Why Is My Hotspot So Slow?

Drained mobile data is one of many reasons your hotspot underperforms.

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Last Updated: May 30, 2024
A graphic of a smartphone’s hotspot signals not reaching a laptop on a desk that displays no Wi-Fi connection.
There are several reasons your hotspot may fail to connect to other electronic devices.
  • Mobile hotspots offer a convenient way to access the internet on your devices on the go, but you may experience slow speeds at times.
  • Hotspots can be slow for multiple reasons, and there are several easy ways to speed up your hotspot.
  • Your device settings, hotspot placement, data plan, cell reception, and the time of day can all impact your hotspot speeds.

Whether you use a mobile hotspot while traveling, during an unexpected internet outage, or at that one coffee shop in your neighborhood that doesn’t have Wi-Fi, hotspots come in handy in a variety of situations. Hotspots, however, can sometimes lag and produce slow internet speeds on your devices. Rather than living with these creeping connections, follow our guide for all the simple tips and tricks you need to improve your mobile hotspot speed.

How to Improve Hotspot Speeds

  1. Restart your devices
  2. Check data allowance
  3. Optimize your device settings
  4. Check your cell reception
  5. Avoid peak usage times
  6. Don’t let your device overheat
  7. Consider your hotspot placement
  8. Tried everything and still have a slow hotspot?

Restart Your Devices

A screenshot of an iPhone screen showing Power Off and Emergency Call prompts.
Restarting your device is a simple solution, but not for every issue.

Improving your hotspot speed could be as simple as powering down your devices and then turning them back on. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” Sometimes our phones, laptops, and other devices just need a fresh start after a long period of hard work. Restarting your devices can reset them and clear out any glitches or issues that could slow down your speed. Make sure to restart both the device you’re using as a hotspot and the devices connecting to your hotspot.

Check Your Data Allowance

A screenshot of an iPhone’s data-usage settings.
Whether you’re using an iPhone or Android, your mobile carrier determines how much data you can use each month.

Your hotspot may be slow because you’ve run out of data on your mobile plan. Even if you have a plan that advertises unlimited data, mobile companies typically throttle your speeds after you use a certain amount of data. Be sure to read the fine print on your mobile plan and check your data usage. To avoid the frustration of discovering you’re out of data when you need it most, you can monitor your data usage throughout the month.

Optimize Your Device Settings

You can make several adjustments to your phone’s settings to boost hotspot speeds. Below are all the changes you can make in just a few simple steps.

Close Apps You’re Not Using

When several apps are open on your phone simultaneously, it divides its resources among several tasks. By closing apps you’re not using, you can improve your phone’s performance and help it focus on the functions you want — like your hotspot. It may sound simple, but just closing all your unused apps could boost your hotspot speed.

Turn Off Low Power Mode

Your phone’s Low Power Mode can negatively impact your mobile hotspot performance, since it takes priority away from certain activities to keep your phone’s core functions working. It’s best to turn the setting off while using your hotspot. Below we’ll share how to turn it off on iPhone and Android devices.

On an iPhone

Screenshots of an iPhone’s battery settings that shows the user turning off Low Power Mode.
You can turn off Low Power Mode on an iPhone with two simple steps.
  1. Open Settings, scroll down, and tap Battery.
  2. Toggle off the Low Power Mode setting.

On an Android

An Android phone screenshot showing the Use Battery Saver setting toggled off.
Disabling Battery Saver on Android is quick and easy.
  1. Open Settings and tap Battery.
  2. Tap Battery Saver.
  3. Toggle off the Use Battery Saver setting.

Switch to the 5 GHz Frequency Band

Warning: We’re about to cover some techy terms, but stick with us! Hotspots use two different frequency (or radio) bands to broadcast Wi-Fi: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz frequency band is best for longer distances, but the 5 GHz frequency band delivers faster speeds over shorter distances, making it perfect for a hotspot only a few feet from your devices. Switching to the 5 GHz frequency band could improve your hotspot speed, and it’s easy to do.

On an iPhone

A screenshot of an iPhone’s Personal Hotspot settings with the Maximize Compatibility setting circled in red.
Switching to an iPhone’s 5 GHz frequency band can maximize your hotspot speed.
  1. Open Settings, then tap Personal Hotspot.
  2. Scroll down and toggle off the Maximize Compatibility setting.

