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16 ways to use Personal Hotspot with Shortcuts in iOS 16

Photography of the Set Personal Hotspot action open in Shortcuts for iPhone, with an iPad visible in the background.
(Image credit: Matthew Cassinelli)

In the iOS 16 developer and public betas — and soon the full release — Apple has introduced a new action to the Shortcuts app to control the Personal Hotspot feature of the iPhone.

Personal Hotspot enables non-cellular devices to connect to your iPhone directly and utilize its cellular connection to provide Wi-Fi to your other devices. This works great for your favorite iPad or Mac, making it easy to utilize your bigger screen when out of the home or away from your main networks.

Many people who use the feature tend to stay connected with Personal Hotspot automatically, or simply just don't connect when they're away from Wi-Fi — if you need it, you already know, and if you don't, you're fine without it.

Instead, the addition to Shortcuts presents Personal Automation opportunities for discovering new situations you hadn't yet thought of, building new workflows in particular locations, generally while traveling and in specific connectivity situations.

In this piece, I asked for Personal Hotspot ideas from the Shortcuts community, then took their responses and found the best Personal Automations in Shortcuts to get you started:

(Author's note: Personal Automations can't be shared from Shortcuts, so you can set these specific triggers up using the names and combined screenshots for reference).

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Location automations

To start off, many replies included ideas that'd work well with the location-type Personal Automations for Shortcuts — Arrive and Leave.

(Image credit: Future)

Personal devices at work

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Will Tomlinson made a great suggestion to use Personal Hotspot if you need to connect your own device on a work network — this would work well when triggered with an Arrive automation set to your work address, with an optional filter for Time of Day.

Coffee shops

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Developer Matt Corey made the recommendation for using Personal Hotspot at any working location that isn't your typical spot — setting up a Personal Automation for when you Arrive at your favorite coffee shop can make Shortcuts notify you to toggle the setting as you show up.

At kids' practice 

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Kevin Rothermel mentioned he utilizes Personal Hotspot while his kids are swimming — if you have something similar to swim practice at specific times of day/days of the week, you can set those options in an Arrive automation as well.

Traveling automations

Many people tend to use Personal Hotspot while traveling, since they're consistently away from a Wi-Fi network and don't want to be without their iPads or Mac.

Personal Automations for the Travel focus mode and the Before/After I Commute are great opportunities to trigger Personal Hotspot as needed — plus one reader's suggestion prompted a unique use of the Alarm trigger.

In addition, NFC tags, App automations, and CarPlay work well too:

(Image credit: Future)

Travel Focus mode

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Doc Rock mentioned his use of Personal Hotspot while traveling — he could set up a Focus mode for Travel, then use the Personal Automation trigger to turn the hotspot on and off when the mode is activated/deactivated.

Before I Commute

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Developer Simon Støvring mentioned using Personal Hotspot on the train — he could utilize the Before I Commute automation to have his device notify him 15 minutes or so before his regular commute and it can turn Personal Hotspot on (plus another 15 minutes after he gets home).

Set Alarm for data

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Finally, Josh D mentioned his concern for using Personal Hotspot because it could burn through data — in response to that, I realized you could utilize the Alarm automation and have the trigger "When My Alarm Stops" and then turn Personal Hotspot off.

That way, any time you're concerned about data, you could ask Siri to set an alarm 30 minutes or so from now and, when it goes off, Personal Hotspot will automatically get turned off in the background.

(Image credit: Future)

NFC cards

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Zach Honig mentioned he uses Personal Automations on Amtrak instead of their overcrowded network — I figured if he has a physical Amtrak commuter card, it might be its own NFC card; he could scan that with Shortcuts and then tap his phone to his Amtrak card to turn Personal Hotspot on.

Connected devices

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Ryan Blair also uses Personal Hotspot on his commute, instead paired with his Kindle to sync his highlights to the cloud — I figured an App automation for the Kindle app could make this easy any time he's reading, in addition to while riding the subway.

Meetings

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The folks at E/F Architects mentioned their use of Personal Hotspot at client sites — I figured they could turn Personal Hotspot on after they deactivate CarPlay from a work vehicle so their devices are connected as soon as they step out of the car.

Connectivity automations

Finally, while Personal Hotspot works great at specific places or times when you're away from known networks, there are also many other situations when you'll need to connect.

Sometimes it's for security reasons, others for friendliness, or even a better signal available — and then there are the various levels of semi-connectedness where you're better off piggybacking over cellular instead of a bad Wi-Fi network:

(Image credit: Future)

Security

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Taylor Olmstead made the excellent recommendation to use Personal Hotspot over Wi-Fi every time you're working with sensitive data — it's just not worth it taking a risk from someone else's network when you're carrying one around with you already.

For this, you can actually automate the process quite seamlessly too — try an App automation and set it for all your banking apps, then you'll automatically move to your phone's network any time you're accessing financial data.

Sharing with friends

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Mikel Potts generously offers his cell network to friends if they're not connected — the Messages automation could be set up for some interesting situations as a prompt to share your network.

Better 5G signal

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Dave Mark brought up the good point that 5G speeds can sometimes be faster, so I figured folks on unlimited plans could use the Leave automation as a prompt to turn Personal Hotspot on any time they leave home so they're not utilizing slower networks.

Combined screenshot of a Time of Day automation set to weekdays at 5pm, an NFC automation, a Work focus automation, and a Home focus automation.

(Image credit: Future)

Bad connections

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Twitter user Jer Bear brought up spotty Wi-Fi, which can particularly be a problem for shared networks like apartment buildings where usage spikes in the afternoon and evenings.

To work against this, I figured a Time Automation set for Monday-Friday starting at 5 p.m. could turn Personal Hotspot on so you automatically jump off the network and onto your phone's instead.

No signal

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It sounds like Ryan Pflug has a great setup, because he needs connection when he's outside working — but being too far away from the router, he can't connect.

I figured an NFC tag somewhere in his outdoor office could do the trick, toggling Personal Hotspot on/off when necessary.

Low monthly data plan

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Julian of Productivity Matters shares his connection with his wife when she's out of data, so I figured any time they're home together would be a good time to turn Personal Hotspot on — setting up a Home focus mode and using the Focus automation would work well there.

No data plan at all

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Finally, user Anilu mentioned they regularly work with clients to provide network access when they don't have a plan at all — I figured a Work mode automation would do well for them so they're always ready; and maybe a second "Turn off Hotspot" ready on the Home Screen as well.

Automate your personal network

As you can see, tying Personal Hotspot into Shortcuts' Personal Automations provides a wide range of opportunities to share your connection when needed while avoiding using it unnecessarily.

Plus, there are clever ways to deactivate Personal Hotspot before you run out of data — the Alarm automation in particular isn't as obvious as a Travel focus mode, for example.

And finally, the variety of responses just goes to show how different automation is for everyone — using Personal Hotspot might be your daily driver or a feature you've never even tried.

Either way, taking advantage of Shortcuts with a little bit of clever thinking can get you a long way. Enjoy automating with Shortcuts in iOS 16 — and be sure to check out all the other actions new to this release as well.

Matthew Cassinelli is a writer, podcaster, video producer, and Shortcuts creator. After working on the Workflow app before it was acquired by Apple and turned into Shortcuts, Matthew now shares about how to use Shortcuts and how to get things done with Apple technology.


On his personal website MatthewCassinelli.com, Matthew has shared hundreds & hundreds of shortcuts that anyone can download, plus runs a membership program for more advanced Shortcuts users. He also publishes a weekly newsletter called “What’s New in Shortcuts.”