Most hotels charge for Internet access. Stupid. Can I use my Apple iPhone 5 as a wifi hotspot instead? My iPhone’s with AT&T Wireless.
Oh, the number of times I have been stuck paying for Internet access at hotels throughout the world! It is pretty stupid and makes me wonder if some day they’ll charge for clean towels or bar soap. In fact, since Internet is a fixed cost, it’s probably cheaper per guest night than soap and shampoo so what the heck? Oh, I know, two words: profit center.
Yeah, that darn capitalism strikes again. And then there’s AT&T, which also seeks to maximize its revenue per customer because, well, it’s a business and that’s its primary mission, as with all businesses.
And so, it’s no surprise that until recently, having your Apple iPhone 5s or similar be able to serve as a wifi hotspot was an additional charge. An additional $10/mo, if I recall correctly.
But a funny thing happened on the way to them introducing the new Family Plan in Feb 2014: that same personal wifi hotspot capability suddenly got bundled with the package, even though in my experience, none of the people at the AT&T Stores knew about it or bothered to mention it.
Yeah, this means that if you’re on the family plan, you might well have had this capability sitting idle for months without realizing it!
The way to tell is on your iPhone itself. Go to “Settings”…
See where it says “Personal Hotspot”? Tap on that.
Most likely, here’s what you’ll see (though your default password will be different to mine):
There are a couple of things to notice here before you enable the wifi hotspot. First and foremost, once you enable the personal hotspot you can use it via wifi, bluetooth or via USB. That’s pretty cool: you can use your phone’s wifi connection and charge your phone at the same time!
You can also change your access password by simply tapping on the default password. I changed mine!
To enable it, tap on the slider adjacent to “Personal Hotspot”. It’ll turn green and you’re good to go:
I’m up! Now, on my MacBook Pro, when I check to see which wireless networks are available, a new one shows up:
Notice it has a funky icon, not the usual padlock or blank spot adjacent to the power indicator. The chain link is the indicator for a personal hotspot and you occasionally see other people’s networks listed on your Wifi list too.
I’ll also warn you that sometimes it takes 15+ seconds for the hotspot to appear on the list after you’ve enabled it. Not sure why, but don’t be surprised if it isn’t an immediate appearance.
Choose the personal hotspot from your iPhone and…
If you’re thinking I typed in “jamaljamal” you’re not paying attention!
Enter the right password, click “Join” and after a few seconds you’re online through the AT&T Wireless network. Sweet.
And on your phone? You’ll see a blue status indicator on the top of every screen to ensure you know it’s in use:
When you’re done, I strongly recommend you go back and turn off the personal hotspot to ensure that you don’t accidentally use it and eat up all the bandwidth in your AT&T Wireless account plan. And you do realize that any data you consume comes out of your 3GB, 5GB, 10GB or other monthly wireless plan, right? So use this sparingly. No streaming Netflix!
Hope that gets you up and started. And if you’re not sure what plan you’re on, please check with AT&T to ensure that you have the hotspot feature enabled without the risk of incurring additional charges on your cellphone bill.