How I saved my CES Personal iPhone Hotspot

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 was ready to go after the first evening’s events, I realized that the hotel’s in-room Wi-Fi was having connectivity issues. The connection either wouldn’t work at all or was as slow as molasses. Thinking it was just a “good time” for the guests to get online, and I’d probably have better luck later that evening, I let it go. Fatal error. Throughout the entire 7 day trip the internet never worked reliably enough for me to get any work done from my room.


I panicked. As someone tasked with writing and publishing content and uploading lots of photos and videos from the show, the inability to connect could set me back even further than it did. And my schedule was too tight (and my sleep was severely deprived) to bother asking for a room switch (and I’ll likely have the same problem in another room anyway). For a journalist at the biggest trade show of the year, it was like stepping into the plot of a horror movie.

So, what did I do to get over this horrible experience? The end of my horror story, and the hero who saved me from being beaten to death with unusable Wi-Fi, was Personal Hotspot through iPhone software and a wireless carrier plan. Let me explain.


What is iPhone Personal Hotspot?

Personal Hotspot is a feature that’s standard on every iPhone, including the best iPhones and many of the best Android phones like the Pixel 7 Pro. It allows you to wirelessly connect the phone to another device, such as an iPhone, iPad, a second Android device, or, in my case, a MacBook Pro M1 computer (or computer from other brands). Once connected, you can take advantage of the phone’s cellular network and connect to the Internet. You can browse web pages, stream video, check emails, and more while connected to a personal hotspot. But while doing so, you’re using that device’s cellular data, not Wi-Fi. It’s also easy to share Personal Hotspot from an iPhone to an Android device, it should be noted, and vice versa.

Personal point of contact for rescue

Using Personal Hotspot on your iPhone is simple: see our How to Use Personal Hotspot on iPhone article for detailed instructions. It is equally simple on Android devices. But there are a few things I had to consider before going on the broadcast festival.

The first is that Personal Hotspot uses cellular data, which can add up quickly, especially with intensive tasks like uploading videos. My plan includes 25GB of data, but it’s technically unlimited. This means that once you exceed 25GB, speeds are slowed to compensate until the next billing cycle, at which time the 25GB at 5G speeds resume again. That’s still more than enough to do things like stream video (a one-hour movie in HD would take about three gigs), let my son use his iPad’s hotspot on road trips, and sometimes plug in my computer to work for a few hours if I’m on the go. Crowding. The crowding at CES was so great that it necessitated the decision.

A week after I got back, based on the updated stats in my carrier’s app, I used roughly 9GB of cellular data while I was at the show. This wasn’t all from the Hotspot but it did include all the work I did from my hotel room (thankfully the Press Room Wi-Fi worked in both conference centers.) That still left me with 16.5GB of data to use for the last 11 days of the cycle my billing. Having a good plan ensures that you don’t have to worry if you end up in a scenario like mine. However, if you have a smaller data plan, it’s important to consider this and use Personal Hotspot sparingly, for light tasks, or just emergencies.

The second is the battery life. Use your phone as a personal hotspot It can drain your phone’s battery faster than other apps, so power is key. Working in my room has not been 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 isn’t working — and let’s face it, Personal Hotspot can be tricky sometimes — you can connect the phone to a computer via USB and then connect to its wireless cellular data that way. I always suggest keeping a spare cable (and a USB-A-to-USB-C adapter if needed) in your bag just in case you ever need it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to a wired connection. But as long as you have a cable, it’s that easy. Bluetooth is another option that drains the battery more slowly but can also lead to a slower connection. For my tasks, which included uploading large videos and photos and posting to sites, I couldn’t risk anything but breakneck speeds.

In the frustration of trying to meet deadlines, I wirelessly connected my MacBook Pro M1 to my iPhone 14 via Personal Hotspot and away I worked. Communication was flawless. I uploaded half-gig video files each in minutes, photos in seconds, and was able to get my work done without a hitch.

Personal Hotspot is a low-rated iPhone feature

MacBook with iPhone, backpack and camera.

Over the years, technology has surpassed anything I could have imagined. However, having consistently reliable Wi-Fi anywhere and everywhere is still an issue. In a day and age where we are confused when it comes to supposed Wi-Fi speeds, mesh networks, powerful routers, 5G, WiFi6, and network extenders, the fact of the matter is that networks sometimes Just don’t work.

In my case, at CES, it is It just didn’t work at the worst possible time. Without my personal iPhone Hotspot, I’d probably spend more time than I’d like in the Lobby Bar sipping red wine while using a better Wi-Fi signal on the main level, or in a hotel coffee shop that’s chugging a lot more java than I should be. It will be the same for Android users, who may find the Hotspot feature on their devices keeping them out of trouble one day as well.

The Personal Hotspot feature is one of the most underrated features of smartphones from both Apple and Android. It can happen if you are in a jam. With these tips and using them in moderation, you’ll find that Personal Hotspot may be your boon someday, too.

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