Personal Hotspot on iPhone: What You Need To Know

Personal Hotspot on iPhone
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The ability to share your iPhone's cellular data connection with other devices, also known as Personal Hotspot or tethering, is one of the iPhone's best features. It's easy to use, but there's a lot to know about it. Get answers to common questions here.

The Basics

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 the devices connected to it. All data sent to and from those devices is routed through the iPhone to the Internet. With tethering, your computer or other devices 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 tethering on the iPhone. When using tethering on your iPhone, look for the Personal Hotspot options and menus.

What Kind of Devices Can Connect Via iPhone Tethering?

Almost any kind of computing device that can use the Internet can also connect to an iPhone using tethering. Desktops, laptops, iPod touches, iPads, 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:

  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • USB

Devices tethered to the iPhone connect 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?

Tethering requires iOS 4 or higher.

What Is a Personal Hotspot's Range?

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. Tethering over Bluetooth gives a range of a couple dozen feet, while Wi-Fi connections stretch a little farther. 

Personal Hotspot and Phone Companies

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, such as with Sprint, tethering requires an additional monthly fee. Log into your phone company account to see if you have Personal Hotspot or need to add it.

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

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?

Except in the case of Sprint, Personal Hotspot itself doesn't cost anything.

You just pay for the data used by it along with all of your other data use. Sprint charges additional fees for the data used when tethering. Review the options from the major carriers to learn more.

Can I Keep Unlimited Data With a Tethering Plan?

Unfortunately, you cannot use an unlimited data plan with tethering (though most people don't have unlimited data plans anymore).

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.

Using Personal Hotspot

Setting 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 that reads Personal Hotspot and shows how many devices are connected to it. 

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.

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