Can My iPad Use My iPhone's Data Connection?

Getty Images / Peter Macdiarmid

Have you ever been stuck without Internet availability for your iPad?  While most of us have Wi-Fi in the home, and Wi-Fi in hotels and coffee shops have become commonplace, there are still times when you can become trapped without a Wi-Fi signal for your iPad. But so long as you have your iPhone, you can easily share your iPhone's data connection with your iPad through a process called "tethering".  And believe it or not, a tethered connection can be almost as fast as the 'real' connection.

You can turn on your iPhone's hotspot by going into the phone's settings, choosing "Personal Hotspot" on the left-side menu, and flipping the Personal Hotspot switch to On by tapping it. When the hotspot feature is turned on, you should pick a password for connecting to the hotspot.

On the iPad, you should see the iPhone hotspot appear in the Wi-Fi settings. If not, turn Wi-Fi off and then on again to make sure the list is refreshed. Once it appears, simply tap it and type in the password you gave the connection.

Does Tethering Cost Money?

Yes, no and yes. Your telecom company may charge you a monthly fee for tethering your device, but most providers now offer tethering for free on most limited plans. A limited plan is a plan that limits you to a bucket of data, such as a 2 GB plan or a 5 GB plan. These include both family plans and individual plans.  Since you are drawing from a bucket, providers don't tend to care how you use the data.

On unlimited plans, some providers like AT&T charge an extra fee while other providers like T-Mobile will simply slow your Internet speed if tethering exceeds high limits.

It is best to check with your specific plan to see if there are any extra charges for tethering. In any case, tethering will use up some of your allotted bandwidth, so yes, it will cost money in the sense that you may need to buy extra bandwidth if you go over the maximum. And telecom companies usually charge a premium for this, so it is important to track how much data you are using.

What Are the Alternatives to Tethering?

The alternative is to find a free Wi-Fi hotspot. Most coffee shops and hotels now offer free Wi-Fi. If you are traveling, you can use a combination of tethering and free hotspots. Just remember to disconnect from your iPhone when you are not using it. Also, when using a free Wi-Fi hotspot, it is a good idea for security purposes to 'forget' the network when you are finished using it. This prevents the iPad from automatically trying to connect to it in the future, which can lead to security risks with your iPad.