Have you ever wished you could share your iPhone's 3G/4G cellular connection with Wi-Fi-only devices nearby, such as laptops and non-cellular iPads? You're in luck: it's easy to set up an iPhone as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, opening up its web connection to anyone who is close enough and has the password. Here's how.
Why should I create a Wi-Fi hotspot with my iPhone?
Let's say you're travelling with your iPhone, and a MacBook or Wi-Fi-only iPad, and want to do some work. At this point you've got two options: do the work on the larger-screen devices, but without being able to connect to any online resources; or go online but be stuck with a smaller screen.
Turning your iPhone into a Wi-Fi hotspot gives you a handy third option, allowing the laptop and tablet to piggyback on the phone's web connection. Wi-Fi hotspots are great for working on the go.
It's easy to turn your iPhone into a hotspot, but you may wish to speak to your phone carrier first or at least check your contract's terms and conditions; some networks prefer you not to do this and may charge you extra (or cap your data allowance) if they spot you setting up a hotspot.
And while we're talking about data allowances, this is another thing to bear in mind: if you have a limited allowance you should only use the Wi-Fi hotspot for a short while.
How to create an iPhone hotspot
A hotspot turns the iPhone into a Wi-Fi router, much like the one in your home. The iPhone connects to the internet using its 3G/4G cellular data connection, and then broadcasts this via a Wi-Fi connection that your Mac, or other device, can connect to - or you can create a wired connection to your computer's USB port.
Here's how to set up an iPhone Wi-Fi hotspot:
- Open the Settings app, then select Mobile Data. (In iOS 10 or later. In some older versions of iOS you just select Mobile.)
- Tap Personal Hotspot, and set Personal Hotspot to On. (Tap the slide so it turns green.)
- If Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth are off, iOS will ask if you want to turn them back on. We'd recommend doing so - without them, the hotspot will be limited to USB. This is more secure, however.
- Tap 'Wi-Fi Password' and enter a suitable password. (This isn't related to your Apple ID or usual Wi-Fi connection.)
- Now check the name of the hotspot listed under To Connect Using Wi-Fi (we get "David's iPhone").
- Click the Wi-Fi icon in your Mac's Menu bar, or open the Settings app and tap Wi-Fi on an iPad, and choose the Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Enter the password from Step 4.
That should be it. You should now be able to browse the internet on your MacBook or Wi-Fi-only iPad using the connection provided by your iPhone.
If you haven't got the Wi-Fi icon in your Mac's menu bar, open System Preferences and click Network. Select Wi-Fi in the list on the left. Choose the iPhone hotspot from the Network Name dropdown menu.
While you're here, you should place a tick next to 'Show Wi-Fi status in menu bar'.
You can now browse the internet on your Mac or iPad using the data connection from the iPhone. Your mileage may vary, however, depending on how good the iPhone's network connection is. You might find the internet runs a little slower than you're used to.
When you've finished, tap Settings > Mobile > Personal Hotspot on your iPhone and set it to Off.
Dangers & warnings
What if someone tries to hijack your connection, burning through your data connection and/or accessing dodgy sites and content?
You should be okay, because the iPhone hotspot is password-protected. (All the more reason not to choose the word "password" or something else that's easily guessed.) And you'll see a small notification at the top of your iPhone's screen when a device accesses its hotspot, so you'll get a warning if someone in your train carriage does manage to guess your password.
A more important warning concerns data limits on your own surfing. It's easy to forget, when accessing the web over a device that's normally limited to Wi-Fi connections, that you're working against a 3G or 4G data limit. Remember that you're on the clock, so to speak, and we'd suggest avoiding downloading large apps and similar.