How to Use a Mobile Hotspot: Make Your Phone a Wi-Fi Machine
Use your cell phone to set up a mobile hotspot for easy Wi-Fi access.
Having trouble with internet outages? Just exceeded your monthly data cap? If your home internet is out of commission, you can get the fast Wi-Fi access you need by setting up your cell phone as a mobile hotspot.
Turning your phone into a mobile hotspot effectively transforms it into a miniature modem and router. The hotspot uses data from your wireless cell network to let you tether a Wi-Fi signal to practically any internet-connected device—including your laptop, another smartphone, gaming consoles, and even your smart TV.
Read on to see what you’ll need to use a mobile hotspot, how to turn it on with Apple and Android devices, how to connect it to your other devices, and more.
Hotspots and data during the COVID-19 pandemic
In response to the spread of the new coronavirus, many cell carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile/Sprint are providing extra data to customers on their monthly plans. In some cases this includes additional data specifically for cell phone mobile hotspots.
Here’s what some of the carriers are doing. The offers are in effect until June 30, 2020:
- AT&T is adding 15 GB of mobile hotspot data per month for each line for customers who have unlimited plans that include the mobile hotspot feature.
- T-Mobile is giving 20 GB of hotspot data—totaling 10 GB for two months—to customers with hotspot-enabled devices. You can access the data by signing onto your account and adding the COVID-19 Response High Speed Smartphone Mobile HotSpot to each line on your phone plan.
- Sprint (which recently merged with T-Mobile) is also giving 20 GB (or 10 GB per month for two months) of mobile hotspot data to customers with hotspot-capable devices.
Contact your cell phone company to see if any benefits you may be getting include extra data for hotspots and tethering.
How to turn on a mobile hotspot on an iPhone (and other Apple iOS devices)
Switching on your mobile hotspot is quick and easy with any Apple iOS device. Here’s the rundown:
- Go to the Settings menu and click Personal Hotspot.
- Hit the toggle button to turn on the Personal Hotspot. Make sure to turn on the function that says “Allow Others to Join.” You’ll also need to switch off your Wi-Fi for it to work.
- Write down the password. You can change the password by tapping on the text, clicking X to erase it, and typing in a new password of your choice.
- Go to the device you’d like to connect. It can be a laptop, smartphone, smart TV, or any other device that requires a Wi-Fi login.
- Go to the Wi-Fi menu and look for the name of your phone—for example, Peter’s iPhone. (If I had an iPhone, that’s what I would call it.) It will be listed among the other networks you can join.
- Enter in the password and commence surfing the internet. After you’ve got it all set up, you can easily switch the mobile hotspot on and off by going to Settings and hitting the toggle button.
How to turn on a mobile hotspot on Android phones
Setting up a mobile hotspot on an Android phone depends slightly on what kind of phone you have. But the instructions are more or less the same regardless of the phone.
Here are instructions on setting up mobile hotspots for the most popular Android brands.
Samsung Galaxy phones
- Head to the Settings menu and go to Mobile Hotspot and Tethering. Click on it and then click the switch next to it to turn it on. You can turn it off the same way.
- Make sure the Wi-Fi sharing option is switched on—otherwise you won’t be able to connect other devices.
- To change the hotspot name, password, and other settings, click on the Mobile Hotspot menu.
- After you’ve set it all up, you can easily switch the mobile hotspot on and off by going to the drop-down menu at the top of your screen and clicking the circular Mobile Hotspot icon.
- Go to Settings and click on the menu for Network & Internet.
- Hit the section for Hotspot & Tethering and then click on the button labeled Wi-Fi Hotspot.
- You can tap on the Wi-Fi Hotspot button to edit the name of your hotspot. You can also keep others from seeing your hotspot listed publicly by clicking Hide My Device.
- To change your password, click Advanced and then Hotspot Password.
- To connect your hotspot to a laptop or other device, go to the Wi-Fi menu on your device and select the hotspot with the name of your phone.
Google Pixel phones
- Make your way to the Settings app and then click on Network & Internet. From there, click Hotspot & Tethering, then Wi-Fi Hotspot.
- Click to switch on Wi-Fi Hotspot.
Pro tip: Tethering through Bluetooth or USB
In addition to using the mobile hotspot, iPhones and Android devices let you tether other devices using USB or Bluetooth connections. You’ll be able to tether only one device this way—as opposed to 10 or potentially even more on a mobile hotspot. But it will do a lot better job of preserving your phone’s battery power.
To set it up, go to the Mobile Hotspot & Tethering menu in the Settings app on your phone. Instead of selecting the mobile (or Wi-Fi) hotspot, click the button that allows for USB or Bluetooth tethering. For USB tethering, plug a USB cable into your phone and then plug the other end into your device to get the internet connection.
- Switch off your Wi-Fi and then make your way to Settings.
- Go to the menu for Wi-Fi & internet, then click Mobile Hotspot & Tethering.
- Tap on Mobile Hotspot and hit the On button to switch it on. Hit the same button to switch it off.
- In the Security section, you can choose to make your hotspot public or opt for WPA2 PSK to create an extra layer of security encryption.
