Did you know you can turn your Internet-enabled smartphone into your own personal WiFi hotspot, sharing the internet access received through your phone with any nearby notebook computers or tablets? And while it used to be a highly technical procedure, commonly called tethering, it’s recently become a very easy thing to do — as simple as flipping a switch.
Your personal WiFi hotspot is pretty much what you find in a coffee shop, the public library, or any place that has wireless access. The difference is that it’s your hotspot. Your phone becomes the router and distributes WiFi to anyone within range with the proper password. That’s usually just you of course, but it could include your friends too; it’s not limited to just one user.
Why would someone be interested in doing this? Here are some common scenarios, each one assuming you already have a smart phone with an internet plan:
- The Frugal Consumer: You’re already paying for mobile data to your mobile phone company, so you don’t want to also pay up to $50 or more a month for broadband in your home to get internet on a computer or other device there. Instead, just share the internet from the mobile plan you already have.
- The Bad-Luck WiFi Hunter: You need to access the internet on a notebook computer or tablet when you are on the road and not in a WiFi hotspot. You have your phone with you, and it’s got Internet — so share it with your other devices.
- The Unfortunate Crappy ISP Customer: If you have cable or DSL at home, you know it sometimes goes down or slows to a crawl. When that happens, and just whip out your smart phone and make it a hotspot to share its mobile Internet with your computer or tablet.
Until recently, you needed to hack into your smart phone to create a hotspot. But no longer, thanks to new versions of the operating systems on iPhones and Androids. It’s just a matter of knowing where the settings are. Let’s take a look at both the iPhone and the Android.
How to create an iPhone Personal Hotspot
To create an iPhone Personal Hotspot, you will need to be running IOS 6 or above on an iPhone 4 or later model. And, it also will work with an iPad (3rd generation or later) Wi-Fi + Cellular, or an iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular.
In addition, your mobile plan with your wireless carrier has to support a personal hotspot. For example, the Mobile Share plans on AT&T and the Share Everything plans on Verizon include the feature.
1. Tap Settings > General > Cellular to get to this screen.
2. Tap Personal Hotspot to turn it on. Then, importantly, tap on the password field to create your own password. You won’t be able to name your wireless hotspot; it will be named something like “John Doe’s iPhone.”
Once you’ve created your personal hotspot, you can get to the Personal Hotspot page more directly via Settings > Personal Hotspot. If you ever forget your password, just go to the page and pop in a new one.
When you want to connect to the personal hotspot you’ve created from a computer or other device, just look for the name of the WiFi network you set up (e.g. John Doe’s iPhone) in the list of available wireless networks, enter the password, and start surfing the web.
How to create an Android Portable WiFi Hotspot
Since version 2.2 of the Android operating system, Google Android mobile devices can easily create a personal WiFi hotspot just by accessing some settings. Google calls it the “Portable WiFi Hotspot.”
Those with Androids running Android 2.1 or lower won’t be able to set up the Portable WiFi Hotspot, but they can still set a hotspot up another way, by installing an app such as PDANet or Easy Tether.
As with the iPhone Personal Hotspot above, check with your mobile carrier’s plan to make sure tethering is allowed.
1. Settings > Wireless & Networks to get to this screen.
You’ll then tap the box for Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot. After that, tap the Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot Settings and here you can name your wireless network and set a password.
That’s it. Your Portable WiFi hotspot is up and running.
Once you’ve got your WiFi hotspot up, any device nearby will be able to see the wireless network just as you named it. From the requesting device, select it as you would any WiFi network and enter the password when requested.
Mobile Hotspot Precautions
All mobile data plans have limits, anywhere from 100 MB to 10 GB or more. Regardless of the number, it’s a limit. if you go over it, you’re going to get screwed on your bill when they charge you for the overage, megabyte by expensive megabyte.
So you can’t just use your mobile hotspot all the time wthout regard to the amount of data you are using. Tethering the data from your phone to a larger screen laptop computer will use more data as there is more screen to fill. Some graphic heavy web pages can use more than a MB of your data, and videos use a lot more. And with the ease of web surfing on a larger screen, you’ll just do it more.
So, know your limits, have an idea of how much data you are going through, and only use it when you don’t have any other options. These days, there are plenty of other options WiFi is everywhere.
Most, if not all, mobile plans let you monitor your data usage online, real time or at least a day behind. Keep an eye on it and know much more data usage you have left for the month.
And don’t use an easy password for someone to guess. Your wireless network will show up for anyone to connect to, but they can only get in with your password. Don’t use a password like “password1” or “abc123” or any other easy to guess password.
Don’t forget to turn off you hotspot when you are done. It probably doesn’t use any more battery life when it’s on and not in use, but it’s a good habit to turn it off anyway. Otherwise, it’s always there available for anyone to try and hack the password. And if it’s an iPhone, which names the wireless network after your device, which is usually named after your name, anyone around you can learn your name.