Mobile hotspots are great. They empower you to connect your laptop or tablet to the web wherever you are. But there are always caps to the amount of data you can use, and the overages regularly go over the top.
If you wish to avoid overages and get high value from your mobile hotspot, there are a few things you can do.
The Limitations of a Standard Mobile Hotspot
If you still live in the Stone Age, a mobile hotpot is a data connection that can be tethered to another device, such as a tablet or laptop, in order to maintain Internet access. Most cellular networks with a data plan have a mobile hotspot built in, but you can also purchase one separately to avoid busting data caps. More on that later.
It’s an excellent solution for spotty Internet connections, especially if you work while traveling, but there are limitations. First, you need a fairly strong data connection to transfer power to your other devices.
If you’re in an area where data connection is weak, you might not be able to access the web on your device. Although data dead zones are steadily lowering, there are still many areas where your data service may not work, especially if you’re using your hotspot during travel.
Unfortunately, data connections can be painfully slow. You can be compelled to find the nearest free WiFi hotspot. That’s hardly an ideal situation for getting the most from your hotspot.
Then there’s the high cost of data overages. Unlike a broadband connection, you’re allotted only a set amount of data for your hotspot, even if you have unlimited service. If you go over, you’ll be paying through the nose for the extra.
To avoid busting your data caps and get the most out of your hotspot, here’s what you can do.
Purchase a Reliable Mobile Hotspot
Instead of relying on your phone’s hotspot, purchase a reliable mobile hotspot with a separate data plan. This can be used for any online pursuits outside of your smartphone, and you’re much less likely to go over your data limits.
Just make sure you purchase a completely unlocked mobile hotspot that will work with any GSM network rather than getting a carrier-specific model. This will increase your flexibility with the device and make it more useful for you.
Be Smart About Hotspot Time
Certain activities require more data than others. Instead of downloading content through your hotspot, download files on WiFi so they’re available when you go on data.
You could also open the files you need on your browser and then turn off your hotspot to conserve data. It’s a more time-consuming method, but it will do the trick.
Finally, don’t use your hotspot for unnecessary actions. You’ll use less data if you surf social media and play videos on your phone than you if you use a hotspot tether.
Know How Much Data You Use
Should you worry about going over your data cap? Identify how much data you actually use with your hotspot. Your cell carrier will show how much of your allotted data has been used in the hotspot setting.
You can find that information in iOS under the Cellular heading and under the Cellular Data Usage heading in Android. The information will let you know whether you’re in any danger of exceeding your limit.
Try Metering Your Connection
If you’re using a device that runs Windows 8 or 10, you can turn on the Metered Connection option. This enables you to choose a predetermined data amount for your hotspot. Once you’ve reached that total, you won’t be able to use your hotspot anymore. This is inconvenient if you’re working on something important when it goes off, but at least you won’t be charged extra.
A hotspot is a great solution to connection challenges, but it’s not a cure-all. Don’t expect too much from a device that depends on cell towers and data spots. Getting the most from your hotspot is usually a matter of lowering your expectations.