On an Android

An Android phone screenshot showing hotspot settings with the Extend Compatibility toggle circled.
Turning off Extend Compatibility on Android prevents it from using the 2.4 GHz band.
  1. Open Settings and tap Network & Internet.
  2. Tap Hotspot & Tethering.
  3. Tap Wi-Fi Hotspot.
  4. Toggle off the Extend Compatibility setting.

Update Your Devices

Updating your devices is essential to ensuring your hotspot runs quickly and smoothly. If your devices run on older software, it could be causing slow speeds or other connectivity issues. Check to see if any updates are available for your phone and the device connected to your hotspot.

Disable Background App Refresh

Apps on your phone can refresh in the background while you’re not using them, slowing down your hotspot. Preventing apps from refreshing is easy with the steps below.

On an iPhone

Screenshots of an iPhone’s Background App Refresh settings turned off.
Turning off Background App Refresh takes just a few simple steps.
  1. Open Settings and tap General.
  2. Tap Background App Refresh.
  3. Tap Background App Refresh again.
  4. Tap Off.

On an Android

An Android phone screenshot with the Use Data Saver setting.
Android doesn’t have Background App Refresh, but you can enable Data Saver to prevent apps from updating in the background.
  1. Open Settings and tap Network & Internet.
  2. Tap Data Saver.
  3. Enable the Use Data Saver setting.

Make Sure to Password Protect Your Hotspot

This advice may seem like a no-brainer, but if your phone’s hotspot isn’t password protected, anyone nearby could access it and slow down your connection. Make sure you have a password set up.

Check Your Cell Reception

A screenshot of an iPhone’s home screen showing two bars of 5G service.
If you have two bars of cell reception or fewer, you won’t experience optimal mobile hotspot speeds.

If you’re using your phone as a hotspot and you have only one bar of signal, you’ll probably experience slow speeds. Mobile hotspots receive internet signals from cell towers, so poor cell reception also means poor hotspot speeds. For optimal speeds, try to use your hotspot only in areas where you have at least three bars of cell reception.

Avoid Peak Usage Times

Just like we experience congestion when lots of people are on the freeway during rush hour, our phones can experience network congestion during peak usage times. These times vary by location and carrier, so you can start by identifying peak times in your area. If you consistently notice your phone or hotspot is slow from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. every evening, that probably means it’s a peak time. Do your best to avoid using your hotspot during those hours.

Don’t Let Your Device Overheat

You may experience slower speeds and a laggy connection when your device overheats. If your phone feels hot, it’s time to cool it down. To prevent your device from overheating, you can take regular breaks during heavy usage, make sure your phone isn’t sitting in direct sunlight, and turn off any features you’re not currently using.

Consider Your Hotspot Placement

A graphic of Zippy showing where to place a hotspot device in different areas of the house.
Similar to your router, you’ll want to place the device that’s emitting your hotspot in an open and central area.

Just as you can optimize router placement to improve home Wi-Fi speeds, you can optimize your hotspot placement. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep your hotspot close to you, since the signal will weaken over longer distances. It’s best to keep your hotspot within 5 feet of you.
  • Elevate your hotspot, and avoid setting it on the floor.
  • When possible, place your hotspot near a window without any obstructions.
  • Keep your hotspot uncovered. Don’t place your hotspot in a bag, purse, drawer, or cabinet. Set it next to you, and don’t cover it with a book, magazine, or other object.
  • Ensure there aren’t any obstructions between your hotspot and the device you’re connecting to, since certain objects can cause interference. Avoid these everyday items that can impact your cell signal: thick or dense walls, fish tanks, water coolers, electronic appliances, trees, large buildings, and reflective surfaces.

Tried Everything and Still Have a Slow Hotspot?

If you have tried all these tips and you’re still wondering why your hotspot is so slow, you have two options:

  1. Purchase a portable internet device. If you’re using your phone as a hotspot and it’s unreliable, or you’re going through your data allotment too quickly, consider purchasing a dedicated mobile hotspot device. The devices act as mini portable routers that work just like the hotspot on your phone. You can visit our list of the best portable internet providers to learn more.
  2. Consider switching to a new carrier. A slow hotspot may be just one part of a larger problem. If you’re constantly dealing with poor cell reception, dropped calls, unreliable service, or slow data speeds, consider switching to another cellular carrier.