How to Set Up and Use Personal Hotspot on iPhone

The network-sharing tool for iPhone helps other nearby devices go online

The Wireless Connection
The Wireless Connection

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

Instructions in this article apply to iOS 12, although functionality is similar for recent versions of the Apple mobile operating system.

Someone using a personal hotspot on their phone while camping
Lifewire / Kaley McKean

Personal Hotspot Explained

Personal Hotspot is a feature of iOS that lets compatible iPhones share a cellular data connection with other nearby devices through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB. This feature is known as tethering.

When you use Personal Hotspot, your iPhone acts like a wireless router for the other devices, transmitting and receiving data for these devices. If you have the available data on your cellular plan, it's an excellent alternative to using public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Personal Hotspot Requirements

To use Personal Hotspot on an iPhone, you'll need:

  • An iPhone running iOS 8 or later.
  • A cellular-model iPad, with iPadOS 8 or later. 
  • A data plan that supports tethering or Personal Hotspot.
  • A USB cable, if you want to connect devices that way.

Add Personal Hotspot to Your Data Plan

Most major phone companies include Personal Hotspot by default as part of their data plans for the iPhone. AT&T and Verizon include it in many of their plans, while T-Mobile offers it on its Magenta, T-Mobile ONE, and Simple Choice plans. Sprint charges for it, with prices depending on how much data you want to use.

get internet in car mobile hotspot
Todor Tsevetkov / Getty Images

Most regional carriers and pay-as-you-go carriers support Personal Hotspot 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.

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

How to Turn on Personal Hotspot

After Personal Hotspot is enabled on your data plan, turn it on:

  1. On the Home screen, tap Settings.

  2. On the Settings screen, tap Personal Hotspot.

    Make sure you've enabled Cellular, which is right above Personal Hotspot on the Settings screen. If the Personal Hotspot option is missing, there are a few fixes you can try.

  3. On the Personal Hotspot screen, turn on the Personal Hotspot toggle switch.

    Settings icon, Personal Hotspot button and toggle in iOS
  4. Remember the Wi-Fi Password. You'll use this password to connect other devices to this hotspot.

If you don't have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or both enabled when you turn on Personal Hotspot, you're prompted to turn them on or only use USB.

Enable Instant Hotspot Using Continuity

With Instant Hotspot, the Personal Hotspot on your iPhone (or cellular iPad) shares online access to any Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch without entering the password.

First, verify that the iOS device you want to use as the hotspot is signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID as the Mac or iOS device you want to provide internet access to. Each device will also need to have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on.

Instant Hotspot requires the following:

  • An iPhone 5 or newer running OS 8.1 or later
  • An iPad (4th gen and newer)
  • An iPad Pro, iPad Air, or iPad mini (all models)

You can use Instant Hotspot to connect to the above devices running at least iOS 8 as well as an iPod touch (5th generation) or newer. Macs running OS X Yosemite or later are also compatible.

  1. To connect a Mac to the hotspot device, go to the menu bar, select Wi-Fi status, then choose the name of the iPhone or iPad providing the Personal Hotspot.

    iPhone in Wi-Fi menu on macOS
  2. To connect an iPad, iPod touch, or another iPhone to the hotspot device, go to Settings > Wi-Fi, then tap the name of the iPhone or iPad providing the Personal Hotspot.

    iPhone in "Choose a Network" on iPad
  3. Your third device connects to the hotspot without having to enter the password.

    iPhone selected in Wi-Fi Settings app on iPad

Personal Hotspot Connection Established

Connecting other devices to your Personal Hotspot using 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.

How to Know When Devices Are Connected to Your Personal Hotspot

When other devices are connected to your iPhone hotspot, a blue bar appears at the top of the screen and on the lock screen. In iOS 7 and up, the blue bar shows a number next to a lock or an interlocking loops icon that indicates how many devices are connected to the phone.

Changing Your Persona Hotspot Name

Want the name of your Personal Hotspot to be something of than "[yourname]'s iPhone?" You need to change the name of your iPhone, which is pretty easy. Find out how in How to Change the Name of Your iPhone.

Data Use with Personal Hotspot

Personal Hotspot uses data from your iPhone data plan. Unless you have an unlimited plan, your monthly data allowance could be used up quickly when 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. Learn how to check your data usage so you don't accidentally go over your limit.