All About iPhone Tethering and Personal Hotspot

Use your iPhone to connect other devices to the internet

Tethering is a super-useful feature of the iPhone. Tethering lets you use your iPhone as a Wi-Fi hotspot to provide internet access to a laptop or other Wi-Fi-enabled devices like an iPad or iPod touch.

Tethering isn't iPhone-only; it's available on many smartphones. As long as users have the right software and a data plan from a cellphone company that includes it, users can wirelessly connect their devices to a smartphone and use the phone's cellular internet connection.

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 Wi-Fi router. 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.

Tethering is usually slower than broadband or Wi-Fi connections, but it's also more portable. As long as the smartphone has data service reception, the network is available. 

Tethering on the iPhone supports connections between devices using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB.

iPhone Tethering Requirements

To use your iPhone for tethering, you must have:

  • an iPhone 3GS or newer
  • running iOS 4.3 or newer
  • a data plan that supports tethering.

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

How Tethering Differs From a 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 version is called Personal Hotspot. Both terms are correct, but when looking for the feature on iOS devices, look for anything labeled Personal Hotspot.

How to Use Tethering on iPhone

Using tethering on the iPhone is really easy and, to make it easier, we've got instructions on how to set up and use a hotspot on your iPhone. 

If you've been using Personal Hotspot, but now the option is missing from your iPhone, check out How to Fix a Missing iPhone Personal Hotspot. If the Personal Hotspot menu is present, but the feature just isn't working, try How to Fix It When iPhone Personal Hotspot Is Not Working.

If you're planning to tether and iPad to an iPhone, we've got step-by-step instructions for that, too.

How to Automatically Connect Family Members to iPhone Tethering

If you use Family Sharing to share media and purchases, family members' locations, and other data amongst members of your family, you can easily share your Personal Hotspot, too. To let Family Sharing group members automatically connect to your iPhone's Personal Hotspot, follow these steps:

  1. On the device whose Personal Hotspot you want to use, tap Settings > Personal Hotspot > Family Sharing.

  2. Move the Family Sharing slide to on/green.

  3. Tap the name of each member of your Family Sharing group to control whether they'll automatically tether to the iPhone or if they need to ask.

Security for iPhone Tethering

For security purposes, all tethering networks are password-protected by default. That means that they can only be accessed by people with the iPhone's tethering password. That makes them pretty secure.

If you want, though, you can change the default password of your iPhone Personal Hotspot.

Data Usage With iPhone Tethering

The data used by the devices tethered to the iPhone counts against the phone's monthly data usage limit. This means that letting other people connect to your iPhone's Personal Hotspot can use up your data really quickly. Data overages caused by using tethering are charged at the same rate as traditional data overages.

  • Maximum number of simultaneously connected devices: 5
  • Maximum number of simultaneously 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 the foundation of the monthly cost.

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 that includes a certain amount of data to get the feature. That amount varies by phone company.

In some cases, users with unlimited data plans are not able to use tethering to prevent high data use

Troubleshooting Problems with iPhone Tethering

You may run into problems with tethering from time to time, including other people not being able to connect to your hotspot. If you're facing these problems, check out our articles:

  • Is iPhone tethering free?

    It depends on your phone plan. If you have a limited amount of data, you may get overage charges if you go over your limit.

  • Can I share my iPhone's hotspot with other people?

    Yes. To share your Wi-Fi hotspot with people outside of your family group, you'll need a third-party app such as iTether, MyWi Wi-Fi Tethering, Optimum Wi-Fi Hotspot Finder, or PDANet. You must get these apps from outside the App Store.

  • How do I increase tethering speed on my iPhone?

    Close applications you're not using and disable background apps, then reset your network settings. If you have a protective case, remove it to see if that helps. Check your data usage to make sure you haven't reached your limit.

  • What is my iPhone Wi-Fi password for tethering?

    To find your hotspot password, on your iPhone, go to Settings > Personal Hotspot. Your password will be listed next to Wi-Fi Password.

  • How do I disable tethering on my iPhone?

    The only way to turn off your Personal Hotspot is to switch to Airplane mode or disable data usage in your settings. If people are connecting to your hotspot without your permission, change the password.

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