(Updated 1/26/2015)

If you have the best iPhone you will like this. Knowing that they were missing out on yet another way to nickel and dime their customers, AT&T worked with Apple and added a hotspot feature in iOS 4.3 and above, the result is that iPhone 4 and above users can turn their iPhone into a wireless hotspot with yet another hefty monthly fee.  Verizon users can also get the privilege for a similar additional fee.  But for the easy nature of simply flipping a switch, or for those not comfortable with jailbreaking their phone, it’s a convenient, but costly method.   And if you like to play by the rules, well, enabling your iPhone’s hotspot feature couldn’t be easier.  One warning though, if you’re currently grandfathered into AT&Ts unlimited data plan, once you enable the hotspot feature, you will have forfeited your all your can eat days in favor of their more limited tiered plans.

Set it up on your iPhone (legal option)

Update: With iOS 7 now out, the setup process is slightly different to create a WiFi HotSpot.  To do so:

1. Tap “Settings” from the Home Screen Then tap “Cellular”

Settings iOS 7

2. 4 rows down there should be “Set Up Personal Hotspot” in Blue.  Tap that.

Wifi Hotspot 1

3. Click “Go to Website” (AT&T in my case)

Wifi Hotspot 2

4. Once at the Carrier’s website you’ll need to add the appropriate plan.  For AT&T users you’ll have to select a finite data plan.  Which is to say Unlimited Data users, those that are grandfathered in, are precluded from setting up a WiFi Hotspot.

5. Finally, once you have a plan, you’ll need to set up your iPhone to allow other devices to connect to it.  Charges will apply, but all it takes is two simple steps: open Settings, then Personal Hotspot. That will instantly give you an on/off switch for the hotspot if you’ve already set it up. If not, the iPhone will show you exactly how to do it in clear, easy steps.

iPhone 5c: Change Wi-Fi Pass

6. Just in case you haven’t set it up already, see Apple’s above instructions. They are identical across AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. The hotspot can share data in three ways: over the air (like any Wi-Fi router), over Bluetooth, and via USB. I recommend only Wi-Fi and USB; Bluetooth is slower and will drain your battery faster, while Wi-Fi can be shared with up to five people and USB charges the phone while plugged in.

Jailbreak Your iPhone (illegal option)

Now I know what you’re thinking … it’ll void my warranty!  It’s illegal!  It’ll mess up my phone and I won’t get it back to the way it was!  That’s not entirely true. Jailbreaking your iPhone can void your warranty, but thousands of people jailbreak their iPhones and have no problem or any need for the warranty. Furthermore, once you remove the jailbreak the warranty comes back in place. After all, Apple doesn’t know that you jailbroke it. If you don’t like it, you can easily go into iTunes and restore it to the way it was.

And it’s not illegal either.  According to the US Library of Congress Copyright office, it is perfectly legal to jailbreak your phone.  The only reason to not jailbreak your phone is that when there are updates, you have to reset your phone back to the way it was to update it.  Then you have to wait for the jailbreak tools figure that out before you can free it up again.  But these days, it’s largely a  painless process now.

There are a lot of different ways to jailbreak your iPhone, but depending on the model and operating system you may not be able to. Currently there is no public jailbreak for the iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S in iOS 6. The same applies to the 5th generation iPod Touch and iPad. So if you have a 4S and want to tether, don’t update to iOS 6.

For instructions on how to Jailbreak your iPhone (and whether it’s even possible), check out Redmond Pie. They have an excellent section for jailbreakers. Once you’ve jailbroken your phone, it’ll install an application called Cydia, which is an app store for jailbroken apps. There are others, but Cydia is the largest and best.

1.  Open Cydia and download MyWi

MyWi is the hotspot utility that will enable you to unofficially turn your phone into a hotspot.  You can try it out for free, but if you plan to use it beyond the free trial, MyWi costs $20. You can set passwords, change your SSID settings, make security settings, etc.  Once you have MyWi installed and enabled, you will notice a blue bar at the top of your screen showing the hotspot connection active and functioning.  It even shows how much data you are using downloading and transmitting – a handy feature.

2. Surf to your heart’s content … or until you’re caught

Once you’re all set up, you can acquire your phone’s WiFi hotspot signal and you’re off to the races.  It’s a simple matter of choosing your iPhone from the list of wireless routers your gadget or laptop sees and inputting the password.

A few things though.  First, using your iPhone as a wireless hotspot will drain your phone’s battery as fast as continually using your GPS feature.  But you can get a few hours of hotspot use easy from it.  Or, you can attach your phone to your laptop via USB and not only have the security of a wired connection, but also not drain your phone battery thanks to the USB charge feature.

Additionally, wireless carriers do not allow for their customers to use their data however you’d like.  If they see an influx of downloads or uploads or track webpage data that isn’t consistent with smartphones (the size of downloaded pages don’t match your phone’s screen size, for example), even if you have an unlimited data plan (grandfathered on AT&T or through Sprint), they will send you a text message stating that if you’d like to tether it’s an additional fee.  If you don’t heed the subtle warning, they’ll start charging you and will offer access to the built-in hotspot feature.

The reality is that if you plan on using the hotspot today on an iPhone, it’s just a matter of time before you have to pay. If you use it minimally, you may never get caught by your provider. I’ve had MyWi for years, but only use it in case of emergency. A few have come up, but they’ve never resulted in AT&T (my carrier) forcing me to upgrade my data plan.

