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Why Is My Hotspot Not Working? Android & Apple​​

a cell phone with an x on the screen

Hotspot connectivity is highly convenient whether you use an Apple or Android device — but sometimes the hotspot feature on your phone goes on the fritz just when you need it to connect your laptop to the internet in that cafe with no free Wi-Fi.

If you aren’t sure why your hotspot isn’t working, we’ll break down several potential problems that Android and Apple devices may run into, as well as fixes for those problems you can implement in a matter of minutes.

What Is a Hotspot?

“Hotspot” is a term that’s been around for nearly 200 years, but it has only recently applied to phone tech. We always hear the word in modern vocabulary, but what is a hotspot? 

The simplest definition of a hotspot is an internet connection area. In more technical terms, a hotspot is a physical location that offers Internet access over a wireless local area network (WLAN) through a router connected to a service provider. These are the spots, or areas, where your devices can connect wirelessly to the web. You probably call them “Wi-Fi hotspots” or “Wi-Fi connections.”

You’ll find them in public spaces like coffee shops, hotels, airports, and even airplanes. Most often they’re free, but occasionally some require payment.

Mobile Hotspot

A mobile hotspot is like having a personal Wi-Fi network in your pocket.

Using your smartphone’s data connection, a mobile hotspot lets you connect other devices, like your laptop, to the Internet, a process often referred to as “tethering.” It’s handy when there’s no WiFi signal at the moment.

What can cause it to go wrong? Let’s break down some of the most common causes. 

1. Personal Hotspot Isn’t Turned On in Settings

Sometimes it’s the simplest issue, but it’s worth covering just in case. One of the most straightforward reasons your hotspot might not be functioning is simply because it hasn’t been turned on in your device’s settings. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often this gets overlooked.

How To Fix This Hotspot Issue

Fixing this issue is simple. Here’s a quick guide to ensure your personal hotspot is up and running.

For Android Users:

  1. Head over to “Settings.”
  2. Tap on “Connections” or “Network & Internet,” depending on your device.
  3. Select “Mobile Hotspot and Tethering.”
  4. Flip the switch next to “Mobile Hotspot” to “On.”

And that’s it! You’re now broadcasting your own Wi-Fi network.

For Apple Users:

  1. Open “Settings.”
  2. Tap on “Personal Hotspot” or “Cellular” and then “Personal Hotspot,” depending on your iOS version.
  3. Toggle the “Allow Others to Join” option to “On.”

Just like that, you’ve turned your iPhone into a hotspot hub.

After you’ve turned on your hotspot, whether on an iPhone or an Android, it’s a good idea to check a few things:

  • Password Protection: Ensure your hotspot has a password to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Data Usage: Keep an eye on your data usage, as hotspots can consume data quickly.
  • Battery Life: Running a hotspot can drain your device’s battery faster. Consider plugging in your device while using the hotspot feature.

Hotspots are a great tool for keeping you connected on the go. If you’re looking for the right plan to support your hotspot needs without the hassle, check out our guide to hotspot data plans.

2. You Don’t Have the WiFi Password

If you have a phone hotspot and it’s password-protected, you’ll need to look at the password and ensure that you’ve entered it correctly on the device you want to connect.

For example, you have your phone with a hotspot and want to connect your friend’s phone to the hotspot. This is especially true if you use the default hotspot password, which is often very secure – AKA complicated.

If your friend enters the wrong password for the hotspot network, they won’t be able to connect, no matter what. The same is true if you want to connect to a local hotspot but don’t know the password to the wireless network.

How To Fix

The first troubleshooting fix is obvious: type in the correct password for the personal hotspot connection. But what if that doesn’t solve the issue?

In that case, try changing the password on your hotspot. This may reset the device’s hotspot password driver enough that your friend can connect.

Make your hotspot password something simpler (although not easy to guess) so your friend doesn’t have as much chance of entering the wrong password by accident.

