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A Major Downside to the New iPad’s Personal Hotspot Feature

A few weeks ago, I reviewed the LTE connectivity of the new iPad and basically loved everything about it. The speed, the ease of use, all great. I especially loved how the Personal Hotspot was free (after you purchase the data plan, that is). But since writing that review, I found something that I don’t love about the Personal Hotspot feature: the fact that it automatically shuts off when the connection is not being used. A good Wi-Fi network this does not make.

Here’s the problem in a little more detail. If you turn on the iPad’s Personal Hotspot feature, you have around 90 seconds to connect a device to it before it stops broadcasting itself as a Wi-Fi network. Once you do connect a device like an iPhone and start listening to, say, the Pandora Radio app, you have to keep streaming data and never ever stop or else, after a few minutes, the iPad will shut off the Wi-Fi network, and won’t let you reconnect.

Basically, if you stop using the Personal Hotspot for only a few minutes, you have to go through annoying steps to reactivate it. You have to grab your iPad, open up the iPad’s Settings, swipe the Personal Hotspot tab to Off, then swipe it to On again. Each time. Annoying.

The only solution is to continually download data. I found that a radio app with a low-bandwidth radio stream works nicely. For example, a 32 kbps streaming radio stream uses only 14 MB per hour. Still, that adds up over time. If someone knows of apps that sip small chunks of data continually over time and that work in the background, leave a note in the comments.

What’s the reasoning behind making it work this way? From Apple’s perspective, you could argue that it’s battery life, but Anandtech’s tests show that the new iPad can last 25 hours as a Personal LTE Hotspot, probably a lot longer if it is simply in a broadcast mode and not downloading data. It’s more likely that Verizon wants to prevent congestion on their new LTE network. By limiting its functionality, Verizon keeps people from using it like a regular old Wi-Fi network/router. But still, we paid for the 2 GB of bandwidth, we should be able to use it how we want.

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  1. Don Thompson says:

    Also posted on your ‘Review’ page…

    A minor but useful observation regarding the Personal Hotspot:

    It seems that as long as the iPad is on the Settings>Personal Hotspot page, other devices will re-connect after a few seconds automatically without turning the Personal Hotspot off and on again. In other words, just by having the Personal Hotspot Settings page live on the screen, the iPad keeps the hotspot active.

    While still not ideal, you can change the General>Auto-Lock setting to ‘Never’ and leave the iPad on the Personal Hotspot Settings page and your other devices will connect and re-connect automatically. You’ll still get several hours of battery life even with the screen on…especially if you dim it.

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