How to Use Your iPhone as a Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot

Share your iPhone's internet connection wirelessly using Personal Hotspot

The iPhone's Personal Hotspot feature lets you turn your iPhone into a portable Wi-Fi hotspot so you can share your cellular data connection wirelessly with other devices. Wherever you go, as long as you have a cellular signal on your iPhone, you can go online with your Wi-Fi iPad, laptop, or other wireless devices using the iPhone's cellular connection.

Apple expanded its original tethering support for the iPhone by adding the Personal Hotspot feature. Previously, with traditional tethering, you could only share the data connection with a single computer in a one-to-one connection using a USB cable or Bluetooth. Personal Hotspot still includes the USB and Bluetooth options but adds Wi-Fi, multiple-device sharing.

About Cellular Providers and Mobile Hotspots

Using the Personal Hotspot feature is not free. You make arrangements with your cellular provider ahead of time. Some of Verizon's plans include mobile hotspot capability and unlimited data, but if you don't have one of those plans, you add Mobile Hotspot to your existing account and are charged a monthly fee in addition to data usage. Note that you are charged for the data all the connected devices use. AT&T requires customers who want to use their iPhone as a personal hotspot to add the DataPro 5GB data plan to their existing plan.

Turn on the Personal Hotspot Option in the iPhone

After you've enabled the tethering or mobile hotspot option on your carrier's data plan, using your iPhone as a wireless hotspot is simple. You turn on the feature on your iPhone, and it appears as a regular wireless access point that other devices can see and connect to.

  1. Tap the Settings app on the iPhone.
  2. Tap Cellular.
  3. The first time you use the mobile hotspot, tap Set Up Personal Hotspot (on subsequent visits, it says only Personal Hotspot). If you haven't already contacted your carrier to add mobile hotspot service to your device, you'll receive a message instructing you to contact your carrier.
  4. Enter a Wi-Fi Password when prompted to do so. This prevents unauthorized devices from connecting to your network.
  5. Slide the Personal Hotspot switch to the On position to make your iPhone discoverable. Your phone acts like any wireless access point.

How to Connect to the New Wi-Fi Hotspot

Each of the devices you want to share internet access with must locate the Wi-Fi hotspot. Your computer, tablet, or another device may notify you that there is a new wireless network to connect to automatically. If not, go to the wireless network settings on the other devices and find the iPhone hotspot. Tap to join and enter the password that you set up to protect the network.

Tips and Considerations

Be sure you turn off the Wi-Fi hotspot feature on your iPhone when you no longer need shared internet access from other devices. Leaving it turned on can drain your iPhone's battery.

The hotspot feature uses strong WPA2 protection. If you try to connect with an old computer that doesn't support WPA2, you'll need to upgrade the computer's wireless card before it can join your iPhone's network.

Keep in mind the data costs and limits when using the hotspot feature. Unless you have an unlimited data plan, it is a good idea to monitor your data usage.