What is a mobile hotspot? The pros and cons of using your smartphone as a mobile hotspot

mobile hotspotSomeone once asked me what the pros and cons were for using your smartphone as a mobile hotspot. Great question. But before I answer it, let’s do a quick review of what a mobile hotspot is.

What is a mobile hotspot?

A mobile hotspot refers to the ability some (make that most) smartphones have to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal that other devices can connect to. Each device connecting to your mobile hotspot thinks it is connected via Wi-Fi network when in reality they are using the cellular data connection of your smartphone.

Here’s an example. Say you have an iPhone and an iPad (the Wi-Fi only version). Then you go somewhere where a public Wi-Fi signal is not available. Your iPad is Wi-Fi only so you’re out of luck, right? Wrong. A touch here and a touch there on your smartphone and your mobile hotspot is enabled and now broadcasting a Wi-Fi signal that your iPad can connect to. Your iPad doesn’t know the better of it. It thinks it is connected Wi-Fi but really your smartphone is doing all the heavy lifting via its cellular data signal.

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, let’s go back to the pros and cons of using your smartphone as a hotspot device. Here they are:

Pros of Mobile Hotspots

A mobile hotspot basically gives you Wi-Fi on-the-go. As long as your smartphone has a cellular signal, you can provide Wi-Fi for other devices.

There’s no need for individual data plans for all of your devices. In fact, there’s really no need to buy secondary devices (like an iPad with built-in 3G or 4G) when you can just get the Wi-Fi only version and connect it to your smartphone’s mobile hotspot.

Most mobile hotspots allow for multiple connections, usually 5 or 10 of them. So when you enable your mobile hotspot, your iPad can connect to it but so can your brother’s Kindle, your mom’s Kindle and your cousin’s iPod Touch.

Cons of Mobile Hotspots

The portable Wi-Fi hotspot served up by your smartphone probably won’t be as fast as your home high speed internet. Although with newer 4G speeds, the difference in speed is slowly diminishing.

Enabling mobile hotspot puts a huge drain on your smartphone’s battery. Plan on having your smartphone plugged in when the mobile hotspot is enabled or expect the battery to fade out quickly.

Even though secondary devices connect to your mobile hotspot via Wi-Fi, your smartphone is actually using your data plan. Worse yet, everyone connected to your mobile hotspot is ultimately using your LTE mobile data plan. If you have a low data cap (like 1 GB), don’t let people connected to your mobile hotspot download large files or stream videos.

How to Use Your Mobile Hotspot?

To access your personal hotspot on your iPhone. Open up settings, click personal hotspot, and move the toggle to on. Your hotspot will appear, and it will allow you to set a password. Anyone can now access your hotspot through the mobile Wi-Fi options on their phone if they have your password.

What’s your experience?

Did I miss anything? What’s your experience using the mobile hotspot feature of your smartphone? Leave a comment below and give me your feedback.

Editors note – this article has been updated on April 10th, 2018 for accuracy and relevancy.

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2 Comments

  1. asudduth

    Probably goes without saying, but you only mentioned tablet/media devices (iPod, iPad, Kindle, etc) and of course there is no problem connecting any devices that use WiFi, including a laptop or desktop computer. (Did your home Internet service go out and you need to do something important? Use your phone as a hotspot!)

    • Patric Welch

      Great advice! (especially if you have Comcast for your Internet)

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