MacMost Now 712: iPhone Personal Hotspot

If your carrier supports it, you can set up a personal hotspot with your iPhone so other devices like a MacBook or iPad can access the Internet. You can also connect with a dock cable or via Bluetooth.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary, with MacMost Now. On today's episode, let's take a look at personal hotspots on your iPhone.
So your iPhone, like a lot of smartphones, can be used as a Personal Hotspot. What this means is, your iPhone is connected to your mobile carrier and then it creates this little WiFi network and you can connect other devices, like, say, a Macbook, Windows laptop, or an iPad, to this little network created by your iPhone and then surf the internet on those devices through your iPhone.
So here's my iPhone and in order to enable a Hotspot, I would go into settings, and under there you can see Personal Hotspot is the third item from the top. But if I haven't enabled it before, it wouldn't be there. I would have to instead go to General and then Network, and then under Network, I would have to turn on a Personal Hotspot. If I turned it on right now, it would just simply switch on. If I had never personally setup a Hotspot before, it would give me some more options there.
Now there are two prerequisites. First is that your mobile carrier has to support Personal Hotspots. Many mobile carriers worldwide simply don't offer this option. So there is nothing you can do, no way to turn it on. If your mobile carrier does support it, then you have to enable it in your account. So you'd have to log on to your mobile carrier's web site, and add that as a feature to your service or you may actually have to call them to add it. Sometimes this is a little more complex, since for AT&T you have to choose a data plan that supports Personal Hotspots. So on my old unlimited data plan, it didn't support Personal Hotspots. I had to switch to a 3-gig per month plan, that allows Personal Hotspots and pay for that. It's actually more expensive than the unlimited one, but now I can actually use my iPhone as a mobile Hotspot so I can check my email and surf the web on my Macbook and iPad.
Now, once you've set that all up with your carrier, you can just go into this Control Panel here in Settings and you can turn on Personal Hotspot. Notice there's a WiFi password, you can go in and change that password, that's because it's going to create a secure WiFi network, as it should, so you need that password to log on with your device. Notice also there are other ways to connect as well. You can connect using WiFi, which is the main way to do it. You can also do it using Bluetooth. You can pair your iPhone with a computer. So say your Macbook, you can go in turn on the Bluetooth in the Control Panel there, and use that as a type of internet connection. Also you can use USB, so you can use a dock cable and connect that from your phone to your laptop and then your Mac will instantly recognize that as a method for accessing the internet and add it to your internet preferences and you can surf the web like that.
So a few things about Personal Hotspots. One thing is, of course, to keep in mind that usually you have bandwidth limits. Like my plan has that 3-gig per month limit. And on a laptop sometimes it can be very easy to suck down bandwidth; a lot easier than on a small screen on an iPhone. But you're still restricted by the speed of your network and whether it's 3G or 4G, it's gonna be pretty slow. So trying to get to those 3-gigs per month is kind of difficult unless you're in an area that has excellent cellular reception and you use it a lot.
Now keep in mind if you have the new iPad, the one that has the mobile connection to it, you can actually do this as well. You can share your iPad's connection with your Macbook or some other device in the area.
Another thing to worry about is battery. This is gonna use a lot of battery power. It's establishing a network with your mobile provider and it's also creating it's own WiFi network. So it's gonna drain your battery pretty quickly. If you have to, say, wait at the airport for a while and you use this, try and find a place that you can plug in your iPhone. It's not the kind of thing you want to use all day without having a place to plug and recharge your iPhone.
Cost-wise, it really depends on your carrier, but say for me it's really adding an extra $20 a month to my plan. Previously, I was using a little mobile hotspot that I purchased individually with another carrier and that was costing me $60 a month. So, I'm saving quite a bit of money using this, and also, I always have my iPhone with me, whereas, I didn't always remember to bring that mobile hotspot with me.
So I hope you like this look at using the Personal Hotspot feature of the iPhone and also the iPad. Til next time, this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 32 Responses to “MacMost Now 712: iPhone Personal Hotspot”

    5/24/12 @ 10:05 am

    I use this when i dj, if i need a quick track, great video.

