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How to turn on your mobile hotspot

Use your mobile hotspot to connect your Wi-Fi only devices to the internet while you are on the go.
July 4, 2020

Turning on your mobile hotspot can be a great way to connect your Wi-Fi-only devices to the internet when you are on the go. If you are commuting without Wi-Fi for example, or if you are stuck in a cafe with no internet, you can use your phone to access what you need on your other devices.

You can turn on your mobile hotspot on most mobile devices, and we will show you how to do so on both Android devices and iPhones. If you have a device that we don’t mention, you will probably be able to turn on your hotspot by following the steps we give anyway, as a lot of devices require a similar process. If not, there may be other ways to make use of the mobile hotspot feature, but more on that a bit later.

Editor's note: Please take the time to get to know your mobile carrier and the service plan you have purchased. Not all plans allow for tethering and hotspot services, and doing this can incur additional charges. Also, some carrier-branded phones may have disabled hotspot capabilities altogether. We'll try to get you up and running with a few techniques today, but it may simply not be possible on your device.
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How to turn on hotspot on an Android device

Mobile hotspot button on Android Quick Settings.

You have likely seen the hotspot button in your device’s quick settings drawer. This is a very fast way to turn on your Android hotspot, but the first time you do it you will need to go into your settings. This is because there are a few things you need to configure first. 

Here’s how you configure a hotspot connection on Android:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap the Network & internet option
  3. Select Hotspot & tethering
  4. Tap on Wi-Fi hotspot
  5. This page has options for turning the hotspot feature on and off. Additionally, you can change the network name, security type, password, and more
  6. Follow instructions to customize the hotspot feature to your liking

You will only have to configure it this way the first time you want to use it. After you have done this, you can turn on your Android hotspot by either going into your settings and hitting the on button, or you can use the method we mentioned above using your quick settings. The latter option will probably be the one that you use the most. It is quick and easy, but you can always do it manually too. If you ever need to change your mobile hotspot settings, just follow the steps above and you are good to go. 

Keep in mind that smartphone manufacturers can add their own UI elements to the experience. This often involves moving settings and options around. We based these instructions on the stock Android settings menu on a Google Pixel 3 XL. Things might be slightly different depending on which device you own, but it should be relatively similar. 

How to turn on hotspot on an iPhone

Setting up your mobile hotspot on your iPhone is just as easy as it is on an Android:

  1. Go to your settings app
  2. Tap on Personal Hotspot
  3. Set a password for your hotspot, and then tap the Allow Others to Join button

It should be noted that there are fewer options to configure on the iPhone. You cannot choose how people can join your mobile hotspot, as you can only turn it on or off. There is also no quick menu option within the iPhone Control Center either. This does mean that you can’t turn your hotspot on or off without going into the settings, but it is still a fairly quick process. Now, let’s look at how you can use your hotspot once it is turned on.

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Google Pixel 3 XL showing USB C and cable stock photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Use your mobile hotspot via Wi-Fi

Once you have turned on your mobile hotspot, you need to decide how to use it. The easiest way is via Wi-Fi:

  1. Turn on your hotspot
  2. Go into your settings on your second device
  3. Select Wi-Fi options
  4. Choose your mobile hotspot from the list of available networks

Use your mobile hotspot via USB connection

It’s also possible to set up a mobile hotspot using your phone’s USB connection. Just keep in mind that this won’t work with every device. If your device supports it, here are the steps to do it:

  1. Use your phone’s USB cable to connect it to your computer
  2. Wait for your computer to set up the connection
  3. Open the Settings app
  4. Tap on the Network & internet option
  5. Select Hotspot & tethering
  6. Toggle the USB tethering option on

The same process can be used to activate Bluetooth tethering, but we don’t recommend it over Wi-Fi or USB because it’s much slower. If you still want to do it, simply connect other devices to your tethering source via Bluetooth instead of performing step number one.

Set up a mobile hotspot with a third-party app

Google Play Store app showing up on Pixel 3 smartphone

Any recent smartphone should come with hotspot capabilities built-in, but this wasn’t the norm in the past. Those of you using older smartphones might not have a tethering/hotspot option at your disposal, in which case you might depend on using a third-party app. Two of our favorite options are PdaNet+ and Portable Wi-Fi hotspot. These will still allow you to use your Wi-Fi-only devices on the go, even if your phone does not natively support hotspot/tethering options.

What’s next?

There are a bunch of great apps in the Google Play Store that provide these and similar services for hotspot and tethering. The Apple App Store also has similar apps, although these are mostly security-based apps, as all iPhones since the iPhone 4 have had the mobile hotspot functionality. Keep in mind that your best bet is to use the default Android or iOS tool if you can. Third-party options are just for the few users left who still need such services.

It is also important to keep security in mind when using a mobile hotspot, and there are apps available on both app stores that help to keep your connection secure. You should be able to trust the hotspot that you’ve created for yourself, but if you are connecting to other networks, you may consider a VPN service. We’ve looked at some before, including Hotspot Shield.

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VPN stock photo 1