How to Use a Smartphone as a Mobile Hotspot

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Patrick_Yu
edited October 2023 in PC Tech

Have you ever surfed the web with your laptop in a busy coffee shop and suddenly your internet connection slows down or outright disconnects? Occurrences like this happen pretty often when you are connected to public Wi-Fi. The more people that share the Wi-Fi the slower or less stable your connection to it will be. For those who are just casually web surfing a drop in your internet connection may be nothing more than an annoyance, but for remote workers and freelancers, who depend on stable internet connection for work, a sudden drop can be critical. In addition to being less stable, connecting to public Wi-Fi can also be a security risk for your computer.  

What security risk does a public Wi-Fi connection pose?

Hackers can take advantage of the Wi-Fi’s security and position themselves between you and the Wi-Fi’s connection point. Instead of connecting directly to the Wi-Fi you will send your data to the hacker, who then relays it to the Wi-Fi. Hackers can intercept your credit card numbers, business proprietary documents, private emails, and personal information and use it with malicious intent. Hackers can also take advantage of public Wi-Fi by distributing malware and computer viruses to devices that are connected to it.

The best way to prevent these security risks is to stop using public Wi-Fi. Instead of using public Wi-Fi, you can access a private Wi-Fi connection by turning on your smartphone’s mobile hotspot and using its internet.

What is a mobile hotspot?  

A mobile hotspot is a smartphone or electronic device that has the ability to cast a wireless signal for other devices to connect to. The mobile hotspot functions by taking an LTE connection from your phone and turns it into a Wi-Fi signal. Your devices can then connect to the hotspot Wi-Fi the same way those devices would connect to a home or public Wi-Fi.

The process of sharing your smartphone’s internet is called Wi-Fi tethering. To allow your smartphone to Wi-Fi tether, you must first turn on your mobile hotspot.

Can my phone be used as a hotspot?

Almost all Android or iOS phones and tablets with in-built mobile data modems can function as a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, and if they support and are within the range of a 5G network, they can offer a 5G hotspot as well. This functionality is not limited to high-end models; even budget-friendly phones from all major manufacturers now include 5G capabilities, signaled by a “5G” logo replacing the "LTE" or "4G" in the top-right corner near the signal strength indicators.

However, the range of a mobile hotspot can't match a conventional router. While a mobile hotspot typically covers an area of about 65 feet, a stationary router can usually provide coverage for approximately 100 feet. Despite this limitation, a mobile hotspot can still provide a useful connection for personal use or a small group in close proximity, such as around a conference table.

How to turn on mobile hotspot

Before we begin, you’ll need to make sure you have two things.

  1. A modern Android or Apple smartphone 
  2. A internet data plan with your mobile service provider 

Note: Before turning on your hotspot, check to see if you have the appropriate mobile plan or sufficient data to support tethering with Wi-Fi. Your mobile carrier may charge extra for over using data. 

On Android devices 

  1. Open Settings app. 
  2. Select Connections. 
  3. Tap into Mobile Hotspot and Tethering. 
  4. Toggle on Mobile Hotspot
  5. Click on Mobile Hotspot again and scroll down to Network name and Password. Give your Wi-Fi an easily identifiable name and set a password. 
  6. Once you're done setting up the hotspot, go to the Wi-Fi settings on the device you want to connect. 
  7. Find the name of your phone's mobile hotspot and click on it. 
  8. Enter the password and connect.

On Apple devices

  1. Open Settings app. 
  2. Select Personal Hotspot. 
  3. Toggle on Personal Hotspot
  4. Tap Wi-Fi Password and set a password. 
  5. Once you're done setting up the hotspot, go to the Wi-Fi settings on the device you want to connect. 
  6. Find the name of your phone's mobile hotspot and click on it. 
  7. Enter the password and connect.

Note: On newer iOS versions, tap “Allow others to join” in the Personal Hotspot menu to let other devices connect to your Wi-Fi. 

Mobile hotspots are great to use when you suddenly find yourself needing safe and stable internet. However, they are not as fast as home or in-building Wi-Fi or ethernet connected internet, have limited Wi-Fi range, and can quickly drain your phone’s battery. Fortunately, by using USB  tethering you can remedy some of these issues. 

USB tethering 

USB tethering is the fastest way to get a fast, secure, and stable internet connection. Because it’s wired to your device, the internet connection is faster and exclusive only to your connected device. In addition, your smartphone device will use significantly less battery when tethering to another device. But, because it is connected via USB, the range between your smartphone and connected device will be limited by the cable and You cannot connect multiple devices using tethering.

To connect using a USB tether you will need the two previously required items (a modern smartphone and internet data plan with your carrier) and a USB connector to connect the smartphone to your other device.

USB tethering with Android device

  1. Use a USB cable to connect a smartphone to your other device. 
  2. In your smartphone, open Settings app. 
  3. Select Connections. 
  4. Tap into Mobile Hotspot and Tethering. 
  5. Toggle on USB tethering
  6. Once the USB tethering is turned on, the other device should immediately recognize and connect to your smartphone’s internet.

USB tethering with Apple device 

  1. Use a USB cable to connect a smartphone to your other device. 
  2. Open Settings app. 
  3. Select Personal Hotspot. 
  4. Toggle on Personal Hotspot and select To Connect Using USB. 
  5. Once the USB tethering is turned on, the other device should immediately recognize and connect to your smartphone’s internet.

Troubleshooting Tips

While using a smartphone as a mobile hotspot, you may encounter occasional issues. Here are some troubleshooting tips to address common problems:

  1. Restart both your smartphone and the device you're trying to connect.
  2. Ensure that you have an active data plan and sufficient data allowance for tethering.
  3. Check for any software updates available for your smartphone.
  4. Reset network settings on your smartphone if you experience persistent connection issues.
  5. If USB tethering fails, try using Wi-Fi tethering or vice versa.
  6. Verify that the Wi-Fi or USB cable connections are secure and not damaged.
  7. If possible, move closer to your smartphone to improve Wi-Fi signal strength.

Patrick Yu is a Senior Project Manager at Level Interactive and has 8 years of experience writing business, legal, lifestyle, gaming, and technology articles. He is a significant contributor to Acer Corner and is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan.

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