Use your smartphone as a mobile hotspot

How to use your smartphone as a mobile hotspot

mobile hotspot

As a busy commercial real estate professional you spend a lot of time in the field. If you’re like me then your business is mobile, and you need to stay connected to the Internet. I previously found this challenging until I figured out how to use my smartphone as a mobile hotspot. Here’s how I did it.

Why mobile connectivity is so important

I use my iPhone for lots of mobile productivity such as email, scheduling, basic web browsing, etc. There are plenty of websites however that I prefer to view on my laptop. These include sites like Quickbooks (our internal accounting system), Skype, Google Drive and our ClientLook commercial real estate CRM. Using my iPhone as a conduit to the Internet allows me to “setup shop” anywhere with my laptop. My business follows me wherever I go.

Super easy setup

My mobile phone carrier is AT&T and I use an iPhone. In past years I was unable to use my phone as a mobile hotspot. I carried around a Verizon Mi-Fi unit instead. This little device acted as a personal hotspot but required an additional mobile phone account. It was expensive. I abandoned this as soon as I was able to supplant my iPhone instead. Carrying one less device simplified my mobile kit too.

Set up a personal hotspot

In my iPhone I did the following to enable a personal hotspot:

  1. Tap Settings > Cellular.
  2. Tap Personal Hotspot and then turn it on.

There’s a place to enter a password, which requires any connecting device to enter. Definitely use this. I didn’t setup a password until some enterprising passenger sitting near me on a plane connected to my phone and played heavy metal music on it during the flight. Wonderful experience.

If you don’t see the option for a Personal Hotspot then contact your carrier. By the way, here’s instructions for setting this up on an Android phone and Windows Phone.

Connection options

When you turn on your phone’s hotspot connectivity option, you’re typically able to connect via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or USB. I prefer to tether my iPhone to my laptop via a short 5″ USB cable. This cable runs from my iPhone’s charging port to one of my computer’s USB ports. I’ve found this connection to be faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Your results may vary, so experiment to see what works best.

Other suggestions

I would suggest that you turn off your phone’s personal hotspot feature when it’s not in use. I’ve often found that my laptop will default to that connection even when it’s in range of other Wi-Fi connections at meetings, hotels or even my office. There’s no reason to use your mobile carrier’s bandwidth when it’s not necessary. Make sure you monitor your bandwidth too since mobile hotspots can eat up your allotted usage. I had to increase my plan a couple of times at first to avoid costly overage charges.

Most mobile devices work

Keep in mind that most mobile devices that use their own cellular connection can serve as a mobile hotspot. My iPad, for example, has it’s own AT&T connectivity and could be used for the same purpose described above. If your experience is anything like mine then you’ll wonder how you ever got by without this.

About the Author

Michael Griffin

Michael Griffin - President & CEO, ClientLook, Ltd.


  1. Great tip! If every commercial real estate agent knew about how to use a mobile hotspot, they would probably be more efficient while out in the field. Well written. I look forward to reading future tips on your blog.

  2. I’m a Verizon customer, and have used the hotspot feature for years… it’s GREAT. It should be noted though that, at least with Verizon, for many packages this feature is an extra fee. Not sure if ATT charges additional fees or not.

    • Angela, great point. Providers can charge an extra fee to enable “tethering” , which is a fancy word for allowing mobile hotspot capability. As I recall there used to be some big fee with AT&T, like $50/month, to allow this. I finally moved to a service plan that didn’t impose that fee.

      I wasn’t able to enable my phone’s mobile hotspot until I changed my plan. It wasn’t possible, for example, to inadvertently turn it on as described in this post – and trigger some big associated fee. I had to activate it through AT&T customer support.

      For most people, I’d assume that if you’re able to activate this feature on your phone then it’s already a part of your plan. Best to confirm that though with your provider. You may already be paying for this!

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