3. Allow Others To Join Isn’t Turned On

Wondering why no one can connect to your hotspot? It might just be because the “Allow Others to Join” option isn’t activated. This one’s most common for iPhone and iPad users. As its name implies, the option allows other people to join your hotspot connection. Turned off, it locks others out from joining your Wi-Fi.

How To Fix This Hotspot Issue

Follow these steps to allow others to join your hotspot:

  1. Go to “Settings” on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap “Personal Hotspot” or select “Personal Hotspot” under the “Cellular” menu.
  3. Here, you’ll find the “Allow Others to Join” option. Simply toggle this to “On.”

This action makes your hotspot visible and accessible to others, allowing them to enjoy your internet connection.

4. Your Device Isn’t On the Latest Version of iOS or Android Software

Something as innocuous as an outdated operating system can be the culprit behind your hotspot hiccups.

How To Fix This Hotspot Issue

Thankfully, everything you need to do is built right into your device. That’s true whether you’re using an Android or iPhone. Let’s look at the iPhone’s operating system first, iOS.

For iOS Devices:

  1. Open “Settings.”
  2. Head to “General,” then “Software Update.”
  3. If there’s an update available, tap “Download and Install.”

For Android Devices:

  1. Go to “Settings.”
  2. Scroll down to “System,” then “System Update.”
  3. Follow the prompts to download and install any available updates.

Updating your device can resolve a multitude of issues, not just with hotspots but with your device’s overall performance. So an update might be in order if you’re running into problems that don’t seem to go away after a restart.

5. Maximize Compatibility Isn’t Turned On

For users with newer Apple devices, like the 14th-generation iPhone 12 or later, the 11-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation or later), the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th generation or later), or the iPad mini (6th generation), there’s a feature called “Maximize Compatibility.” 

This is particularly useful when connecting older devices to your hotspot.

How To Fix This Hotspot Issue

Activating Maximize Compatibility is simple: 

  1. Open “Settings” and go to “Personal Hotspot.”
  2. Look for the “Maximize Compatibility” option and toggle it on.

This setting adjusts your hotspot to be more compatible with a wider range of devices, ensuring everyone can connect regardless of their gadget’s age. 

Remember that while this can improve connections, it could also result in slower internet use. There’s a trade-off to consider.

6. Your Internet Connection Isn’t Working

Whether you have an Android or Apple device, sometimes your Internet connection lets you down.

You can go into your phone’s settings app on both device types and ensure all your cellular data options are turned on. Normally, your phone will tell you whether you are in an area with bad or slow Internet reception.

Remember, hotspots only work if your phone has access to the internet in general. Once this is done, it can produce a Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices to piggyback off of.

Similarly, if your Internet connection isn’t working because you’ve exceeded your mobile data plan’s limit for the month, you may not be able to use your hotspot (or, even if you can get it running, it may be useless).

How To Fix This Hotspot Issue

Open your settings app as described above, then turn on your cellular data. If you are on a prepaid plan and have run out of cellular data, see if you can upgrade your plan by calling your cell plan provider.

If you can’t connect to the Internet because of your location, move out of the area and try setting your hotspot up again. If none of these methods work, move on to other potential problems.

7. The Wi-Fi of the Connected Device Isn’t Working

The problem may be with the Wi-Fi connection of the device you want to connect to your phone’s hotspot.

For example, if your device is working and you have hotspot cellular data to work with, but your friend’s laptop or cell phone won’t connect to the hotspot, it could be that the problem is on their end.

Test this by trying to connect your phone hotspot to another phone or computer. If that works, the problem is not your hotspot – it’s the device trying to connect to the hotspot. 

How To Fix This Hotspot Issue

There are plenty of reasons why this could be the case and just as many possible fixes.

For example, you can turn the Wi-Fi network setting on the to-be-connected device on and off again to see if that solves the issue. Or you can try a reboot for the phone — this works for Samsung and Apple iOS phones.

If the problems are serious with your mobile network, you may have to reset network settings. 

