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What is Tethering?

We define tethering and show you how to make your phone a mobile hotspot

Tethering vs Hotspot

Do you need easy access to WiFi while you're on the go?

Because high-speed internet isn't always a guarantee when you're away from home or work, you can use your phone as a hotspot for a secure wireless connection.

This reliable way to enable a fast internet connection at any time and place, therefore, is your solution to slow or non-existent public WiFi.

Whether you're inside or outside and in need of safe WiFi, you can learn how to use your phone as a hotspot to access the web and stay connected.

In this guide, I'll explain what tethering and mobile hotspots are, and walk you through how to make your phone into a mobile hotspot.

What is Tethering?

Tethering lets you connect phones, tablets, and computers to your smartphone or tablet's 4G or LTE data while you're on the go. Because you can enable tethering wherever the internet providers in your area offer service, you'll have easy access to WiFi regardless of where you are in the country.

This type of connection uses more data than simply surfing the web on your phone, so avoid additional charges by keeping an eye on your data usage even if you have an unlimited data plan. If your mobile device is equipped with the necessary software to enable tethering, continue reading to learn how to take advantage of WiFi tethering, Bluetooth tethering and USB tethering on your phone.

What is a Mobile Hotspot?

A physical hotspot) to the internet. While this may sound similar to my description of tethering above, they each achieve similar results but work a little differently. Hotspots are typically offered by cell phone carriers as an extra perk when you choose a plan.

Activating a mobile hotspot usually requires a device or adapter, whereas tethering usually requires a cable connection. Hotspots also act as an alternative to other public WiFi ports for devices already capable of WiFi. Tethering, on the other hand, enables devices that otherwise cannot use WiFi to still access the internet on-the-go.

Because hotspot mode means you're turning your smartphone or tablet into a spot where people can access the internet, you'll be sharing your phone's data connection with other phones, tablets or laptops.

The steps behind how to use your phone as a hotspot are easy to learn, so we'll take you through the process of setting up both iOS and Android devices for a fast internet connection in a minute.

Steps to Turning Your Phone into a WiFi Hotspot

If you're interested in learning how to make your phone a WiFi hotspot, you need to first make sure your phone can become a hotspot in the first place. If your phone can't, you can use our tool to compare mobile hotspot plans here.

This guide will show you how to turn your iOS and Android devices into WiFi hotspots, so your only job is to make sure this feature is available on your cell phone or tablet as well as with your service plan.

Through our step-by-step explanation for each operating system, you'll realize if your phone or tablet is capable of becoming a WiFi hotspot, find out how to turn on personal hotspot mode and start using WiFi everywhere you go.

iOS Devices

Here's how to make iPhone and iPad hotspots for laptops, tablets, and phones using a step-by-step guide for WiFi, Bluetooth, and USB.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that this process differs slightly from one Apple device to the next, so focus on getting to the Personal Hotspot tab in the Settings App.

Connect Using WiFi

  • Navigate to the Settings App on your phone screen.

  • Click Personal Hotspot.

navigate to personal hotspot within the iphone settings

  • Switch Personal Hotspot on to begin sharing your phone or tablet's internet connection.

switch hotspot on and read the instructions to connect

  • Select the name of your device on the other phone, tablet or computer.

  • Enter the password when prompted to connect via WiFi.

Connect Using Bluetooth

  • Switch on Bluetooth on both devices.

  • Pair your iPhone or iPad with the other phone, tablet or computer by tapping Pair or entering the code displayed the screen.

  • Navigate to the Settings App on your phone screen.

  • Click Personal Hotspot.

  • Switch Personal Hotspot on to share your phone or tablet's internet connection.

  • Select the name of your device on the other phone, tablet or computer.

  • Connect the other device to your iPhone or iPad using Bluetooth.

Connect Using USB

  • Navigate to the Settings App on your phone screen.

  • Click Personal Hotspot.

  • Switch Personal Hotspot on to share your phone or tablet's internet connection.

  • Plug your iPhone or iPad into your computer.

  • Choose the device from the list of network services in your settings to connect via USB.

Pro Tip: Keep your devices plugged in while tethering because the process uses a lot of battery power.

turning your iphone into a mobile hotspot is easy

How to Turn your Android Device into a WiFi Hotspot

Here's how to make your Android smartphone or tablet a mobile hotspot for laptops, tablets or phones using a step-by-step guide for WiFi, Bluetooth, and USB.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that the exact menu names vary from one Android device to another, so focus on getting to the Wireless & networks section in the Settings App.

Connect Using WiFi

  • Tap the Settings app on your Android smartphone or tablet.

  • Click More under Wireless & networks on your phone or tablet screen.

  • Select the Tethering and portable hotspot menu.

  • Change your settings using the Setup WiFi hotspot option if needed.

