open Garden will take the data connection from your handset and share it with your tablet. In an office environment and have various devices with 3G/4G speeds and/or Wi-Fi?  Why not connect them all together and share that data?

Users can find the fastest connection and most powerful signal without checking every available network, and can move between networks seamlessly. Open Garden provides a way to access more data at faster speeds in more locations.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a 3G, 4G, or Wi-Fi connection and it surely doesn’t matter which carrier or model you’re using.

Simply install the app, press “connect” and let the two devices find each other over Bluetooth.  Once running, you’ll see a visual representation of all of the devices talking to each other and get an understanding of how you’re connected.

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Open Garden is essentially a free mobile WiFi hotspot app and provides the same features of tethering apps. If you’re familiar with PDA Net or EasyTether then you have a sense of what’s happening.  Where Open Garden trumps these two is that it does not require a USB cable. Yes, it works like a few other tethering apps out there but many of them require users to have root access on the phone(s) or tablet(s).

I was impressed with the quick and painless setup; installation takes but a few seconds. It’s simply a matter of running the app on my phone and tablet and tapping the “connect” button.  From there, the two will talk to each and establish a connection. And, for those of you who have devices with NFC, you can tap them together to initiate the connection.

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It’s worth pointing out that not all applications or games will work properly via Open Garden. Some apps look for 3G,4G, or Wi-Fi connection to send and receive data and will not “know” that there is available internet. Some of the instances we ran into included downloading from Google Play, Netflix, Gmail, Google Now, Slacker Radio, and Pandora.

While this might seem like a turnoff for a few, we did find that all of the browsers we tried (Android, Chrome, and Firefox) worked just fine and Facebook was no problem. We were content with checking email from the browser and accessing other services through the internet.

These “connection issues” are actually known and documented and stem from the Android platform and apps not checking for VPN as a mode of connectivity. The developers of Open Garden are actively working on solutions and workaround and have even reached out to other apps to help. In other words, we recommend keeping an eye on the app’s dedicated forum thread for updates. Also, Google has recognized the issue and plans to implement a fix for future releases of Android.

I’ve yet to try Open Garden in the field with a handful of devices sharing data to a Wi-Fi tablet but my understanding is that this should work quite well. I have read multiple comments in Google Play where users are pleased with the results so I expect it to work without issue..

What we liked:

  • Very easy to set up and connect devices
  • Connect multiple devices to provide optimal network speeds
  • No rooting required
  • Free

Room for improvement:

  • Drains battery a bit more than we’d like
  • Sometimes need to disable Bluetooth in order to stop from connecting

[download_link link="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.opengarden.android.MeshClient" variation="hotpink" target="blank"]Download Open Garden (Google Play)[/download_link]