- Tap on the Mobile Hotspot password section to change your password. We recommend coming up with a new one that’s easier to remember rather than relying on the default password.
- On your Home screen, tap the Apps button and click on Settings, then click Tethering.
- You’ll see a switch to turn on the hotspot, which will be labeled either Wi-Fi Hotspot or Mobile (depending on the model of LG phone). Hit the button to toggle it on.
- You can also click into the Wi-Fi Hotspot menu to adjust settings like the name of the hotspot and the password.
- The menu options for Huawei phones are all worded slightly differently, but the directions are pretty much the same. You can access the mobile hotspot and switch it on by going to the Settings app and then clicking into the section titled Wireless & Networks.
- In Wireless & Networks on the Settings section, you will find a section titled either Personal Hotspot or Tethering & Portable Hotspot. Just look for the word “hotspot,” and it will lead you to the button to switch it on as well as the options for configuring the name, password, and more.
What is a mobile hotspot?
Mobile hotspots work the same way as your home internet network, only it uses the data from your phone plan to create the wireless signal. Just make sure you have the mobile hotspot feature included in your phone plan; if not, call your provider to set it up.
Be sure to keep track of how much you’ve been allotted through your phone plan, and use it sparingly if you don’t have unlimited data. Using a mobile hotspot also puts a big tax on your phone’s battery, so be careful not to leave it on for hours if you’re not using it. Try connecting your phone to a power source if you plan to be using your hotspot for a while.
Using your phone this way isn’t the most cost-effective or efficient option for getting internet. But it really comes in handy if your home internet is down or if you’re out running errands—or traveling internationally. Using a mobile hotspot is especially useful if you want to avoid signing onto an unsecured public network when you’re away from home, which may expose your phone to malware and other security threats.
How much do mobile hotspots cost?
A cellular plan with hotspot data included will cost anywhere from $60 to $100 per month, depending on your cell carrier and how much hotspot data you want. The lower-end plans include just a few GB of data while the more deluxe plans will include up to 30 GB of hotspot data.
Some cell phone plans don’t include the mobile hotspot feature, so you’ll have to upgrade to a new plan if you want it. If you do have hotspot data, you can usually pay for more data when you run out. Cell providers have different rates for extra data, but it usually costs anywhere from $1 to $10.
Most phones have a mobile hotspot function already built in, but wireless providers sometimes require you to pay for the ability to do it. It’s also common to have a monthly cap on the amount of data you can use for personal hotspots. If you’re not sure about what your setup is, call your provider and ask if you need a special plan and clarify how many gigabytes per month of data you’re able to use as a hotspot.
If you go over your monthly limit, your phone provider probably won’t cut off your internet or charge you extra. What happens more commonly is that the provider will throttle your data speeds, which slows your internet connection to well under 1 Mbps.
You’ll still be able to do basic tasks like checking email and posting to Twitter at that speed—but it will be a whole lot slower and way more inconvenient.
Pro tip: Use a tethering app to avoid fees and throttled speeds.
It doesn’t work as reliably as the mobile hotspot, but it won’t put a dent on your monthly hotspot data cap or require you to upgrade your phone plan if you aren’t automatically allowed to set up hotspots. Just make sure to look over your cell provider’s terms of service to make sure it doesn’t conflict with your phone contract.
Mobile hotspot requirements
To set up a mobile hotspot on your phone, you’ll need the following:
- A smartphone with hotspot capabilities
- A phone plan that allows you to set up personal hotspots
Android phones generally let you connect up to 10 devices simultaneously. For Apple, the maximum number of devices you can connect depends on the iPhone you have and what your wireless carrier allows.
Phone carriers also have limits on the number of devices you can tether: T-Mobile lets you connect up to 10 devices, for example, while AT&T lets users connect up to 15.
Mobile hotspot FAQ
Does a mobile hotspot cost money?
Yes, a mobile hotspot will cost you the price of your phone as well as the cost of a cell phone plan that comes with hotspot data. Plans with hotspot data included generally cost anywhere from $60 to $100 per month. You’ll likely have a cap on the amount of data you’re able to use every month for the hotspot.
If you’re not sure whether or not you can use a mobile hotspot on your phone, call your cell phone provider to see if it’s possible. Or you can simply try to turn it on and see if it works—just make sure you know how much data you’re allowed to use for hotspots. You don’t want your data to run out without realizing it. You won’t have to worry about overage charges, since those typically aren’t applied for hotspot data, but your data speeds will be drastically slowed down.
How do I find my mobile hotspot password?
To find your mobile hotspot password, go to the mobile hotspot menu under your phone’s settings. You’ll see a button that allows you to enable and disable the mobile hotspot along with a section for configuring passwords and changing the name of your hotspot.
Author - Peter Holslin
Peter Holslin has more than a decade of experience working as a writer and freelance journalist. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008 and went on to contribute to publications like Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on covering 5G, nerding out about frequency bands and virtual RAN, and producing reviews on emerging services like 5G home internet. He also writes about internet providers and packages, hotspots, VPNs, and Wi-Fi troubleshooting.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.