How to Set Up and Use Personal Hotspot on iPhone

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Introduction to iPhone Personal Hotspot

iPhone Personal Hotspot
image credit: Innocenti/Cultura/Getty Images

Ever been stuck in a situation where you need to get a computer or tablet online with no Wi-Fi nearby? If you've got an iPhone with a 3G or 4G data connection, that problem can be easily solved thanks to Personal Hotspot.

RELATED: Personal Hotspot on iPhone: What You Need To Know

Personal Hotspot Explained

Personal Hotspot is a feature of iOS that lets iPhones running iOS 4.3 and higher share their cellular data connection with other nearby devices via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB. This feature is generically known as tethering. When using Personal Hotspot, your iPhone acts like a wireless router for the other devices, transmitting and receiving data for them. 

Personal Hotspot Requirements

In order to use Personal Hotspot, you need:

  • An iPhone 4 or newer
  • iOS 4.3 or higher
  • A data plan that supports tethering/Personal Hotspot
  • A USB cable, if you want to connect devices that way.

Adding Personal Hotspot to Your Data Plan

These days, most major phone companies include Personal Hotspot by default as part of their data plans for iPhone. AT&T and Verizon include it on all of their plans, while T-Mobile offers it as part of its unlimited data plan. Sprint charges for it, with prices depending on how much data you want to use.

Most regional carriers and pre-paid carriers support it as part of their data plans, as well. If you're not sure whether you have Personal Hotspot on your data plan, check with your phone company. 

NOTE: For important information about Personal Hotspot data use, see step 3 of this article.

Another way to know if you have it is to check your iPhone. Tap the Settings app and look for the Personal Hotspot menu beneath Cellular. If it's there, you likely have the feature.

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How to Turn On Personal Hotspot

iphone personal hotspot, step 2

Once Personal Hotspot is enabled on your data plan, turning it on is really simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings
  2. Tap Personal Hotspot
  3. Move the Personal Hotspot slider to on/green.

On iOS 6 and earlier, the steps are Settings -> Network -> Personal Hotspot -> move the slider to On.

If you don't have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or both enabled when you turn on Personal Hotspot, a pop-up window asks if you want to turn them on or only use USB.

Enabling Personal Hotspot Using Continuity

There's another way to turn on tethering on your iPhone: Continuity. This is a feature of Apple devices that the company introduced in iOS 8 and Mac OS X 10.10 (aka Yosemite). It allows Apple devices to be aware of each other when they're nearby and to share features and control each other. 

Personal Hotspot is one of the features that Continuity can control. Here's how it works:

  1. If your iPhone and Mac are close together and you want to turn on Personal Hotspot, click the Wi-Fi menu on the Mac
  2. In that menu, under the Personal Hotspot section, you'll see the name of the iPhone (this assumes that both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on on the iPhone)
  3. Click the name of the iPhone and Personal Hotspot will be enabled and the Mac connected to it without ever touching the iPhone.

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Personal Hotspot Connection Established

iphone personal hotspot, step 3

How Devices Connect to Personal Hotspot

Connecting other devices to your Personal Hotspot via Wi-Fi is easy. Tell the people who want to connect to turn on Wi-Fi on their devices and look for the name of your phone (as shown on the Personal Hotspot screen). They should select that network and enter the password shown on the Personal Hotspot screen on the iPhone.

RELATED: How to Change Your iPhone Personal Hotspot Password

How to Know When Devices Are Connected to Your Personal Hotspot

When other devices are connected to your iPhone's hotspot, you'll see a blue bar at the top of your screen and on your lock screen. In iOS 7 and up, the blue bar shows a number next to a lock or interlocking loops icon that lets you know how many devices are connected to your phone.

Data Use with Personal Hotspot

One important thing to remember: unlike traditional Wi-Fi, your Personal Hotspot uses data from your iPhone data plan, which offers a limited amount of data. Your monthly data allowance can be used up quickly if you're streaming video or doing other bandwidth-intensive tasks. 

All data used by devices connected to your iPhone counts against your data plan, so be careful if your data plan is small. It might also be a good idea to learn how to check your data use so you don't accidentally go over your limit and have to pay extra.

RELATED: Can I Keep Unlimited Data with iPhone Personal Hotspot?