What is a hotspot? How to connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot, or set up your own personal hotspot
- A hotspot is a location with a Wi-Fi network, outside of your home, that you can use to connect to the internet.
- Hotspots are incredibly useful for getting internet access while on the go, and are common at restaurants, retail stores, hotels, and other public venues.
- Most modern smartphones can also become personal hotspots, which let other devices connect to the internet using your mobile data.
- You can connect to a hotspot in the same way you'd connect to any other Wi-Fi network.
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A hotspot — sometimes also called a mobile hotspot, public hotspot, or Wi-Fi hotspot — is a location with a Wi-Fi network, outside of your home or office, where you can connect to the internet.
They're typically offered by businesses like restaurants, hotels, airports, and malls, though you can also find hotspots in places like libraries and government buildings. While many hotspots are free, some might charge a fee to access them. Restaurants often reserve them for paying customers.
Depending on your cellular plan, you may also be able to turn your phone into a portable hotspot to connect other devices — like tablets and laptops — to the internet using your cellular data.
How to connect to a public hotspot
You connect to a hotspot in the same way you'd connect to any Wi-Fi network.
Many public hotspots are password-protected, so make sure you know both the name of the network and the password, which you can generally find posted somewhere at the hotspot location. You might also need to ask someone, like an employee or attendant, for the password.
1. If you're using an iPhone, open the Settings app and then tap "Wi-Fi." If you have an Android phone, open Settings, then tap "Connections" followed by "Wi-Fi."
2. In the list of Wi-Fi networks, tap the hotspot you're trying to connect to and then enter the password. In some cases, the hotspot might open a web page with terms of service you'll need to agree to, or a field to enter the password.
That's it – you're now connected. If this hotspot requires a subscription, you might also need to enter payment information, but paid hotspots have become pretty rare.
How to set up a personal hotspot on your iPhone
If you don't have access to Wi-Fi but need to connect a device like a tablet or laptop, you can use your iPhone as a hotspot. Just note that you'll need to have a strong cell signal, and your cell carrier needs to support hotspot use. If you don't know whether your carrier supports it, contact them to ask.
1. Open the Settings app and then tap "Cellular." Depending on your version of iOS, "Personal Hotspot" may be listed on the main Settings page, not within the Cellular page — if so, tap "Personal Hotspot."
2. On the Cellular page, tap "Personal Hotspot." If your current cellular plan doesn't allow hotspots, there may be an option to "Set Up Personal Hotspot" which will give you a phone number to call or website to visit to upgrade your cell plan.
3. Turn on the hotspot by swiping the button beside "Allow Others to Join" to the right.
4. If you want to customize the password for your hotspot, tap "Wi-Fi Password" and enter a password that you'll need to use on other devices.
5. Stay on this page – don't switch to another app or turn the iPhone's screen off.
6. On the other device, open the Wi-Fi settings and choose the hotspot for your iPhone. Enter the password and you should connect normally. Now you can close the Settings page on your iPhone and use the phone any way you like. As long as you stay in range of the other device, it'll function as a hotspot.
7. To stop using your iPhone as a hotspot, disconnect from the phone's Wi-Fi network on the connected device or go back to the Personal Hotspot settings on your phone and turn off "Allow Others to Join."
How to set up a personal hotspot on your Android
You can share internet access to other devices using your Android phone's hotspot settings. Again, not all cell carriers support this, so contact your carrier to check their policies.
1. Open the Settings app and then tap "Connections."
2. Tap "Mobile Hotspots and Tethering."
3. Tap "Mobile Hotspot."
4. On the Mobile Hotspot details page, you can set the network's name and password, then turn it on by swiping the button to the right.
5. Without leaving this page, join the Wi-Fi network on your other device.
6. To stop this hotspot, disconnect from the phone's Wi-Fi network on the connected device or go back to the Mobile Hotspot settings on your phone and turn the hotspot off.
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