How to Use Your Cell Phone as a Wi-Fi Hotspot

Share your cell phone's data plan wirelessly with multiple devices

iPhone Personal Hotspot
iPhone Personal Hotspot. Ben Dodson (Flickr)

Did you know you could use your cell phone as a wireless router for internet access on your laptop, tablet, and other Wi-Fi devices? iPhone and Android smartphones have this Wi-Fi hotspot (or mobile hotspot) feature built into their devices. You can use your phone's data plan to get connected on your laptop, tablet, and other devices all at the same time.

Wi-Fi Hotspot or Mobile Hotspot Features

Android has a Wi-Fi hotspot feature also known as "Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot" and the iPhone has a "Personal Hotspot" feature.

Both are a version of tethering, but unlike other tethering options (via USB or Bluetooth), you can connect multiple devices simultaneously. Connect to your phone over Wi-Fi is as easy as connecting to a wireless network on your phone.

Cost:To use the service, your cell phone would need to have a data plan on its own. Most wireless carriers also charge a separate tethering or hotspot plan, which can cost about $15 a month. (However, sometimes you can get around this extra charge by rooting or jailbreaking your smartphone and using a tethering app to turn your smartphone into a wireless mobile hotspot.

Security: By default, typically the wireless network you set up with your smartphone is encrypted with strong WPA2 security, so unauthorized users can't connect to your devices. For added security, if you're not prompted to set up a password, go into the settings to add or change the password.

Downside: Using your phone as a wireless modem drains the battery life, so make sure you turn the Wi-Fi hotspot feature off after you're done using it.

Wi-Fi Hotspot Settings

You'll find the Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot or wireless hotspot settings on Android under the "Wireless & networks" settings. For iPhone, the Personal Hotspot feature is under the Network settings.

Similarly, on Windows Phone and Blackberry, the "internet sharing" and mobile hotspot settings are in the network settings. In most cases, you'll be able to change the wireless network name and, as mentioned above, the network password (and on BlackBerry, you can control your new shared network to a great degree). Here are brief instructions for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry and more detailed instructions and tips for:

Once you turn on the Wi-Fi hotspot on your phone, connect to it on your laptop, desktop, tablet, or other device the same way you would connect to a wireless network.