How to share your Android phone’s mobile connection by tethering or hotspot

Get the hookup.

android wi fi hotspot
Michael Simon/IDG

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Whether you’re working from your backyard, a park, or a bus, there are times when you need a Wi-Fi connection on your laptop and you’re out of range of a network or public hotspot. Never fear: As long as you have your phone handy, you can deliver a personal and private network to your tablet or laptop in seconds.

To get started, you’ll need to go to the network settings on your phone. It’s called different things depending on which Android phone you’re using—Network & Internet on Android 10, Connections on One UI on Galaxy phones, etc.—but it’ll be where you select your Wi-Fi network. Inside, look for a tab that says hotspot or tethering.

android tethering hotspot IDG

The Personal Hotspot settings let you broadcast your mobile connection as a Wi-Fi signal to any device.

There will be three options: Mobile Hotspot, Bluetooth tethering, and USB tethering. Here’s how each of them works:

Mobile/Wi-Fi hotspot: This is the method you’ll probably be using the most. As soon as you flip the toggle to on, your phone will begin sending out its own WLAN network that other devices can find in their network list. By default, a random password will be assigned, but both that and the name can be changed. To connect, simply choose the correct name on your other device, type in the password, and you’ll be connected to the Internet.

Bluetooth tethering: When you set up a mobile hotspot, anyone is able to jump on to your phone’s network if they know your password. By tethering you can keep it private. First, you’ll need to pair your phone with the device you want to share your connection with, so head over to your Bluetooth settings, tap Pair new device, and select the device you want to pair.

Then head back to your phone’s network settings and flip on the Bluetooth tethering toggle. Next, you’ll need to go to your laptop and select Bluetooth PAN as your network connection and connect to your Android phone. That will initiate the tethering, and you can use your phone’s mobile data on your laptop. Just note: This method is significantly slower than a hotspot, but will use less battery life.

USB tethering: This option will appear grayed-out unless you have a USB-C cable connecting your phone to your laptop. Once plugged in and flipped on, it should be automatic, with your computer instantly recognizing the new network and connecting to it.

Obviously, whatever work you do will use your allotment of mobile data, so if you have a limited plan, be mindful of what you’re doing. Websites and email will be fine, but streaming video might be an issue, especially as 5G plans become more commonplace. So keep an eye on your data use.

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