Using Mobile Networking on Android Phones

Android offers many ways to connect

Your Android phone makes working with mobile networking easy using a few different methods. Here's how to navigate the network settings in Android to find out how data is used, turn networking features on and off, share data with another device, and make the phone a mobile hotspot.

Instructions in this article apply to Android versions 8 (also known as Oreo) and up.

Mobile Phone Data Usage

Many phone and data service plans have associated limits and fees. Your Android smartphone tracks this mobile data usage.

Settings on an Android phone with the Network tab, Mobile Data section, and data and limit switches highlighted

Open the Settings app, then tap Network > Mobile data to find options that:

  • Switch off mobile data. This prevents the phone from sending and receiving data over a cell connection. It doesn't prevent the phone from sending and receiving a Wi-Fi connection.
  • Limit mobile data usage. This switches off mobile data traffic when a specified usage amount is reached

Bluetooth Settings on Android Phones

Use the Bluetooth feature of your Android phone to connect the phone to wireless devices such as earbuds or noise-canceling headphones. To find the settings to enable and disable Bluetooth and to pair a new device, open the Settings app and tap Network > Bluetooth. To turn Bluetooth on and off, tap the Bluetooth toggle switch.

Keep Bluetooth off when not using it to improve the security of your device.

Android settings with the Bluetooth switch and refresh button highlighted

To find other Bluetooth devices within signal range, tap the Rescan icon. Bluetooth devices that are found appear in the list. Tap the name or icon for a device to initiate a pairing request.

NFC Settings on Android Phones

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a radio communication technology that is separate from Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. NFC enables two devices that are close to each other to exchange data using very little power. NFC is sometimes used to make purchases from a mobile phone (known as mobile payments).

Android network settings with NFC heading and switch highlighted

The Android operating system includes a feature called Beam that enables data sharing from apps using an NFC link. To use NFC, go to Settings > Network > NFC and enable Android Beam. To use it, touch two devices together so that the NFC chips are close enough to make a connection.

Positioning the two devices back to back generally works best for an NFC connection. You can use NFC with or without Beam.

Mobile Hotspots and Tethering on Android Phones

Set up your Android phone to share a wireless connection with a local device network. This turns the Android into a personal hotspot (also known as a portable hotspot). Other devices with the network name and password can log into this network and share the internet connection.

Your service provider might include a setting specifically for tethering on your phone, so methods vary. Generally, to find the settings, go to Network > Tethering > Mobile hotspot.

Android network settings with the tethering icon and switch highlighted

The Mobile Hotspot menu controls personal hotspot support for Wi-Fi devices. Use this menu to turn the feature on and off, and control the required parameters for a new hotspot. To set up a hotspot, you'll provide:

  • A hotspot network name (Wi-Fi SSID).
  • The network security option (WPA2 or other).
  • The timeout value, which automatically shuts off the hotspot after the specified number of minutes of inactivity, also a useful security feature.

The Tethering menu allows you to use Bluetooth or USB instead of Wi-Fi for connection sharing.

To avoid unwanted connections and security exposure, turn off these features unless actively being used.

Advanced Mobile Settings on Android Phones

These mobile network settings are less commonly used but are important in certain situations:

  • Data roaming: Phones that lose connection to the cell service provider can connect to other provider networks while roaming (traveling in and out of the service coverage areas). Android phones provide a menu option to turn data roaming access on or off. Many users keep roaming off unless they need it because this feature can result in extra fees.
  • Network mode: Some phones offer a menu option to choose which types of mobile networks the device will automatically contact. Typical choices include LTE, GSM, and Global. Many Android phones use Global by default.
  • Access point names (APN) settings: Each type of mobile phone and service uses a collection of network gateway settings. Phones often organize these settings into profiles. Users who move their phones among different service provider networks need to work with these APN settings.
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