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How to use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot

How many times have you been caught with the need to do something on your laptop when you're out and about, but you don't want to drop five bucks for a coffee to suck up some ''free'' Wi-Fi? The solution is simple: just use your phone as a wireless router and share your phone's data plan with your laptop or tablet or even desktop computer. I've got a Nexus 5 so that's what I'll use for this example, but of course, many other phones are capable of operating as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot – the layout and options may just be a little different.

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Your Android is more powerful than you might know. / © AndroidPIT

As unlimited data plans and LTE become more common and we lead increasingly mobile lives, it's good to know a solid internet connection for your laptop is never further away than your pocket. It's surprisingly simple to set up, and once you've used it a couple of times you'll wonder why you ever thought an actual Wi-Fi hotspot was ever necessary.

AndroidPIT WiFi HotSpot Edit
In case you've never checked it out, just go to Settings > More > Tethering and Portable Hotspot. / © AndroidPIT

Just go to Settings > More > Tethering and Portable Hotspot. Here you'll find a bunch of options you've probably never looked at before. The first entry, USB Tethering allows you to use your Nexus 5's data connection with a USB cable. This means you can charge your phone at the same time as sharing a stable data connection with, say, your laptop. It will most likely be grayed out but when you connect your phone to another device or computer via USB, it'll become available.

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The tethering menu (left) and the activated USB and Bluetooth connections (right). / © AndroidPIT

At the bottom, there's Bluetooth Tethering, which is basically the same thing as above, but using Bluetooth to connect instead. Of course, these kinds of tethering also allow you to transfer data and other files over the USB or Bluetooth connection. Naturally, in the second instance you'll need Bluetooth switched on and paired to another device to share your internet via this connection type.

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You can set up your Wi-Fi hotspot however you like (left), then just turn it on (right). / © AndroidPIT

In the middle are the main events: Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot and Set Up Wi-Fi Hotspot. If you don't want to use the default setup (or have no idea what the portable hotspot will even be called), then you'll want to go into Set Up Wi-Fi Hotspot first. The default values are AndroidAP with a password you can write down to share with another device. You can rename the connection or change the password however you like. Once you've got your Wi-Fi Hotspot set up, just tap that other check box next to Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot and share away. Simply look for that network name in your other device's Wi-Fi connections list and log on.

''Hey, I think someone is sucking up my free Wi-Fi hotspot!'' / ©

Keep in mind that not everyone has an unlimited data plan and using a laptop on a mobile data plan can chew through it very quickly, as your laptop will not be using the mobile versions of the websites you visit, so be very wary and only use your phone as a portable hotspot when it's really necessary. Five bucks for a coffee isn't that bad after all when you compare it to excess data charges from your carrier.

Have you used your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot? Did you even know you could do it?


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  • I bought a used galaxy mega 6.3 .it had att service. I had it unlocked for my t mobile service but the hotspot wont work. 8 am using up all my data the first week of my plan. How can I fix this.

  • Root your phone. Install wifi tether router from play store. Get paid version.

  • How can i connect my phone to my laptop to get internet? without paying for the hotspot.
    I should be able to use my mobile network. but am unable to connect to my laptop?
    What works on the Play Store?
    oh i have a HTC Evo 3D. running 4.0 ice cream sandwich.

    • Hey @Chad, that depends on your carrier and whether or not they charge for using a Wi-Fi hotspot. As @tekf33k3n mentioned above, there are ways to bypass this problem with apps from the Play Store. If you can bypass the carrier charges (or your carrier doesn't charge you) then just enable USB tethering connect to your laptop with a USB cable if the Wi-Fi hotspot isn't being picked up by your laptop.

      • Ive got an evenbigger problem now. i have a evo 4g an old one and while downloading a google play game. i must have gotten a virus,
        because im stuck in booting up mode. i try the recovery screen but its still stuck in boot up mode. got any ideas how to reset the phone?

      • Hi @Chad, check out this video tutorial on the Evo 4G reset. I hope you had your data backed up!

  • tekf33k3n Jan 29, 2014 Link to comment

    "As unlimited data plans and LTE become more common".... Was this an old article that got re-issued? Last time I looked, almost every carrier is steering away from unlimited plans in favor of tiered systems. It may also be helpful to mention that there are plenty of apps on the Play Store that will enable the functionality even when the carrier doesn't. For example, Verizon is still infamous for preventing use of the mobile hotspot feature without paying an additional fee. FoxFi, or similar app, allows the use of the hotspot without tipping off VZW unless some egregious amount of data is used or you log of and on too many times in a very short period.

    • In the US, yes, as LTE expands the carriers are moving away from unlimited plans. But LTE globally is nowhere near as prevalent, so slower speed unlimited plans are still more common. Nice tip on FoxFi by the way, thanks!

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