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One of the best features of the modern smartphone is its ability to work as a mobile hotspot when necessary. What is a hotspot? Essentially, it allows you to easily create your own private wireless network that can either be shared with other devices or enabled exclusively for personal use.
By learning how to use a hotspot, you can securely access the internet on-the-go with better performance than most cellular data plans offer. This can come in handy when traveling, working remotely, or if your regular internet service provider (ISP) goes offline for whatever reason.
In this post, we’ll go over the benefits of portable WiFi connectivity and explain how hotspots work to give you a better understanding of how this feature can fit your needs. Click on a link below for answers to a specific question you may have, or read our mobile hotspot guide in full for a complete breakdown of information.
- What is a mobile hotspot used for?
- How does a hotspot work?
- What is the difference between WiFi and hotspot?
- What are the benefits of a mobile hotspot?
- How many devices can mobile hotspot support?
- How to use a hotspot feature on smartphones?
- Is a mobile hotspot free?
What is a mobile hotspot used for?
Mobile hotspots are used to wirelessly connect your cell phone, laptop, or tablet to your own portable WiFi network. They offer a great alternative to your carrier’s mobile data as well as a safer connection than public hotspots can provide.
Mobile hotspots can be used in many different ways ranging from maintaining productivity at a remote office to downloading movies just before an international flight. They may even be able to help you cut down your cell phone bill depending on what type of hotspot you use and to what end.
To see how you might take advantage of this feature in your personal or professional life, you should first understand how mobile hotspots work.
How does a hotspot work?
When your cell phone is connected to the mobile data network, a hotspot can convert the data stream into a WiFi signal. By distributing a private web of WiFi connections (also known as tethering), nearby devices can then access the internet as you would using a traditional wireless broadband modem or plugged-in ethernet cable.
Advancements in technology enable you to convert your smartphone into its own secure hotspot, but you can also buy a separate mobile hotspot that accomplishes the same job. It works through a combination of hardware, software, and network connectivity that turns the device into the equivalent of an internet router.
What is the difference between WiFi and a hotspot?
In the simplest sense, WiFi is the technology that enables local area networking via radio frequency and electromagnetic waves; think of it as “how” internet connectivity is made possible. An access point is the “what”—a physical device—that services a small area with a WiFi signal. Finally, a hotspot refers to “where” the area is being served by an access point.
In 2020, there are 454 million public WiFi hotspots forecasted around the world that can enable wireless internet connection, but a personal hotspot allows you to turn any location into a supported local network using the data connectivity on your device.
What are the benefits of a mobile hotspot?
Learning how to use hotspots can be incredibly resourceful for students on- and off-campus, busy professionals on-the-go, collaborative teams, competitive video game players, and average web users just looking to boost their mobile internet speed. Below are several benefits a hotspot can bring to your online experience.
Speed & Performance
If you’ve ever accessed the internet over a public network at a coffee shop, college campus, or airport terminal, chances are that you’ve experienced long loading times, slow downloads, and glitchy performance. The more devices that are on the network connection, the slower the ISP response time will be. A hotspot is a great way to increase mobile internet speed in crowded areas because it establishes your own wireless access point for a faster flow of data.
Another way a hotspot works to improve efficiency is by ensuring you never skip a beat should your ISP go offline. Whether there’s a flood at the office, a power outage on the block, or a delayed flight at the airport, simply enable your personal hotspot and connect your device to continue working even while the ISP is down.
When you connect to the internet over a public access point, you risk jeopardizing sensitive data on an insecure server. If you’re not careful, intellectual property can fall into the wrong hands of hackers, or prying eyes may attempt to steal private information. A personal hotspot establishes a private connection with greater security features and strong password protections.
You can, however, share the login details with friends, family, or coworkers and allow them to share your hotspot’s WiFi signal. Or, if you need additional network security, you can add a VPN credential to your mobile hotspot.
Rather than heading all the way over to a public access point, or leaving your bedroom to reach your home’s WiFi signal, a hotspot is a convenient solution that brings internet connectivity to wherever you are, at any given time.
You can put your smartphone in your pocket and bring your WiFi connection wherever you go with a mobile hotspot. Other internet solutions require you to remain within the signal’s reach or to stay plugged in via ethernet cable, but a hotspot can maintain your device’s connection even while in motion. This can benefit students mid-commute, or colleagues working on a project while traveling to a conference, to name a couple of examples.
There are several advantages to using a dedicated mobile hotspot over a smartphone hotspot in terms of cost. They can prevent you from exceeding your monthly data limit, thereby reducing the risk of over-use charges and penalties. You may also be able to downgrade to a cheaper wireless plan with a smaller data cap, knowing that you’ll connect to the portable WiFi for internet versus your carrier’s mobile network.
If you travel a lot for business, a mobile hotspot can help you avoid roaming fees, plus they save you from using your personal data plan for work-related tasks. You’ll also extend the lifespan of your phone’s battery by connecting devices to an external hotspot rather than enabling the feature on your smartphone.
How many devices can mobile hotspot support?
It depends on whether you’re using a mobile hotspot or a smartphone hotspot to connect your devices, and in the latter case, which type of cell phone you have. Most Android devices can connect up to 10 different users on phones, laptops, tablets, and other WiFi-enabled devices, while iPhones tend to be limited to five connections at a time.
Pro-Tip: When using a smartphone as a hotspot, be sure to pay close attention to your data usage. If everyone connected to your hotspot streams video content simultaneously, expect your monthly data allowance to disappear very quickly. Also, when enabling your personal hotspot in a public setting, keep an eye on the number of connected devices—you don’t want any surreptitious access gained by strangers, so beware when in a public space.
How to use a hotspot feature on smartphones?
Setting up a mobile hotspot is easy. On an Android smartphone, simply click on “Settings”. Under the “Wireless and Networks” section, click on “More…” You’ll then see “Mobile Hotspot” listed as one of the choices. When turning the hotspot on, it prompts you to turn off access to any WiFi networks to which your smartphone is connected.
If you’re wondering how to use the hotspot on an iPhone, start on the home screen and tap the “Settings” icon. Open the “Personal Hotspot” menu, then tap the slider to turn it on. After that, you’ll be prompted to select various configuration features to set up your device.
If you get a message saying that mobile hotspot capability isn’t part of your current plan, that may be the case. However, that same message appears if you’ve forgotten to turn on your phone’s mobile data connection. This is typical if you generally access your home’s regular internet connection on your smartphone.
Is a mobile hotspot free?
It depends on your wireless carrier’s data plan. Hotspot capability normally included with most smartphone contracts, and any data used by a connected device will be deducted from your plan’s total data limit. However, some carriers tack it on as an extra feature with an additional monthly price of around $10.
If your carrier doesn’t include mobile hotspot capability as a part of your wireless contract, it’s a good idea to add that capability on a temporary basis when going on vacation. If you work from home, you may have to add it in an emergency should your regular internet service suffer any downtime.
If you’re dissatisfied with the results of your mobile speed test and want to browse the internet at a faster pace, then a mobile hotspot can be a great solution to improve performance. It’s also a helpful tool for anyone who wants to work remotely or connect to WiFi on-the-go.
Get the most out of your device with a hotspot speed test that can confirm you’re operating at peak efficiency. Between faster downloads and seamless online integration, you may find that a mobile hotspot is the missing key to your sweet connectivityl success.
Paul Williams brings a wide range of experiences to his writing. He worked extensively in technology, as a software engineer, technical writer, and now a technology writer. Known as the leader of one of the top American Spacerock bands, his forward-looking music continues to be heard all over the world.