iPhone Tethering Explained

iphone tethering
The iPhone's Personal Hotspot, with the feature turned on.

iPhone Tethering is a feature in which an iPhone is used as a wireless modem to provide Internet access to a computer or other Wi-Fi-enabled device like an iPad or iPod touch.

While tethering is the general name for this feature, Apple's implementation of it, and how its onscreen iOS functions are labeled, is called Personal Hotspot.

Tethering is not unique to the iPhone; it's available on many cell phones and smartphones that can access the Internet.

As long as the user has the right software and a participating data plan from a phone company, it allows the user to connect their phone to a computer and use the phone's cellular Internet connection to provide wireless, always-on connectivity to the computer. The iPhone supports tethering using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB.

Personal Hotspot works by creating a small wireless network using the iPhone as its hub (in this case, the iPhone functions like a traditional wireless router, such as Apple's AirPort​). The iPhone then receives a data connection from the cellular network and broadcasts that connection to the devices attached to it. Data sent to and from the connected devices is routed through the iPhone to the Internet.

Tethered connections are generally slower than broadband or Wi-Fi connections, but are more portable. As long as the smartphone has data service reception, the network is available.



To use iPhone tethering, you must have an iPhone 3GS or higher, running iOS 4.3 or higher, with a data plan that supports tethering.


For security purposes, all Personal Hotspot networks are password-protected by default, meaning that they can only be accessed by people with the password.

Users can change the default password of their Personal Hotspot.

Data Usage

Data used by the devices connected to the Personal Hotspot counts against the iPhone's monthly ​​data usage limit. Data overages caused by using tethering are charged at the same rate as traditional data overages.

Maximum Number of Simultaneous Connected Devices: 5

Maximum Number of Simultaneous Wi-Fi Connections: 3


When it debuted on the iPhone in 2011, Personal Hotspot was an optional feature that users could add to their monthly voice and data plans. Since then, the way that phone companies price their plans for smartphone users has changed, making data services central to the rates. As a result, Personal Hotspot is now included in most plans from every major carrier for no additional price. The only requirement is that the user must have a monthly plan above a certain data limit in order to get the feature, though what that limit is, varies by phone company. 

Compatible Devices
Any device with WiFi, including iPad, iPod touch, Macs, and PCs

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