Auto-Join Hotspot

A new setting in iOS 13, iPadOS and macOS Catalina lets you control how and when your client Apple device should join a Personal Hotspot running on a nearby iPhone or cellular iPad in case no Wi-Fi networks are currently available. To learn how to manage this feature and prevent unwanted cellular data charges, you’re wholeheartedly recommended to follow our tutorial.

What is Personal Hotspot?

Your iPhone has long supported creating a software hotspot.

Called Personal Hotspot, this handy feature lets you share your carrier’s cellular data connection from your iPhone or cellular-enabled iPad with other devices. A client device sees a nearby Personal Hotspot as a Wi-Fi network, and you can optionally set a password.

What if no Wi-Fi networks are available?

Apple has introduced some changes to how your devices behave when there’s no known Wi-Fi networks nearby, like a toggle for allowing a client device to automatically join the Personal Hotspot that has been set up on a nearby iPhone or cellular iPad.

They’re calling this Auto-Join Hotspot and it’s set to on by default. Having made its debut in iOS 13, iPadOS and macOS Catalina 10.15, this useful new toggle is available on your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch mobile devices as well as on Mac computers.

EXPLAINER: How iOS determine which Wi-Fi networks to join automatically

This failover method allows a client device to maintain network connectivity in case of a poor Wi-Fi connection or signal by connecting to an iPhone or cellular iPad with Personal Hotspot and logged into the same iCloud account. When the setting is on, it can even enable Personal Hotspot on the other device in case it’s disabled.

Why you should disable Auto-Join Hotspot

It’s all about controlling your cellular data consumption. Before iOS 13, you had to manually join a hotspot if Wi-Fi was acting up.

In iOS 13 and iPadOS, your iPhone’s or iPad’s Personal Hotspot is persistent so that a client device can remain connected to the software hotspot even when you put it to sleep.

In conjunction with the new Auto-Join Hotspot setting, this removes friction in terms of using Personal Hotspot. But if you’re on a metered cellular data plan, you may want to stop your Apple devices from automatically joining a Personal Hotspot without permission.

iPhone Personal Hotspot Auto-Join Hotspot

The Auto-Join Hotspot toggle in iOS 13.

I can’t tell you the number of times I forgot my iPad connected to my iPhone’s Personal Hotspot before realizing it’d  already downloaded app and content updates.

Yet another example: maybe your home Wi-Fi was acting up, which may have prompted your Mac to automatically join an iPhone’s Personal Hotspot. A host device sees a hotspot as a regular Wi-Fi connection, meaning a Mac connected to a Personal Hotspot may silently update your Photos library, decide that it’s now safe to download that pending macOS update etc.

As convenient as this can be, at least in in certain scenarios, you might want to disable this feature in order to prevent unwanted cellular data charges, and we show you how.

How to manage Auto-Join Hotspot

To change whether or not your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac should use a nearby Personal Hotspot every time no saved Wi-Fi networks are available, follow the steps below.

1) Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad with the iOS 13.0 software or later or an iPad with the iPadOS update. On your Mac, click the System Preferences icon in the Dock or choose the System Preferences option from the Apple menu in the Finder.

2) In iOS 13 and iPad OS, choose Wi-Fi from the main list of the Settings app. In macOS Catalina, click the Network icon in the System Preferences window.

3) On iPhone or iPad, tap the option Auto-Join Hotspot, then choose an option:

iPhone Personal Hotspot

Don’t choose Automatic if you’re on a metered plan.

The available options are:

  • Off: Stop this device from automatically discovering and joining nearby Personal Hotspots if no Wi-Fi network is available.
  • Ask to Join: Allow this device to automatically discover nearby Personal Hotspots when Wi-Fi is unavailable. You’ll be asked before a hotspot is joined.
  • Automatic: Use this option to have this device automatically discover and connect to a nearby Personal Hotspo when no Wi-Fi networks are available.

On your Mac, select a Wi-Fi network in the left hand column and enable/disable the feature by toggling the checkbox next the option labeled with the text “Ask to join Personal Hotspots”.

iPhone personal hotspot auto-join tutorial

The Auto-Join Hotspot toggle is named a little differently on macOS than in iOS 13.

Disable the Auto-Join Hotspot option if you’d like to stop automatic connections to nearby Personal Hotspots and avoid excess cellular data usage when a known Wi-Fi network isn’t found.

Wi-Fi networks in Control Center

You can also stop your iPhone from connecting to known Wi-Fi networks if you’d like, as well as forget a saved network, see passwords of the Wi-Fi networks you previously joined, stop the phone from asking you to join Wi-Fi networks and more.

And with an enhanced Control Center in iOS 13, iPadOS and watchOS 6, you can join a Wi-Fi network or connect to a Bluetooth accessory without having to tap your way through Settings.

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