Personal Hotspot on iPhone: What You Need To Know

Answers to all your questions about tethering your iPhone

Personal Hotspot on iPhone
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One of the iPhone's best features is its ability to share your cellular data connection with other devices, which is known as Personal Hotspot or tethering. Personal Hotspot is easy to use, but there's a lot that you should understand about it. Get answers to common questions and troubleshooting issues here.

What Is Tethering?

Tethering is a way to share an iPhone's 3G or 4G data connection with other nearby computers and mobile devices (iPads with 3G or 4G can also be used as Personal Hotspots). When tethering is enabled, the iPhone functions like a cellular modem or Wi-Fi hotspot and broadcasts its internet connection to other devices that are connected to it. All data sent to and from those devices is routed through the iPhone to the internet. With tethering, any computer or other device that can connect to a Wi-Fi network can get online anywhere you can access the web on your phone.

How Is Tethering Different From Personal Hotspot?

They're the same thing. Personal Hotspot is simply the name that Apple uses for the generic tethering feature on the iPhone. When using tethering on your iPhone, look for the Personal Hotspot options and menus.

The iPhone isn't the only device that offers tethering features. In fact, you can buy a standalone hotspot device from many phone companies. To learn more about those options, check out The 6 Best Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots to Buy in 2018.

What Kind of Devices Can Connect Via iPhone Tethering?

An illustration of the devices that can connect to personal hotspots.
 ©Lifewire

Almost any kind of computing device that can use the internet can also connect to an iPhone using tethering. Desktops, laptops, iPod touches, iPads, gaming systems, and other tablets are all compatible.

How Do Devices Connect to Personal Hotspot?

Devices can connect to the iPhone via Personal Hotspot in one of three ways:

When you tether a device to the iPhone, you connect that device to the iPhone using just one of these options at a time. Tethering over Wi-Fi works just like connecting to any other Wi-Fi network. Using Bluetooth is similar to pairing to a Bluetooth accessory. Simply connecting the iPhone to a device with a standard cable is enough to tether over USB.

What Models of the iPhone Support Tethering?

Every model of the iPhone starting with the iPhone 3GS supports tethering.

What Version of the iOS Is Required for Personal Hotspot?

In order to use tethering on your iPhone, you need to be running iOS 4 or higher (Because iOS 4 came out way back in 2011, essentially, virtually every iPhone still in use today is running that or higher).

What Is the Range of a Personal Hotspot?

The distance that tethered devices can be apart from each other while still working depends on how they're connected. A device tethered over USB only has a range as long as the USB cable being used. Tethering over Bluetooth gives a range of a couple dozen feet, while Wi-Fi connections stretch a little farther (throughout a house or office). 

How Do I Get Tethering?

These days, tethering is included as a default option on most monthly plans from most major phone companies. In a few instances tethering requires an additional monthly fee. Contact your phone company, or log into your phone company account online, to see if you already have Personal Hotspot or if you need to add it.

How Do I Know if Tethering Is Enabled on My Account?

Checking with your phone company is definitely one way. Maybe the easiest way is to check on your iPhone. Tap the Settings icon. Scroll down to the Personal Hotspot section (and tap it, if need be). If it reads off or on, Personal Hotspot is available to you. 

What Does Personal Hotspot Cost?

In most cases, Personal Hotspot itself doesn't cost anything. Generally speaking, you just pay for the data used by it along with all of your other data use. This all depends on what monthly plan you have and what phone company you use. If you've got an unlimited data plan, Personal Hotspot is almost definitely included. In a few cases, it may cost $10 or more dollars per month extra. Review the monthly plans offered by the major carriers to learn more.

Can I Keep Unlimited Data With a Tethering Plan?

Good news: unlimited data plans that support tethering are back! For a few years after the debut of the iPhone, unlimited monthly plans were common. Then phone companies changed to plans that capped the amount of data that any one person could use and charged people more for exceeding those caps. In those situations, you often had to choose between having tethering or unlimited data. These days, phone companies are pushing unlimited data plans that include tethering. These plans still have caps. The difference is that, when you exceed the cap, your data speeds — including tethering — are drastically slowed until the next month.

Does Data Used by Tethered Devices Count Against My Data Limit?

Yes. All the data used by devices tethered to your iPhone over Personal Hotspot counts against your monthly data limit. This means you'll want to keep a close eye on your data use and ask people tethered to you not to do data-intensive things like streaming movies.

How to Set Up And Using Personal Hotspot

To learn how to use Personal Hotspot on your iPhone, check out these articles:

How Do You Know When Devices Are Tethered To Your iPhone?

When a device is connected to the web via tethering, your iPhone displays a blue bar at the top of the screen on most models that reads Personal Hotspot and shows how many devices are connected to it. On the iPhone X series phones (the X, XS, XR, etc.), rather than a blue bar, a blue bubble appears around the time in the top left corner.

Can You Sync the iPhone While Tethered?

Yes. You can sync via sync via Wi-Fi or USB without the syncing interfering with the Internet connection.

Can I Use Personal Hotspot If My iPhone Has Been Ejected?

Yes. After you connect your iPhone to your computer via USB, it will sync (unless you've disabled automatic syncing). If you prefer, you can then eject the iPhone by clicking the arrow buttons next to it in iTunes without losing your connection to the Internet.

Can I Change My Personal Hotspot Password?

Every iPhone Personal Hotspot is given a randomized, default password that other devices have to have in order to connect. You can change that default password if you prefer. To learn how read How to Change Your iPhone Personal Hotspot Password.

I Have Personal Hotspot, But It's Missing From My Phone. Help!

Sometimes, the Personal Hotspot option will go missing from your iPhone even though you have the feature available as part of your monthly phone plan. To solve this problem, check out How to Fix Missing Personal Hotspot on iPhone.