How to Use Your Smartphone as a Mobile Hotspot
Your smartphone can double as a mobile hotspot, allowing you to tether a laptop or tablet to your phone’s data plan by creating a private Wi-Fi network. Once you know how to use a phone as a hotspot, you can access the internet through other devices when you’re out of range of a wireless network.
Hotspot vs. WiFi: What’s the Difference?
Before we explain how to use hotspot phone settings, it’s important to understand the difference between Wi-Fi and a hotspot. The two terms are related, but not interchangeable.
Wi-Fi describes any wireless network used to connect phones, computers, or other devices to the internet. You may have a Wi-Fi network in your home or place of work. When connected to an external Wi-Fi network, data use from mobile devices does not count towards your plan’s data limit. Many locations, including malls and cafes, offer free Wi-Fi networks where people can connect their devices.
So what is a mobile hotspot? A mobile hotspot sets up a private Wi-Fi network your other devices can connect to, providing them with internet access. Your phone basically allows other devices to piggyback on the phone’s data plan so they can connect to the internet or each other. Creating a mobile hotspot is only one of your phone’s hidden abilities: You might want to explore some other smartphone secrets as well.
Unlike public or home Wi-Fi networks, a mobile hotspot will consume data from your data plan. For situations where you don’t have access to an internet connection (or don’t trust the local Wi-Fi network’s security), knowing how to use hotspot features is incredibly helpful, allowing you to turn your laptop into a virtual office, play music through smart speakers, or just browse the internet on a larger screen than your phone provides.
How to use a phone as a hotspot
The easiest way to create a mobile hotspot is to use a hotspot app provided by your service provider. Verizon, for example, provides the Verizon Wireless Mobile Hotspot app users access from the Manage Connections section of their phone’s Settings.
If you don’t have a mobile hotspot app, it’s still possible to create a hotspot. For an Android phone, you can create a hotspot in one of two ways:
- Open the App Tray and select Mobile Hotspot.
- Tap the mobile hotspot check box and an icon appears showing your hotspot availability.
- You can now connect devices to the hotspot Wi-Fi using the provided password.
If this does not work, your second option is to do the following:
Go to Settings>Connections>Mobile Hotspot and Tethering and toggle Mobile Hotspot on. A popup window should appear containing the Wi-Fi password you’ll need to input on the device you want to be connected to the hotspot.
For iPhones and iPads, the process is similar. Go to Settings>Personal Hotspot or Cellular>Personal Hotspot and use the provided Wi-Fi password. Using a password is extremely important when creating a mobile hotspot, as it prevents unwanted devices from connecting to your temporary network, consuming your data, and potentially stealing your information.
Note: Using a phone or other mobile device as a hotspot will drain your device battery quickly. It’s best to plug your device into a charger before creating a hotspot.
How to use mobile hotspot without using data
Always remember your data consumption when using a hotspot, as any data used will count towards your monthly data limit. If you have a low data limit, connecting to established Wi-Fi networks is probably a better choice than creating a mobile hotspot.
The only way to use a mobile hotspot without taking a hit on your data plan is to sign up for an unlimited data plan. For users who plan on using mobile hotspots regularly, unlimited plans help prevent them from paying extra for data that exceeds their plan.