    5/24/12 @ 12:30 pm

    Gary – When you use your device as a hotpsot do you lose the ability to send and receive phone calls and text messages?

      5/24/12 @ 1:11 pm

      Depends on your provider. For instance, I don’t think you lose it with AT&T (GSM network) but you would with Verizon (CDMA network). Try it and see.

        5/25/12 @ 4:42 am

        That’s true Gary. I use AT&T. The hotspot works very well providing an Internet connection to my iPad. I talk on the phone, send text messages and surf the web all at the same time using the hotspot wirelessly from my iPhone.

        My wife and I thought it would be a great way to save money by not buying the 4G iPad. It works!

    5/24/12 @ 10:32 pm

    I am in a hotel that provides free in room broadband connection but not wifi, I do not have my Macbook just my iPhone and iPad. Can I by using Airport Express set up a wifi network that I can then use with my mobile devices?
    I have thought about this a lot but would appreciate your input.

      5/24/12 @ 11:12 pm

      Yes, you should be able to. I’ve never done it with an Airport Express, but I have done it with other wifi routers.

    5/27/12 @ 9:28 pm

    Excellent video. I have the new iPad with a mobile data connection (Verizon). Would connecting my MacBook using the USB option on the iPad create a faster connection and be kinder to the two batteries?

      5/28/12 @ 6:59 am

      Well, it would attempt to charge your iPad with your MacBook — so it would drain your MacBook’s battery faster and keep your iPad’s battery stable or charging — I think, at least. Never tried it.
      The connection would be slightly better as you wouldn’t deal with any potential wifi interference. But it might not be enough for you to notice.

    6/4/12 @ 11:42 am

    Can I use my 3G Ipad as a hotspot for my macbook?

      6/4/12 @ 2:10 pm

      Yes, if your mobile provider supports it.

    6/10/12 @ 9:08 am

    I had hughes net rural satellite connection for my mac, but needed new phones for wife and I. Found the iphone 4s with hotspots as a great solution for my mac and her macbook. Problem comes with everybody working in the house at the same time. I think the solution is to connect both iphones to our respective computers, but as a technoNOT, I can’t figure out the docking terminology and the requirements. I have been hooking up via the power cable the iphone to the mac, but it still seems to work off of the airport. Great system, saves money, increased speeds, unfortunately there is conflict.

      6/10/12 @ 10:28 am

      Simply turn off wifi on the Mac when trying to use the cable — that will at least get you started.

        6/10/12 @ 1:45 pm

        Your awesome, I don’t have an ethernet connector, but tomorrow after a techstore run, I expect that turning off the AirPort and restarting will produce results. For anyone else, this I expect will eliminate the ATT airwaves conflict and bump offs. Thanks Gary!

    7/29/12 @ 7:52 am

    Hi! I would love your advice. I need to buy a new iPad. Current one with 3G has shattered screen and it is warped so I don’t think buying a new screen is an option. I’m trying to decide if I should get one with 3G or not because both my husband and I have iPhones that have personal hotspot. Problem is we are under a grandfathered AT&T data plan that offers unlimited data usage for $30/month (for each phone so 60 total). In order to use personal hotspot we have to change plan to 5gb per month at $50 each and we would never be able to get back the unlimited. What would you suggest? I am thinking that I should hold on to the unlimited deal as long as possible but based on our last 2 bills it appears we each use approximately 700MB of data per month.

      7/29/12 @ 8:08 am

      Go to the AT&T site and look at your data usage history as far back as you can go. If that 700MB per month is normal, then there’s probably no point in hanging on to the unlimited plan. I went through this myself earlier this year. I’m on wifi so much that I rarely got to 2GB, let alone 5.

    9/22/12 @ 4:23 am

    Gary I dont have network as an option under settings general? 4s?

