How to Set Up and Use Personal Hotspot on iPhone

The Wireless Connection
The Wireless Connection
Introduction
A personal hotspot can keep you connected almost anywhere.
Todor Tsvetkov/E+/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.

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. If you have the available data on your cellular plan, it's an excellent alternative to using public WiFi hotspots.

Personal Hotspot Requirements

In order to use Personal Hotspot on an iPhone, 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

get internet in car mobile hotspot
Todor Tsevetkov/E+/Getty

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. And all of that can change on a dime.

Most regional carriers and prepaid 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. 

For important information about Personal Hotspot data use, see Data Use with Personal Hotspot, below.

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.

How to Turn on Personal Hotspot

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.

    Settings icon, Personal Hotspot button and toggle in iOS

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 Instant Hotspot Using Continuity

With Instant Hotspot, the Personal Hotspot on your iPhone (or cellular iPad) can give Internet access to any other Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch without having to enter the password.

First up, you'll need to make sure that the iOS device you want to use as the Hotspot is signed into 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.

Here's how it works:

  • On your Mac, use the Wi-Fi status menu  in the menu bar to choose the name of the iPhone or iPad providing your Personal Hotspot .
  • On your iPad, iPod touch, or another iPhone, go to Settings > Wi-Fi, then tap the name of the iPhone or iPad providing your Personal Hotspot .
  1. Connect your Mac to the Hotspot device via the Wi-Fi status menu in the menu bar.

    iPhone in Wi-Fi menu on macOS
  2. On a different iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone, go to Settings > Wi-Fi, then tap the name of the iPhone or iPad providing your Personal Hotspot.

    iPhone in
  3. Your third device will now connect to your 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 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.

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 usage so you don't accidentally go over your limit and have to pay extra.

Dealing with a Missing Personal Hotspot

While not common, it's possible for the Personal Hotspot menu to disappear from your iPhone. Find out what causes and this and how to get it back in How to Fix Missing iPhone Personal Hotspot on iPhone & iOS.