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Phones

How to use Apple's Instant Hotspot feature

With just a few clicks -- or taps -- your Apple devices can create a hotspot network while you're on the go.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple's Instant Hotspot turns nearly any iOS device with a cellular connection into a personal hotspot for all of your Apple devices. Using an iOS device as a hotspot comes in handy when traveling, or when you don't want to use the Wi-Fi network at your local coffee shop. 

There's practically no setup, as long as your devices meet the requirements (they probably do), and the process of connecting to your hotspot device is incredibly easy. Here's what you need to know.

Requirements

To use Instant Hotspot, you will need an iOS device with an active mobile data plan that includes hotspot service. The device will need to be running iOS 8.1 or newer. According to Apple, the devices that will provide a hotspot to other Apple devices are:

Of course, the iPad models on the list will need to be a Wi-Fi+Cellular model.

Here are the devices that will then be able to connect to your cellular device and use Instant Hotspot:

apple-instant-hotspot-capable-devices
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Setup

As long as you have devices that meet the above requirements, and you're signed into the same iCloud account across all of those devices, setup is done in the background by Apple. You don't have to connect or pair anything.

If you run into issues, here are some things to check:

  • Turn on Bluetooth on both devices.
  • Turn on Wi-Fi on both devices.
  • Double-check that you are using the same Apple ID/iCloud account on both devices.
  • Ensure that your wireless plan allows for hotspot use.

Use Instant Hotspot

instant-hotspot-macos
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

To establish a connection on a Mac, click on the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar. Let the list of available networks populate, which should then show your iPhone ($1,000 at Amazon) or iPad as an option for Personal Hotspot. Click on the device to begin using the hotspot feature.

ios-instant-hotspot
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Using another iOS device, you can use Instant Hotspot by opening Settings > Wi-Fi and looking for the iOS device you want to connect to in the list of options.

When Instant Hotspot is in use, you will see a blue bar over the time on the iOS device that's acting as the hotspot, letting you know a device (or devices) is connected to it. Tap on the blue bar and slide the Personal Hotspot switch to the off position to disconnect any connected devices.