This problem is much more likely if you are trying to connect an older laptop or desktop to your phone hotspot, as those older computers may not have up-to-date drivers that allow them to interface with modern smartphone hotspots.

8. You’re Using Low Power Mode

On Android and Apple devices like iPhones, battery saver or low power mode may prevent anyone from using your phone’s hotspot. That’s because battery-saver mode limits your phone’s nonessential functions to conserve battery.

While this isn’t supposed to prevent you from starting or connecting to a hotspot, it can happen, particularly on Android phones.

How To Fix This Hotspot Issue

Fixing this is similarly easy: turn the battery-saver mode off and see if you or your friend can connect to your phone’s hotspot afterward.

If turning off battery-saver mode doesn’t solve the problem, consider recharging your phone to a higher power level. It may be that your phone won’t turn hotspot functionality back on until it has enough juice to run the operation entirely.

Remember, hotspots do take a lot of power.

9. Your Device Isn’t Paired With USB or Bluetooth

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t just have to connect to your phone’s hotspot using Wi-Fi. If your Wi-Fi hotspot isn’t working, you might try connecting to your phone’s hotspot using Bluetooth or USB connections. 

How To Fix This Hotspot Issue

Apple and Android devices have different ways of connecting to USB or Bluetooth connections. In both cases, you need to open your Settings apps and find the alternative connections from the default Wi-Fi connections your phone may be trying to reach.

10. Your Software Update Is Causing Problems

Sometimes you haven’t updated your software and that’s the problem. But it’s also possible that the latest software update itself caused your hotspot problem. This may be the case for your phone’s hotspot if none of the above fixes have worked.

How To Fix This Hotspot Issue

Unfortunately, you can only fix this problem if you have an Android device. Android smartphones let you roll back software updates if they don’t work or you don’t like them.

You can do this by entering your phone’s settings, going to the update section, and tapping Roll Back. Note that the exact process will depend on your phone and the Android OS version your phone runs on.

While iOS doesn’t let you roll back software updates, it’s worth pointing out that such issues are quite rare with iOS updates. Apple is known for its quick response times in fixing any problems that arise with new software updates. So, if you’re an iPhone user and your hotspot isn’t working post-update, a fix is probably already on the way or available.

11. Automatic Hotspot Switching Is On

Some Android phones also have a feature called automatic hotspot switching. Your hotspot’s data connection may turn off if a device isn’t connected for a few minutes or more.

How To Fix This Hotspot Issue

Fortunately, this is an easy fix to get your hotspot connection up and running. Open up the Settings app on your Android device, then:

  • Tap Connections.
  • Tap Mobile Hotspot and Tethering.
  • Tap Mobile Hotspot.
  • Tap Auto Hotspot’s toggle and turn it off. You’ll know you’ve done it correctly when the toggle has a gray background.

Then, once you turn your hotspot on, it will stay on until you manually turn it off.

12. Your Frequency Band Is Too Limited

Your hotspot may automatically run on a 2.4 GHz frequency band if you have a newer Android phone.

Still, your newer phone may allow you to change your signal frequency or may automatically run on a 5 GHz frequency band instead. This alters the frequency of your phone’s signal to make a hotspot.

5 GHz bands are faster, but some devices may not see a 5 GHz hotspot under possible connections if they are too old.

How To Fix This Hotspot Issue

If you suspect the to-be-connected device is too old to detect a 5 GHz frequency:

  • Open the Settings app on your Android
  • Tap Connections
  • Tap Mobile Hotspot and Tethering
  • Tap Mobile Hotspot
  • Tap Configure
  • Tap Band
  • Tap 2.4 GHz

The Bottom Line

As you can see, there are many potential reasons why your hotspot may not work. Whether you have an Apple or Android device, the above fixes should help you get your Internet connectivity back to where it should be in no time.

Of course, you may also have an outdated phone. In that case, it may be time to upgrade your mobile. Our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder below can help you compare dozens of different phone offers to find the right smartphone for your needs. 

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