The ability to use your Android phone as a Wi-Fi router can be an essential feature. Whether you’re sitting in a train station, want to avoid high Wi-Fi charges in a hotel, or if your internet goes down at home, it’s great.
With just a few taps of the screen, you can share your phone’s 4G data connection with a laptop or tablet. In this guide, we’ll take a look at how to set it up, and also how apps like Hotspot Control can help you bypass carrier restrictions.
Set Up a Wi-Fi Hotspot
First, let’s take a quick look at how to set up your phone as a Wi-Fi router. The feature should be available on all Android phones, expect where the carrier has chosen to remove it.
Go to Settings, and in the Wireless & networks section tap More, followed by Tethering & portable hotspot. You’ll now see all your options.
For wireless tethering, tap Set up Wi-Fi hotspot. In the window that opens, you will see options for a network name, security, password and network band. All of these are editable, or you can keep them at their defaults.
The name is the name you’ll see when you connect to the network on your laptop or tablet. It might be a good idea to change it to something unique. That way there’s no chance of confusing your phone’s network with someone else’s nearby.
You can turn off security if you want, although this will enable anyone else within range to connect, so it’s not a good idea. Tap Show password to see the password that has already been randomly created. Again, you can change it, but there’s no real need since you won’t ever have to memorize it — you’ll always have the phone with you, after all.
Finally, the band. The 5GHz band is less prone to interference, so if you’re in a busy location with lots of other wireless networks nearby, choosing this might give you better performance. Your connecting laptop or tablet also needs to support it, though.
Tap Save to store the network settings, then tap the Portable Wi-Fi hotspot toggle to turn it on. You can now connect to the network on your laptop in exactly the same way as you would connect to any other Wi-Fi network.
When you’re finished, remember to turn off the Wi-Fi hotspot. This will prevent any excess battery drain, data usage, and also enable your phone to connect to wireless networks again.
If Tethering is Blocked
While the Wi-Fi hotspot feature is built into Android, some carriers — especially in the US — might hide it. Where this has happened, there are a couple of apps you can try to restore it.
Hotspot Control is a very small, on- function app that lets you enable and disable the Wi-Fi hotspot when it has been removed from its normal place in the Settings. It completely replaces the options in Settings, so you also use the app to choose the network name and password as well. User reports in the support thread on the xda-developers.com website suggest it may not work on Android 6.0.1 devices or later.
If not, you can try FoxFi. This app is also available for free from the Play Store, where you can find a list of supported devices. These include:
- Samsung phones on Verizon, including Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge
- LG phones on Verizon, including the G5 and V10
- Sony phones on Verizon, including the Z2 and Z3
FoxFi also offers Bluetooth and USB tethering, for when Wi-Fi doesn’t work.
These apps don’t work in all instances, all you can do is give them a try. And even if they do work, they may not actually enable tethering on your device if your carrier has blocked it. You might only get as far as a screen inviting you to upgrade to a plan that allows tethering.
Other Ways to Tether
The Wi-Fi hotspot feature is the quickest and easiest way to turn your phone into a router. But Android comes with a couple of other options as well.
It’s simple to set up Bluetooth tethering. Just pair your phone with your laptop or tablet, then tap the Bluetooth tethering toggle in the Tethering & portable hotspot settings. When you’re done, remember to turn it off again.
Bluetooth can be less heavy on your battery than Wi-Fi, so it’s a good choice if you’re running low on power. It’s also likely to be somewhat slower, especially if you have an older device with an older version of Bluetooth. Another downside is that you can only tether one device at a time.
Connect your phone to your laptop or PC via a USB cable and the USB tethering option becomes available. Turn it on and you can get internet access on your computer over a wired connection.
USB tethering is faster and more reliable than a wireless option. It also doesn’t drain your phone’s battery — in fact, your laptop will actually charge your phone. This does mean, though, that your laptop’s battery will be shortened. It’s also less convenient: you need to have a USB cable on hand, it only works with devices with a USB port, and you can only use one device at a time.
As we’ve seen, some carriers hide, or even remove, the tethering options. Most others will put restrictions on tethering. This may include blocking it outright, asking you to buy a specific plan that supports it, limiting you to a certain amount of data, or slowing down the speeds you can achieve.
As such, using your phone as a wireless router is best seen as a last resort rather than a permanent solution. If you can find a nearby wireless hotspot to connect to, then you should probably give that a try first.
Do you use your Android phone as a wireless router? What are your experiences? Have you had any problems with your carrier? Tell us about it in the comments.
Originally written by Justin Pot on April 16th, 2013.