How to: Using a tablet as a mobile hotspot

Summary:Most have heard of using a phone as a mobile hotspot to get laptops online. Tablets can also do that, and here’s how to do it right.

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Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Using a smartphone to get a laptop online adds value to the package, but it’s not without a downside. Turning the phone into a mobile hotspot when out and about can drain the battery quickly. Those who have a tablet with integrated 4G LTE may find it a better option to tap into the web.

There are a number of tablets available with 4G, Android models and the iPad chief among them. Amazon’s latest tablet, the Kindle Fire HDX, is also available with 4G LTE. Buyers may opt for the 4G option to allow the tablet to get online practically anywhere. This is handy, and it also opens the door to use the tablet as a mobile hotspot.

Public wi-fi hotspots are a mixed bag, either there’s not one when you need to get online with your laptop or the connection is terrible if there is. Having a mobile hotspot deals with both issues, and quite nicely.

Using a tablet as a mobile hotspot is very useful on business trips. You don’t have to plan your day around the presence of hotspots as you can use the tablet to get online anywhere. Most tablets can last up to 20 hours while serving as a hotspot, which is always useful.

iPad Personal Hotspot

I regularly use the iPad Air or the Kindle Fire HDX as a mobile hotspot, and it couldn’t be easier. On the iPad go into Settings and find the Personal Hotspot section. Tap on it and turn it on. The first time you’ll need to set a password to keep the connection to yourself.

iPad hotspot

Once it’s configured, it functions just like any wi-fi connection. On the laptop you’ll look for the network name assigned to it (you can change this) which is displayed on the hotspot activation page in case you forget. On the laptop select this as the wi-fi network and enter the password. That’s all it takes, you are now online thanks to the iPad.

Kindle Fire HDX WI-fi Hotspot

Using the Kindle Fire HDX as a hotspot is as easy as it is on the iPad. Swipe down from the top of the Kindle screen and tap on Wireless. Tap on wi-fi hotspot and activate it on the next page that appears. Like the iPad, you have to configure the hotspot network the first time, including assigning a password.

Kindle Fire HDX hotspot

The Kindle Fire HDX assigns a goofy network name, so you may want to change this to something that you can identify as your hotspot. That’s it, you can now get the laptop online over wi-fi using the hotspot

Multiple devices and a tip

Using the tablet as a mobile hotspot will not only get your laptop online, it can share the connection with multiple devices. This is useful on trips with colleagues or the family. Some tablets will get as many as 10 devices online with the single connection. Each device, no matter what type, gets online over wi-fi just like a laptop.

MacBook Hotspot

This tip for making the mobile hotspot connect automatically should work with most laptops. In the wi-fi network selection you can usually set a network to have priority over others. On MacBooks this is accomplished by dragging the connection up to the preferred order in the list of available wi-fi networks. This forces the laptop to use your tablet’s hotspot even if other networks that have been used before are in the list of detected networks.

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The mobile hotspot will only be selected over others if it’s turned on, so it’s safe to make it a preferred network. The result is the tablet’s mobile hotspot network will always be chosen if it’s turned on, assuming you wouldn’t have turned it on if you didn’t want to use it.

Using tablets as mobile hotspots has been a boon to my work. It also comes in handy on trips, freeing me from the worry of getting connected. It lets me thumb my nose at hotels that charge for connectivity. I just use the hotspot instead.

Some tablets can be used as a mobile hotspot over Bluetooth and USB connections to the laptop. These work fine but connecting over wi-fi is easier and the best method.

Buying a tablet with 4G LTE for occasional use as a mobile hotspot is probably not a good investment for most. Those planning on getting a tablet with 4G for other purposes will find using it as a hotspot will add value. Those who already own a tablet with 4G should not overlook the benefit of using it as a hotspot when needed.

Related:

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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