  • Use the Portable WiFi hotspot box to check if your service plan supports mobile hotspots and turn the hotspot on and off.

  • Connect the hotspot to a second device using the Connect to network option.

  • Select your network and enter the password to connect to the other device.

  • If you're using a Samsung Galaxy S5 or S6, go to the Settings App, tap Connections, click Tethering and WiFi hotspot (Mobile hotspot and tethering if you're using a Galaxy S6), hit Mobile hotspot and then tap Off to switch it on.

Pro Tip: Customize your network name and password because they come as default settings when you switch the hotspot on for the first time.

Connect Using Bluetooth

  • Set up the other device to receive its internet connection through Bluetooth.

  • Turn your phone or tablet's Bluetooth on.

  • Open your device's Settings App.

  • Click More and then Tethering & portable hotspot under Wireless & networks.

  • Tap Bluetooth tethering.

Connect Using USB

Connect your phone or tablet to another device with a USB cable.

  • Navigate to the Settings app on your phone or tablet screen.

  • Click More and then Tethering & portable hotspot.

  • Tap USB Tethering.

  • Disconnect the cable to turn off a mobile hotspot for Android with USB.

Turn Your PC into a WiFi Hotspot with Connectify Hotspot

You can also turn your PC into a WiFi hotspot for other computers as well as mobile devices with the Connectify Hotspot. Because this hotspot software creates a virtual router inside your PC, computer users can provide seamless WiFi for mobile devices after setting up the hotspot's name and password.

The Connectify Hotspot connection is safe and secure, and this trustworthy source for wireless internet also lets you monitor your data usage across all devices.

Related: How to Get WiFi in Your Car

Do Straight Talk Phones have Hotspot?

Although opting for a pay as you go data plan lets you skip signing a contract, the hotspot capabilities for devices connected to these services will only function under certain terms and conditions if they work at all.

Two-year contracts like the T-Mobile unlimited plan, however, aren't for everyone, so you can pay for data as you go while exploring your options for using Straight Talk phones as mobile hotspots.

Wireless Hotspots and Straight Talk Phones

A Straight Talk phone is a great option for mobile users who want to have a reliable service plan without signing a contract. Before we dig into how to use your phone as a hotspot, let's take a minute to go over Straight Talk phones and how they relate to portable hotspots for both iOS and Android devices.

The good news is that it's possible to connect more than one device to the internet through Straight Talk service, so, whether you have an iPhone or Android, you can create your own wireless network according to the company's requirements.

Tethering and Portable Hotspots with Straight Talk

Because the hotspot feature uses a significant amount of data, you should think about how many gigabytes you're prepared to use the internet on your phone or tablet. Your Straight Talk service will likely support mobile web service; however, this type of service plan usually also comes with a cap on data usage even when you have an unlimited plan.

Despite the fact that tethering to create a portable hotspot makes your life easier, Straight Talk plans will have more limitations compared to cell phone plans from AT&T for example.

you can use a mobile hotspot to stream music or read books on the go

Do TracFone Wireless Phones have Hotspot?

If you're in the market for a prepaid wireless service provider, TracFone Wireless offers data plans you can pay for as you go like Straight Talk. This telecommunications company provides prepaid cell phones with a range of service plans, so you can get the internet on your phone with a monthly plan that doesn't require a contract.

If you're not in a place to commit to a T-Mobile unlimited plan or something similar, you do have the option to use TracFone Wireless phones for portable hotspots under terms and conditions.

Tethering and Portable Hotspots with TracFone Wireless

Using your TracFone Wireless device as a portable hotspot depends on your plan and whether or not it's associated with an additional wireless service provider like Verizon. Because tethering with a product from this prepaid wireless service provider works the same way as Straight Talk in many cases, you could run into issues sharing your phone's data with other devices.

You'll often have the ability to set up a personal hotspot although your data usage could be capped or subject to extra charges and fees. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, find out if using your phone as a hotspot is an option or if it's prohibited altogether before trying to set it up.


You now know the answer to the golden question - what is tethering? - and how to use it to turn your phone or tablet into a physical location where you and your friends can access the internet.

Whether you opt for WiFi tethering, Bluetooth tethering or USB tethering, you can take advantage of WLAN hotspots to connect to the internet wherever you are at the touch of a button.

If your phone is unable to be used as a mobile hotspot, you may want to upgrade to a newer device. To find out when you're eligible to upgrade, check out our guide here. Need an entirely new phone? You can use our tool to compare cell phones side-by-side.

Rob Webber
Rob Webber

Rob has 15+ years experience in the US and UK running price comparison sites for cell phone plans, smartphone deals, TV, and internet. He loves thinking outside of the box to build tools that empower consumers to make more informed decisions.