What Is iPhone Tethering and Personal Hotspot?

iPhone Personal Hotspot
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Tethering is one the most useful, but not necessarily most well known, features of the iPhone. Tethering lets you use your iPhone like Wi-Fi hotspot to provide Internet access to a computer or other Wi-Fi-enabled device like an iPad or iPod touch.

Tethering is not unique to the iPhone; it's available on many smartphones. As long as the user has the right software and a compatible data plan from a phone company, tethering lets the user to connect their devices to a phone 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.

How iPhone Tethering Works

Tethering works by creating a short-range wireless network using the iPhone as its hub (in this case, the iPhone functions like a traditional wireless router, such as Apple's AirPort or the Verizon Jetpack). The iPhone connects to a cellular network to send and receive data, and then broadcasts that connection to the devices connected to its network. 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. 

iPhone Tethering Requirements

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

Any device that supports Wi-Fi, including iPad, iPod touch, Macs, and PCs, can connect to an iPhone with tethering enabled.

Security for Tethering

For security purposes, all tethering networks are password-protected by default, meaning that they can only be accessed by people with the password. Users can change their default password.

Data Usage with iPhone Tethering

Data used by the devices tethered to the iPhone 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

Costs for Tethering

When it debuted on the iPhone in 2011, tethering 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 price. As a result, tethering 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. 

In many cases, users with unlimited data plans are not able to use tethering to prevent very high data use. For more on this topic, check out​ Can I Keep Unlimited Data with iPhone Tethering?

How is Tethering Different from Personal Hotspot?

You may have heard the terms "tethering" and "Personal Hotspot" discussed together. That's because tethering is the general name for this feature​, while Apple's implementation is called Personal Hotspot.

In this case, both terms are correct, but when looking for the function on iOS devices, you should look for things labeled Person Hotspot.

Using Tethering on iPhone

To get started using tethering on the iPhone, or to solve problems with it, check out these articles: