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, your iPhone provides two ways for your iPad to connect and use its data connection: Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.   

When you turn on your iPhone's personal hotspot, it turns off the iPhone's Wi-Fi connection and uses the Wi-Fi as a router.  This means you can only share the cellular data connection of the iPhone. This means you cannot bounce a Wi-Fi connection from your iPhone to your iPad, only a 3G or 4G data connection.

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Wi-Fi tethering provides the fastest connection.  This option essentially turns your iPhone into a Wi-Fi router or hotspot.

  After you have turned on the personal hotspot feature of your iPhone, you can connect to it as if it were any other Wi-Fi network.  Simply go into your settings, choose Wi-Fi from the left-side menu, and choose your phone from the list.  

Wi-Fi  uses the same security as your home Wi-Fi, so you don't need to worry about using it in public.

 However, as with any account, your security is only as good as your password, so make sure you use a password with a mixture of upper and lower case and include numbers in the password when setting up the hotspot.  

Bluetooth tethering is not nearly as fast as Wi-Fi, and you will need to be closer to your phone to get a good connection, but it provides one major benefit:  it won't drain your iPhone's battery nearly as fast as Wi-Fi tethering.  It takes power for the iPhone to act as a Wi-Fi router, so if you are settling in for a long session and there is no way to plug your iPhone in to keep it charged, Bluetooth may be an option.   The connection may not be as fast as Wi-Fi, but it can be enough for basic web browsing and other light uses.

Bluetooth is also slightly more secure.  The Bluetooth signal won't travel as far as the Wi-Fi signal, which means you will need to be closer to your phone, but it also means anyone must be closer to see the signal.   How to Secure Your iPad.

In order to use Bluetooth tethering, your devices will need to be paired.  This means your iPad must be "discoverable", which basically means you need to  make sure your iPad has Bluetooth turned on in the settings.

 The iPad is automatically discoverable when Bluetooth is turned on.  

Don't forget you may be charged for data.  The iPad can be a much better device for streaming videos and movies, but don't forget it is using the data connection on your iPhone.   Videos can take up far more data than music or basic web browsing, and even a 3 GB or 5 GB plan can be used up in a few hours, depending on the quality of the video.

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