In the end, it may just be easier to get a MiFi card which will provide 4G wireless hot-spotting for a minimal fee.  They range from $20-60 a month depending on data usage and doesn’t require jailbreaking or catching the ire of your wireless carrier.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.

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  5. I have an older computer That is not wifi compatible. is there any way you can hook up your iPhone and use it to get Internet to the computer (I am in my house and there is wifi my computer just can not use it)

  6. And so I have to comment here as I did elsewhere, if you are using 1GB of data on your phone, you are entitled/have paid for that usage, what is the difference if you view that 1GB of data on your phone, or send it wirelessly to your computer for easier viewing?  It’s still 1GB.  As I wrote elsewhere, if I bought a small can of spaghetti and paid for it, what difference if I eat it from a teacup or a mixing bowl?  It’s still just that one can of spaghetti and it didn’t somehow become a gallon of spaghetti instead of a small can just because I’m eating it out of a different dish.

  7. FYI if you do jailbreak your phone you can add additional sources that will allow you to get mywi for free. Rather then list them here for you its easier to google “top sources to add to cydia” Also I don’t believe making it a hot spot is illegal. The only part of jail breaking that is illegal is downloading things for free that you normally would pay for I.e. apps, movies, music etc. Apple went to court over this and they ruled that freeing your phone is not illegal. The link provided above for jail breaking iPhone will not work for those using version 5.0 or highe so when you go to the link just go to that page on your PC and go to bottom of page and click the link to see more ways to jailbreak your phone. You will need your computer and iDevice USB cable. Once you select the correct version (you can find out which version you have through settings then about) be sure to READ THE DIRECTIONS ENTIRELY before starting. There is a button sequence you will need to know about ahead of time. After cydia installs make sure you add winterboard from the cydia.

  8. Just some info to think about… Im in a campground where there are numerus hotspot networks running speeds from 54mbps “which is what my Android Verizon HS is running” to 144mbps on various other phones/networks…HOWEVER this may be interesting to some of you folks…   Im picking up ONE network thats running a solid 300mbps on the latest Att Iphone HS  “hotspot”     I didnt think it was possible to run that kind of speed on a cellphone HS of any kind…  but folks its out there…it sorta makes me want to buy another Iphone on Att and add the HS data feature.. mmmm   Im [email protected] if you have any questions or comments    have a good week 

  9. hi i have read your how to,i have both a 3 and now a 4s.unfortunately where i work there is no internet conection.and times i wish i could just turn on my phone and use my lap top,i know what your thinking well my phone is a 4s but i hate to try to find things on the web with it because it’s small i prefer with these old eyes to browse for what i need on my lap top ,i’m just still concerned i will loose stuff i have on my i phone ,,i know you said back it up ..but i still have this nagging thing in the back of my mind ,verizon will sell me something to make it a hot spot for 20 a month (on top of my data plan ) isn’t that the same thing you suggested on the miwi ? i would just like to stop paying for stuff i have ,i’m wireless at home ) just need this intimes of trouble you know what i mean my 3 has been jail broken but cydia just isn’t working any help to use that one instead of my 4s /

  10. Wait so I have unlimited data. And if I go the illegal route to making my phone a hotspot does that mean it will still strew with my data thing. Or i forgot it only if I go the legal route?? I’m not sure if you meant if I make it a hot spot either way I’ll forfeit my unlimited data thing????

    1. If you jailbreak it nothing changes with your carrier. They don’t know what goes on with your phone. They only know the legal way cause your asking them to make change for you.

  11. someone help me i downloaded mywi 4.0 cracked and now it messed up my wifi (i cant go on any networks) i’ve deleted it and rebooted but NOTHING HAPPENED

  12. Jailbreaking the iPhone DOES void the warranty. It happened to me a year ago when someone sold me a jailbroken iPhone and then I needed to try nd get it fixed. It was well within warranty age but the Mac “Genius” wouldn’t do it because the phone had been jailbroken. He sited the reason being that Jailbreaking phones void warranty.

    1. Well you shouldn’t take it into apple jail broken…you have to unjail break it first. It’s completely irreversible. I mean….it’s common sense.

    2. Dude, put the phone down, slowly back away, and try not to touch anything sharp on your way out the door. Now run down the street, look for a brick wall, run as fast as you can and try to break through it using your big thick dumb head.

      By the way, did the two thousand misspellings in the article rub off on you posters???

    3. are you sure that every single person that works for Apple knows everything, and that everything that that one rep told you was correct? I swear. People assume that these people know everything. its just like when someone comes into my store and says, AT&T told me that i could do __________… and i say, im sorry thats not true. the person you spoke to was incorrect. their reply is, “well, AT&T said it.” no you idiot, AT&T didnt say it. One person told you that.  Yes he represents the company, but that doesnt mean that there arent new people in training every day that dont necessarily know everything.

  13. i downloaded this application via cydia ..and it was installed ..but when i restarted iphone didnt turn on again and freezed what should i do now ?

  14. If the cellular carrier realizes that I’m using my phone as a hotspot and begins billing me, will I loose my unlimited date plan that I was grandfathered into?

  15. I don’t believe even wifi hotspot is hard with those Iphones…
    (I am now reseachig if possible to migrate to ihpone and to keep my htc sensation funcionality. Result: negative, I have to live with much less functionality….)

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