For AT&T users who have upgraded to iOS 4.3 on their iPhone 4, the new Wi-Fi hotspot tethering feature is now available. With it, users can use their iPhone’s 3G connection as an Internet source for other devices. Hook it up to your computer, iPad, iPod Touch, an iPhone with a lower data plan, or any other Wi-Fi device.
Here are the steps to turn your iPhone into a personal hotspot.
Adding Hotspot to AT&T Account
First, the feature has to be turned on with AT&T. This is going to cost you an extra $20 with the minimum data+tethering charge being $45.
I went to a local AT&T reseller to get the feature turned on. That was a mistake. The two nice ladies sadly were not well trained and couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. Most stores should be able to help you though. But if you don’t want the hassle, just download the myAT&T app for free from the App store. It lets you manage your account. One thing you can do is add this feature.
Log in with your online user name and password. Then go to “Features”. There you will find the option for “DataPro 4GB for iPhone Tethering”. This will add it to your account. One warning: people grandfathered into the unlimited plan that was available before the iPhone 4 will lose it. It even warns you first, which I have to give credit to AT&T for doing this when it is in their best interest to change this without warning the user.
Once the account change goes through you will get a text message from AT&T (see below right). Strangely, it looks like one you would get if you just bought a new phone.
Setting Up Personal Hotspot on iPhone
Open Settings on the iPhone – the app with the gears icon. Go to ‘General, select ‘Network’ and then tap on ‘Personal Hotspot’. Make sure to turn Cellular Data ON (in blue) and add a password as seen in the first screen shot above. Don’t worry. I will be changing the password in the image after this guide is finished.
That is all there is to turning it on. From then on, just opening settings will show a top level menu item called Personal Hotspot.
Setting Up Wi-Fi Enabled Devices
Now it is as easy as connecting to the iPhone’s Wi-Fi through your other Wi-Fi enabled device using the normal Wi-Fi connection interface. For example, on my iPad I went into Settings, Network and found the name of my iPhone, tapped on it and entered the password. When it connected, instead of the normal Wi-Fi icon in the upper left, there was what looks like two chain links intertwined. That’s how you know you have a connection.
In my experience it is easy to use. The speed is as good as your 3G signal allows. For my house 3G is great, but other parts of our town it is a little slow. And the internal Wi-Fi connections are smart enough to not use it if one of other Wi-Fi signals you have saved on the device is present.
Is it worth $45? That will depend on your circumstances. I was spending $30 on my unlimited data plan from AT&T and $60 on my unlimited Verizon data plan with a MiFi 2200. I checked my data usage for both and together it did not add up to 4GB. So I’m saving $45/month and only having to remember to pay one bill. The Verizon Mi-Fi is getting turned off and sold on eBay for about $20-$30.
Remember to factor not just your normal monthly iPhone data usage but what you might be doing with other devices tethered to it.