Tethering might sound like something you’d do in the countryside, but it’s actually an ingenious way of sharing mobile data.
By linking an offline device to a smartphone, you can share the latter’s bandwidth and connectivity with the former.
That’s great if your broadband has gone down and you want to send an important email, or if you need to get a WiFi-only device connected while you’re out and about.
Tethering is relatively easy with the modern generation of iPhones, as we explain below.
Whatever the tether
There are several ways of tethering an iPhone to another device:
- USB. A USB cable creates a physical connection, rather like the jump leads used to start a car with a flat battery.
- WiFi. This effectively turns the connected device into a mobile network, which the passive device can connect to.
- Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a relatively unusual method of data tethering, due to sluggish data transfer speeds and fiddly connection procedures.
Since Bluetooth is inefficient, we’ve focused on other methods of data tethering.
We’ve also overlooked solutions for iPhones that have been jailbroken, since bypassing Apple’s walled-garden software restrictions isn’t for the fainthearted.
This guide is based on iOS 11, covering iPhone devices from the 6 to the X.
Creating a hotspot via WiFi
- Firstly, go into your iPhone’s Settings menu.
- Tap on Personal Hotspot, and drag the slider right.
- Change the default WiFi password to something you’ll remember – ideally something other people won’t be able to crack too easily.
- Your iPhone is now discoverable, so scan for available networks on the device you wish to get online.
- Enter the password when prompted to do so, and the device should immediately link to your iPhone’s connection.
Creating a hotspot via USB
This is the fastest and most secure method of data transfer.
It has the added advantage that any connected device should charge your iPhone while drawing data from it.
- As before, go into your iPhone’s Settings menu and turn on Personal Hotspot.
- Once you’ve set a network password, plug the iPhone into your computer using a USB cable.
- On a Windows 7 PC, go to Control Panel > Internet Options > Connections > Setup, and follow the instructions.
- On a Mac, go to System Preferences > Network > WiFi and choose your iPhone from the USB list.
While a device is connected to your iPhone, a blue bar along the top of the screen will indicate how many Personal Hotspot connections are in progress.
You won’t need a different data tethering plan or contract from your mobile network provider.
However, data tethering drains your phone’s battery, as well as its data allowance – and going over your monthly limit could incur significant extra charges.
You’ll burn through data far more rapidly if other devices are piggybacking on an existing data plan – especially if the tethering isn’t deactivated once you’re finished.
Turn off Personal Hotspot as soon as you’re done, which also prevents the iPhone draining its battery by constantly sending out invitations for other devices to connect.