In early January, I attended CES 2023 for the first time in two years (and 18th time overall). After checking into my hotel and setting up my computer so it would be ready to go after my first evening events, I realized the hotel in-room Wi-Fi was having issues connecting. The connection either wouldn’t work at all or was slow as molasses. Figuring it was just “high time” for guests to connect online, and I’d likely have better luck later that evening, I let it go. Big mistake. Throughout the entire 7-day trip, the Internet never worked reliably enough for me to get any work done from my room.
I was panicked. As someone tasked with writing and posting content and uploading tons of photos and videos from the show, not being able to connect could have set me back further than it did. And my schedule was too jam-packed (and my sleep severely impaired) to bother requesting a room switch (and potentially facing the same issue in another room anyway). For a journalist at the biggest trade show of the year, it was like being thrust into the plot of a horror movie.
So, what did I do to survive the horrifying experience? The ending to my horror story, and the hero that saved me from being bludgeoned to death by unusable Wi-Fi, was Personal Hotspot through my iPhone and wireless carrier plan. Let me explain.
What is iPhone Personal Hotspot?
Personal Hotspot is a feature that comes standard on every iPhone, including the best iPhones and many of the best Android phones like the Pixel 7 Pro. It allows you to connect the phone to another device wirelessly, like a second iPhone, iPad, Android device, or, in my case, a MacBook Pro M1 computer (or computer from other brands). Once connected, you can leverage the phone’s cellular network and get online. You can surf web pages, stream video, check emails, and more while connected to a Personal Hotspot. But while doing so, you are using the cellular data of that device, not Wi-Fi. It’s easy to share the Personal Hotspot from an iPhone to an Android device as well, it should be noted, and vice versa.
Personal Hotspot to the rescue
Using Personal Hotspot on an iPhone is simple: see my how-to-use Personal Hotspot on an iPhone article for detailed directions. It’s equally as simple from Android devices. But there are a few things I had to keep in mind before going on a streaming fest.
First is that Personal Hotspot uses cellular data, which can quickly add up, especially with intensive tasks like uploading videos. My plan includes 25GB of data, but it’s technically unlimited. This means once I go over the 25GB, the speeds are slowed down to compensate until my next billing cycle, at which time the 25GB at 5G speeds resumes once again. That’s still more than enough to do things like stream video (a one-hour movie in HD will use up about three gigs), let my son use the Hotspot for his iPad on road trips, and occasionally connect my computer to work for a few hours if I’m in a jam. The jam at CES was a huge one that warranted the decision.
A week since my return, based on the updated stats in my carrier app, I used nearly 9GB of cellular data while at the show. This wasn’t all from Hotspot but did include all the work I did from my hotel room (thankfully, the Press Room Wi-Fi in both convention centers did work.) That still left me with 16.5GB of data to use for the last 11 days of my billing cycle. Having a good plan ensures you don’t have to worry if you ever end up in a scenario like mine. If you have a smaller data plan, however, it’s important to consider that and use Personal Hotspot sparingly, for light tasks, or emergencies only.
The second is battery life. Using your phone as a personal hotspot can drain your phone’s battery quicker than other apps, so power is key. Working in my room wasn’t an issue since I left the phone plugged in. On the go, I used a portable battery pack to boost the phone as needed.
Third, if Personal Hotspot is not working – and let’s face it, sometimes Personal Hotspot can be finicky – you can connect the phone to a computer via USB and then connect to its cellular wireless data that way. I’d suggest always keeping a spare cable (and USB-A-to-USB-C adapter if needed) in your bag just in case you ever need it. Thankfully, I didn’t have to resort to a wired connection. But as long as you have a cable, it’s just as simple to do. Bluetooth is another option that drains the battery much more slowly but may also lead to a slower connection. For my tasks, which included uploading videos, large photos, and posting to sites, I couldn’t risk anything but blazing-fast speeds.
In the throes of my frustration trying to meet deadlines, I wirelessly connected my MacBook Pro M1 to the iPhone 14 via Personal Hotspot and worked away. The connection was flawless. I uploaded video files as large as half-a-gig each in minutes, photos in seconds, and was able to get my work done without a hitch.
Personal Hotspot is an under-rated iPhone feature
Over the years, technology has surpassed anything I could have ever imagined. Yet having consistently reliable Wi-Fi anywhere and everywhere still remains an issue. In a day and age where we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to supposed Wi-Fi speeds, mesh networks, powerful routers, 5G, WiFi6, and network extenders, the truth of the matter is that networks sometimes just don’t work.
In my case, at CES, it just didn’t work at the worst possible time. Without iPhone Personal Hotspot, I would likely have spent more time than I wanted to in the Lobby Bar sipping red wine while using the better Wi-Fi signal on the main level, or in the hotel coffee shop fueling up with way too much java than I should be. The same would be the case for Android users, who might find the Hotspot feature on their devices saves them in a bind one day, too.
The Personal Hotspot feature is one of the most underrated ones for smartphones from both Apple and Android. It can come through if you’re in a jam. With these tips and using them sparingly, you’ll find Personal Hotspot could be your saving grace one day, too.