      9/22/12 @ 9:34 am

      The latest iOS puts Personal Hotspot settings right at the top level. Look for it and you’ll find it.

    10/10/12 @ 1:03 am

    my iphone 5 wont connect to my mac via wifi when I try to use it as a hotspot. i have tried calling to have it troubleshot many times and no one has an answer as to why this happens to both mine and my wifes phone. what could be doing this?

      10/10/12 @ 6:40 am

      Hard to say without a first-hand look. Perhaps a visit to the Genius Bar will sort it out.

        10/10/12 @ 10:34 am

        The phones wont sync with eachother either. even when my mac pics up the wifi signal from my device, it drops it within 1-5 minutes, even though I can pick up multiple signals around my neighborhood.

    10/13/12 @ 10:48 pm

    I have an Att Iphone 5, and work on the 5th floor of a large building, downtown in a large city. I receive decent, sometimes spotty reception in the building. Using the hotspot feature is soooooo slow, it’s almost not worth it. I was wondering if I purchased at&t’s microcell device, would that boost LTE/data speeds inside the building? If not, is there anything tat will?

      10/13/12 @ 11:07 pm

      I’m not that familiar with the microcell — don’t you hook that up to the Internet to create your own mini cell tower? In that case, it wouldn’t help you. If you have Internet, then it wouldn’t make sense. Don’t you have access to wifi at work? If so, why the need for the hotspot?

    10/21/12 @ 9:09 pm

    Does my iPhone have to have a wifi connection in order for my iPad to be able to connect? I tried to use the hotspot while my husband was driving and it recognized the iPhone, but after putting in the password the circular progress bar just kept going round and round and never would connect. Seems sort of useless if that’s the case… Thanks in advance.

      10/22/12 @ 6:55 am

      The personal hotspot doesn’t use wifi. Your iPhone connects to the mobile data network (AT&T, etc). Then it creates a little wifi network for other devices to connect to. Wouldn’t make sense for the iPhone to need wifi as if you already have wifi you don’t need the hotspot.
      Try it again. Perhaps in a different location or while not driving. Maybe your mobile connection was bad there, or maybe you didn’t wait long enough. I find it sometimes take a minute or two the first time you try it.

    11/9/12 @ 4:56 am

    I have an unlimited wifi hotspot package with my iPhone contract, but it won’t let me use my iPad on it.
    Is there any way I can connect the iPad to my phone and use the wifi hotspot through that?

      11/9/12 @ 7:39 am

      If you set up your iPhone as the hotspot, and then connect to that wifi network with your iPad it should definitely work. Lots of people do exactly that.

    12/9/12 @ 4:20 pm

    My iPhone 5 can’t connect to a Samsung Galaxy 3 Hotspot. Mine is Verizon and the Hotspot is T Mobile. Help?

      12/9/12 @ 5:54 pm

      Nothing to do but to check and recheck your settings. Are you sure the hotspot is live and working? Have you tested it with another device? Call their support if not.

    Helen Fox
    12/10/12 @ 5:46 am

    Both my husband and I have iphones. We both use them as a hotspot. Can they both have the same wifi password? I have to change the Brother printer wifi setting from his to mine everytime I want to print.

      12/10/12 @ 7:26 am

      You can set the password to anything you want. But I don’t see how the password would make a difference (other than being easier to remember). You’ll still have to switch networks on the printer to use it.

    1/10/13 @ 1:52 pm

    Hi Gary, another great use is for travellers. I use personal hotspots for when I’m not in my home country (Switzerland) and for friends visiting me. I ask my friend if I can show them how to turn their hotspot on and hop on their connection to quickly check emails, etc. that way I don’t have to roam $$$.

    Does using booth tooth or wifi use up more battery? I have only connected via wifi.

    PS love your videos and probably have watched some 100 of them through the times. Thank you!!

      1/10/13 @ 2:13 pm

      Any radio signals you send or receive will use battery power. So using wifi does, and using Bluetooth does.

Comments Closed.