The iPhone's Personal Hotspot feature, added since iOS 4.3, lets you turn your iPhone into a mobile hotspot or portable Wi-Fi hotspot so you can share your data connection wirelessly with other devices, including the iPad and your laptop. This means wherever you go and you have a signal on your iPhone, you'll be able to go online--a huge plus for staying connected whether for work or play.
Apple expanded its original tethering support for the iPhone by adding this Personal Hotspot feature. Previously, with traditional tethering, you could only share the data connection with a single computer (i.e., in a one-to-one connection) using a USB cable or Bluetooth. Personal Hotspot still includes the USB and Bluetooth options but adds the Wi-Fi, multi-device sharing too.
Using the Personal Hotspot feature, however, is not free. Verizon charges an extra $20 per month for 2GB of data. AT&T requires customers using the Personal Hotspot plan to be on the highest 5GB/month data plan which, at the time of this writing, costs $50 a month (and is used not just for the Wi-Fi hotspot, but for iPhone data use in general). Verizon allows up to 5 devices to connect to your iPhone at the same time, while AT&T's iPhone Personal Hotspot service allows only 3 devices.
Once you've enabled the tethering or hotspot option on your carrier's data plan, however, using your iPhone as a wireless hotspot is pretty simple; you just need to turn the feature on in your phone, and then it will appear just like a regular wireless access point that your other devices can connect to. Here are the step-by-step instructions:
Turn on the Personal Hotspot Option in the iPhone
- Go to the Settings screen on the iPhone.
- At the Settings screen, tap the "General" then "Network".
- Tap the "Personal Hotspot" option then "Wi-Fi Password".
- Enter in a password. This makes sure other (unauthorized) devices can't connect to your network. The password has to be at least eight characters long (a mix of letters, numbers, and punctuation).
- Slide the Personal Hotspot switch to on to make your iPhone now discoverable. Your phone will start acting like a wireless access point with the network name as your iPhone's device name.
Find and Connect to the New Wi-Fi Hotspot Created
- From each of the other devices you want to share Internet access with, find the Wi-Fi hotspot; this will probably be done automatically for you. (Your computer, tablet, and/or other smartphones most likely will notify you that there are new wireless networks to connect to.) If not, you can go to the wireless network settings on another phone or device to see a list of networks to connect to and find the iPhone. For Windows or Mac, see general Wi-Fi connection instructions.
- Finally, establish the connection by entering in the password you noted above.
Tips and Considerations
- Make sure you turn off the Wi-Fi hotspot feature when you no longer need shared Internet access from the other devices, since this can drain your cell phone's battery significantly.
- The hotspot feature uses strong WPA2 protection. If you try to connect with an old computer that doesn't support WPA2, you'll need to upgrade the wireless card before it can join your iPhone's network. (See some top wireless USB adapters for easy upgrades.)
- Again, keep in mind the data costs and limits when using the hotspot feature. It would probably be a good idea to monitor your mobile data usage.