Turn Your Old Phone into a Mobile Hotspot
Published May 21, 2021
Instead of purchasing a mobile hotspot device, I turned my old iPhone into a personal hotspot. Don’t be misled into thinking that my old iPhone is relegated to hotspot status only. I still use the old iPhone as my primary phone. Yes, it’s an old iPhone 6S Plus. Ancient by today’s standards, but it’s not ready to be put out to pasture just yet (kind of like me).
Why A Mobile Hotspot?
It has always been my goal to do some traveling. Unfortunately, COVID put a damper on things, but as things open up, I’m prepping for travel. As a low-tech grandma and part-time geek, I like having internet access wherever I go.
When I first looked into an on-the-road internet, I saw expensive devices ranging from $500 and up! That was way more than I was willing to spend. However, with a little more research, I came across mobile hotspot devices. Thinking a mobile hotspot device was just what I needed, I bought one.
A Devoted Hotspot Device
I bought the Netgear Nighthawk M1 mobile hotspot. According to the info on Amazon, the Netgear Nighthawk is 4G compatible, could connect up to 20 devices and had a 1Gps speed. Best of all, it was unlocked so I could use it with any phone service provider. At a price tag of $268, it was far cheaper than $500, but still, that price is nothing to sneeze at.
I contacted Consumer Cellular, my phone service provider, and requested a SIM card for the hotspot device. When my device and sim card arrived, I couldn’t wait to put them together and use the mobile hotspot.
As instructed, I inserted the micro sim card into the device, turned the device on, downloaded the necessary Netgear app and began setting things up.
Hotspot Device Not Working
I’m not an expert on mobile hotspots but I’ve played around with a router or two and know just enough to get things working. Unfortunately, my basic knowledge couldn’t get things up and running.
After sufficient, tapping, clicking, unplugging, replugging of the device, phone, and Sim card (while uttering a few colorful words), I decided to call Consumer Cellular for help.
Consumer Cellular Customer Service
Let me start by saying that Consumer Cellular has the BEST customer service I’ve ever encountered. Maybe it’s because they’re used to dealing with older folks like me, but their service is number 1 in my book.
Okay, now back to the call.
The customer service agent asked for the device's IMEI number. The IMEI number is a microscopic multi-digit number usually written somewhere under the battery of a device. With magnifying glass in hand, I read and recited the digits to the customer service representative.
It didn’t take her long to realize what the problem was. Apparently, the hotspot device advertised as 4G compatible wasn’t. It was a 3G device and thus wouldn't work with my iPhone. Needless to say, the Netgear was immediately returned to Amazon for a full refund.
Cheaper Hotspot Solution
Hearing the disappointment in my voice, she then suggested I do something much cheaper. “Why not use your phone as a mobile hotspot?”
What an idea? Why hadn’t I thought of that? Actually, I did (or should I say my brother suggested it), but I thought my iPhone 6S Plus was too old to handle the task. And brother, if you're reading this...keep the "I told you so" to yourself. :)
The Consumer Cellular rep explained the only issue I would have with my phone is the battery. When used as a hotspot, the battery would drain faster. Broadcasting the wireless signal is energy-intensive, thus the quicker battery drain. Aside from that, the phone should work just fine.
In addition to saving $268 for an unnecessary device, by using my existing phone, I wouldn’t have to pay for the extra phone line or monthly service plan the hotspot would require. It’s sounding more and more like a win-win to me.
As far as the quick battery drain, that isn’t a problem. I’ve got several portable battery packs and a few Jackerys for travel.
New Use for My Old Phone
While I had the customer service rep on the phone, I went to my iPhone Settings - Cellular - Personal Hotspot.
When I accessed the Personal Hotspot option and attempted to enable “Allow others to Join” I received a message telling me to contact my service provider. Since I had my service provider on the phone, she was able to perform the necessary magic.
She told me to power off my phone, wait about a minute and then turn it back on. Once back on the Personal Hotspot option became available on the first level of the Settings menu. I tapped on it slid the switch which enabled “Allow Others to Join” and Voila! Grandma had a hotspot.
I chose a new hotspot password and gave it a try. It worked perfectly. Since my iPad is signed in to the same iCloud account as my iPhone, the iPad did not require a password. However, when using my mini pc, I had to insert a password to access the hotspot.
Taking it On the Road
The initial test run hotspot connection occurred within the house. My second trial was at a location where I’ve never been able to connect before. My favorite serene park. At the park, I powered up my iPad and with bated breath, attempted to connect to the hotspot, and lo and behold...everything worked well.
Low Data Mode
Turning on the personal hotspot automatically switches the phone into low data mode. If you want more information about what does and doesn’t happen in low data mode, check out Apple’s explanation.
Because I only use the hotspot for emails, research, and texting, low data mode hasn’t been a problem, so far. I’ll see if I feel the same way a couple of months from now.
Bottom line, for my purposes, my old iPhone works great as a mobile hotspot. It’s also saved me a bundle.
Felicia (aka Low Tech Grandma) is a wife, mother, grandmother, freelance writer and low-tech blogger.
Last Modified: 24 August 2023
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