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Why Apple’s Personal Hotspot Is a Good Idea—and How to Use It

What is a Personal Hotspot Anyway? 

Do you ever wish you could connect your Mac laptop (or Wi-Fi–only iPad) to the Internet, but without messing around with frustrating—and potentially sketchy—Wi-Fi networks in places like hotels, airports, and libraries? How about in a public park or a school cafeteria?

When you’re on the go and away from your secure home network connection, connecting to a public Wi-Fi connection can be dicey. But, if you work from home, take an online course, or video chat constantly, you know that you must stay connected to the Internet, no matter where you’re at. So, what can you do when you need to quick access an Internet connection that is safe, secure, and stable?

You can solve this problem in seconds with an iPhone. Your iPhone can use its cellular data connection to create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot that your Mac (or iPad) can connect to. Apple calls this handy feature Personal Hotspot, and it is commonly called tethering. Personal Hotspot is easy to set up and is far more secure than jumping onto random public Wi-Fi networks.

Why Choose Apple Mobile Hotspot?

Whether you’re taking an online course, working remotely, or keeping in touch with family abroad, having a stable Internet connection is necessary. Of course, Internet connections aren’t always stable, and panic can set in when your Internet drops off.

For example, suppose you’re preparing for an important video conference meeting, and just as you’re about to relay an important message, poof, you lose your connection. Or let’s say you’re about to upload an assignment seconds before the deadline, only to lose your Internet connection. Let’s say you’re celebrating a virtual baby shower with a family you haven’t seen in ages. Then, right as you’re about to see their smiling faces, boom, the connection is lost.

Do these frustrating situations sound familiar? The chances are high that you’ve likely lost your Internet connection at the worst of times.

Fortunately, as long as you’ve got your iPhone handy, your Apple personal hotspot can come to the rescue! With just a few taps, you can turn your iPhone into a Wi-Fi hotspot for MacBooks, iPads, and even other iPhones. Don’t worry. Your Apple mobile hotspot is password protected.

Handy Apple Hotspot Tips

Nowadays most mobile phone plans don’t charge extra for tethering, though if you have an “unlimited” plan, your carrier may throttle your bandwidth if you exceed your usage cap—this is because the carrier doesn’t want you to use tethering as your primary Internet connection.

Before you tether for the first time, it’s a good idea to check with your carrier about charges. And if you use a file sharing service like Dropbox or Google Drive, or an Internet backup service like Backblaze or DollyDrive, turn them off temporarily before connecting. Those services can transfer a lot of data quickly, which could result in a hefty overage charge or awkward data throttling for the rest of the month.

How to Set Up Apple Hotspot

With those notes out of the way, follow these steps to turn on Apple Personal Hotspot:

  1. On your iPhone, if you’ve never enabled the feature before, go to Settings > Cellular > Personal Hotspot. Once you’ve turned on Personal Hotspot, it moves up a level so you can access it from Settings > Personal Hotspot.
  2. Tap Wi-Fi Password, and enter a simple password that’s at least 8 characters long, consisting of English letters. You may also include numbers and standard punctuation marks, but avoid unusual punctuation, because the iPhone won’t accept it. Your password shouldn’t be trivial (like “password”), but don’t worry about making it strong, since your iPhone isn’t likely to be in a single location long enough for someone to crack it, and you can keep Personal Hotspot off when you’re not using it. But you do want a password so strangers who happen to be nearby can’t connect and use your data allowance.
  3. Once you’ve entered a password, enable the Personal Hotspot switch.
    what-is-a-personal-hotspot

That’s it! The Personal Hotspot screen provides basic instructions for connecting to the iPhone via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB. We use Wi-Fi, since it’s easy and reliable. Depending on your carrier, you can connect a total of three to five devices through Wi-Fi to your hotspot, so you could connect your MacBook and a friend’s iPad, for example.

There’s also another quick and easy way to turn on an Apple iPhone hotspot. If your iPhone has iOS 13 installed, do this:

  1. With an iPhone X, XS, XR, 11, drag down from the top corner to access the Control Center (on an older iPhone, you’ll have to swipe up from the bottom).
  2. Then, press and hold the block that houses Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. It will then open a larger block of icons, including the Apple personal hotspot. Then, tap on the Apple hotspot, and it will become “Discoverable.”

To connect via Wi-Fi from your Mac, click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar and choose your iPhone’s name. Now, enter the hotspot’s password, making sure to select “Remember this network.” That way, you won’t have to re-enter the password next time. The Mac then connects to your iPhone, showing a hotspot icon instead of the usual wave icon for the Wi-Fi menu in the menu bar.

what-is-a-personal-hotspot

There’s no need to tether a Wi-Fi+Cellular iPad with its own data plan, of course. But if it lacks an active plan, or if it’s a Wi-Fi–only iPad, you can tether it to your iPhone’s hotspot too. Here's how to do it:

Tap Settings > Wi-Fi, make sure the Wi-Fi switch is on, and tap the iPhone’s name. Enter the password when prompted.

what-is-a-personal-hotspot

Once the connection is established, the name of the connected network appears directly below the Wi-Fi switch, with a checkmark at its left. A hotspot icon appears in the iPad’s status bar, at the upper left of the screen.

While tethering, it’s fine to use your iPhone for other tasks—you don’t have to leave the Personal Hotspot screen active. It’s also fine if your iPhone goes to sleep.

When you’re done with a tethering session, to ensure that your devices don’t connect to the hotspot and consume data accidentally, on your iPhone, go to Settings > Personal Hotspot and turn off the Personal Hotspot switch. Your Mac and iPad will disconnect automatically.

Enjoy Your Apple Mobile Hotspot

Now that you know how to use your Apple mobile hotspot, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you can safely get back online at any time and any place. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your Apple hotspot is secure — even more great reasons to love your iPhone and Apple technology!

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