Setting up your iPhone as a mobile hotspot by tethering to a wireless data network can give you faster speed and more security than public Wi-Fi networks (which aren’t always the safest choices for your personal data), as CNBC notes. And if you already have unlimited data, it can also be hassle-free since it's likely that your plan includes tethering. Other plans may allow you to add the hotspot functionality for an extra fee, so you’ll definitely want to check in with the fine print of your particular plan before you go using up all your data.
On both iPhones and Androids, it’s relatively simple to set up a hotspot. For an iPhone, go to Settings > Personal Hotspot and turn it on. Set up your own password so that no random Wi-Fi lurkers can log on, then just find your phone’s name in the Wi-Fi drop-down menu on your phone. Click connect, enter the password, and you’re in.
For Android, the process is similar. Go to Settings > Connections > Mobile Hotspot and Tethering. Turn on the “Mobile Hotspot” function, then set a name and password for your network. Log on to your phone’s Wi-Fi through your computer and enter in the password you just made.
There is a bit of catch. You might have an unlimited data plan, but for most carriers, you only get a certain amount of data to use for a mobile hotspot. Many, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, only give you 10 GB of high-speed tethering, slowing your connection down if you use more.
However, if you have T-Mobile, feel free to use your hotspot to watch as much streaming TV as you want—if you have T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan, you can tether to your phone and watch Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and other streaming platforms without it counting toward your hotspot data limit.
Hotspot Wi-Fi isn’t always lightning fast. The telecommunications search site WhistleOut notes that for unlimited plans, many carriers “deprioritize” tethering data if there’s heavy data usage in your area, temporarily slowing down speeds to deal with network congestion. So you probably aren’t going to be able to stream video through your hotspot in the middle of a concert or at a football game. In an uncrowded coffee shop, on the other hand? Go right ahead.