Need a quick hit of wireless Internet for your laptop when you're out and about? Here's how to set up a "personal WiFi hotspot" – also known as 'wireless tethering' – on your iPhone 5, 4 or 4S.
You can also create a personal hotspot on the 'new iPad' (aka iPad 3) if you're got a 3G iPad, thanks to a recent software update issued by Apple.
Sadly, the personal hotspot feature isn't available on the iPhone 3G or 3GS or the original iPad or iPad 2.
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How it works
The personal hotspot feature turns your iDevice's 3G signal into a short-range wireless hotspot, just like you'd find a cafe or hotel lobby.
But unlike those open networks your iPad or iPhone hotspot comes with automatic password protection so that nobody else can hitch a free ride on your private wireless network.
Up to five devices can connect to the net via your iPhone at once. That makes it ideal for connecting your laptop and a Wi-Fi iPad at the same time, for example, when you're on the road.
Here's what you'll see on your iPad's screen when the new Apple software is made available over the 3G network.
How to set up your iPhone or iPad hotspot
These instrutions apply to the new iPad as well as the iPhone 4 and 4S.
Go to the settings menu:
In settings, you'll see a 'personal hotspot' menu item. Tap it.
In the personal hotspot menu, slide the "personal hotspot" option to "on".
You'll note that Apple has allocated the connection a default password which is shown on this screen too. You can either use it (as each iPhone 4 gets a different random password) or change it to something you can more easily remember by tapping on it.
Then, on your computer's Wi-Fi menu, you should see your iPhone pop up in the list after a few seconds. The network name is the name of your iPhone in iTunes — in our case, "Dan's iPhone 4".
Once the network is selected and you've put in the password you selected in the last step (or Apple's default password), you'll be able to connect your tablet, laptop and any other Wi-Fi device to the net via your iPhone's data plan.
Bear in mind that the feature does tend to use up a fair bit of battery power, so use it sparingly if the phone is already on low battery power. If you've got the iPhone's power adaptor handy and are near an AC powerpoint, plug in your iPhone to top up the battery while you work.
If you're travelling, you can marry this personal hotspot feature up beautifully with a cheap data SIM card. For the US and UK, Tru SIM is outstandingly cheap, and in Asia, Bridge Alliance DataRoam Unlimited offers unlimited data in many Asian countries for a flat daily fee.
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