First spotted in testing last month, Instant Tethering automatically and seamlessly shares a cellular data connection through Wi-Fi. The feature is now more widely rolling out, but at the moment exclusive to the Pixel line and recent Nexus phones and tablets.
According to newly-available support documentation, the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P can act as a “host” that shares their data. Those devices, as well as the Pixel C and Nexus 9, can in turn use a shared connection without the need to enter a password ahead of time.
The latter set of devices must run at least Android 6.0, while 7.1.1 Nougat or above is needed to be a host. Importantly, both devices must be signed into the same Google Account. Play Services 10.2.98 or later is needed, but the feature seems to also require a server-side component.
To initiate, users need to first turn on the feature by going to Settings → Google → Instant Tethering. Taping ‘Provide data connection’ will initiate the host device, while ‘Get data connection’ prepares the receiving device. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi must also remain on throughout the process.
When tablets lack a connection, but nearby hosts maintain cellular data service, a notification will appear on the former device noting ‘Wi-Fi hotspot available.’ Pressing ‘Connect’ will begin the process, with users being able to manually initiate by heading to Instant Tethering settings.
With tethering consuming a lot of battery, the connection will automatically disconnect after 10 minutes of no usage.
At the moment, only Pixel and Nexus devices can take advantage of the feature. It’s unclear whether availability will be similar to Wi-Fi Assistant or whether this feature will widely rollout beyond Google’s devices.