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I'm looking on Apple's site and can't find any published limits on how many clients can connect to one iPhone / iPad with cellular tethering enabled in the US.

Setting aside the obvious limit where 1,000 devices would overwhelm the data connection in practice if they all want data at the same time, is there a hardware or software limit of perhaps 5 or 10 devices that can connect to one device over WiFi?

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That depends on which iPhone/iPad I think. Which device and generation are you interested in? – Emil Feb 15 '13 at 19:32
Perhaps a list would be a really good resource. Per Apple's support page: "The maximum number of supported connections may vary depending on your carrier or iPhone model." The interesting part is it doesn't mention iOS version as being a limiting factor. – bassplayer7 Feb 15 '13 at 19:52
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The thing about these limits is that the carriers and iPhone models are all different. For instance, the iPhone 5 should theoretically be able to handle up to 14 connections, but both AT&T and Verizon limits it to 5. As far as I have understood, it is hardware-limited, and therefore it is not affected by iOS version.

I have started on a list which anyone may suggest an edit to if they come up with new information. Feel free to comment as well.

  • iPhone 3GS supports up to two peers combined through USB and Bluetooth-tethering. 1
  • iPhone 4: 1, 2
    • AT&T-version supports up to three Wi-Fi peers, three via Bluetooth, and one USB peer.
    • Verizon-version supports up to five Wi-Fi peers, three via Bluetooth, and one USB peer.
  • iPhone 4S supports up to five Wi-Fi peers. Unconfirmed
  • iPhone 5 supports up to five Wi-Fi peers. (AT&T and Verizon confirmed 3)
  • iPad 3rd gen is currently unknown.
  • iPad mini is currently unknown.
  • iPad 4th gen is currently unknown.

Please note that Apple have not disclosed any of these limitations, they simply state:

The maximum number of supported connections may vary depending on your carrier or iPhone model.

Apple have also stated in an article about all iPhone-versions and the third-gen iPad that:

Depending on your wireless carrier and, the maximum number of Wi-Fi connections may be limited to three at one time.

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Are these limits the same for iPad, or is that a different matter? – Mark Feb 15 '13 at 20:03
iPads are a totally different matter. I'm working on it :) – Emil Feb 15 '13 at 20:03
Wow A+ - Perhaps one answer for iPhone and one answer for iPad would work well. We could always combine them later. – bmike Feb 15 '13 at 23:28
There is really only one iPad model at the time supporting it, but yeah, that could be an option :) – Emil Feb 15 '13 at 23:31
iPad 2 uses 3G hotspot over two models, iPad Mini has two models for LTE/4G/3G tethering and also two models of iPad 4th gen and I believe three models of iPad 3rd gen all support tethering. Also - no need for wiki on this yet. – bmike Feb 16 '13 at 0:11

There is a maximum of 5 connected devices at any given time.

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Does this apply for all iOS versions? CDMA versus GSM? iPhone models? Thanks. – Global nomad Feb 15 '13 at 19:56
Yes, it is the same for all iOS versions and models. – danielcg Feb 16 '13 at 0:00

Yes, on iOS 7 the firmware limits 5 clients to connect to the WiFi hotspot at one time.

Some carriers might limit this further to only three WiFi clients per Apple's article:

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Does anyone have a carrier that limits them to three connected wifi devices? – bmike Jan 4 '14 at 0:08

My iPhone 4s allows 5 clients while running iOS 8.

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