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Today I saw an option to Disconnect from iPhone (hotspot) in my available WiFi list.

I don't remember ever seeing it there before.

  1. What exactly does this do?
  2. Can't I just turn off WiFi on my laptop, or select a different WiFi to disconnect? What problem does this new feature solve?

Disconnect from iPhone

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    You can see the Disconnect from xxx option for any network if you click on the WiFi menu while holding the Option (⌥) key. – MTCoster Nov 19 at 23:41
  • @MTCoster hey look at that! ;-) Thanks – uhoh Nov 19 at 23:42
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    I've found the option useful when debugging problematic connections - it's much faster to disconnect and reconnect than it is to turn the whole WiFi controller off, back on again, and still wait for the network to reconnect – MTCoster Nov 19 at 23:45
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  1. What exactly does this do?

This will disconnect your MacBook's Wi-Fi from your iPhone's access point. Doing this will not turn off the Wi-Fi on your MacBook.

  1. Can't I just turn off WiFi on my laptop, or select a different WiFi to disconnect? What problem does this new feature solve?

If you turn off the Wi-Fi on your MacBook, you will certainly be disconnected from the iPhone's access point. Same would happen if you select a different Wi-Fi access point.

With newer versions of iOS and macOS, Apple has streamlined the process of access Internet via mobile data of your iPhone. If your iPhone (logged in with the same Apple ID as your Mac) has an active data plan, your Mac automatically shows the option to connect to mobile hotspot, even without turning it on on your iPhone. Mac also offers to connect to the mobile hotspot on your iPhone in case you are not connected to any access point and do not have Internet connectivity.

Disconnecting from the iPhone access point will stop the Mac from consuming data via your mobile data plan and can save you from consuming data from your mobile data plan (which is generally paid for as consumed).

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    Oh this is helpful and news to me! I don't use many features and had no idea that logging in with an Apple ID can do such things; thanks! – uhoh Nov 19 at 12:16
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    I must be living in crazy land because this is the only answer that clearly answers the question: it disconnects from your iPhone's wifi hotspot. That's all it does. Not sure why the other answers don't explain this directly. – Apologize and reinstate Monica Nov 19 at 17:46
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Disconnect from iPhone does exactly what it states: your Mac Wifi card becomes available and can connect to a known wifi if there is one or just stay disconnected but not turned off.

Choosing a different Wifi in the list has the same effect has disconnecting from your hotspot and connecting your Mac to the other Wifi.

Turning off the wifi is not the same has disconnecting, in that case you can't connect to any wifi service (wifi connection, AirDrop...).

This shortcut is only available when connected to iPhone hotspots to remind you that you are on cellular data and that it may be slow or expensive thus its an easy way to stop this process. This feature has been here for quite a long time for what I remember.

Other related features are:

  • a different wifi icon to remind you that your are on cellular data when using iPhone hotspot: enter image description here
  • iCloud Photo Library does not update when on iPhone hotspot to save data
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It lets your leave WiFi on without being connected to an AP (assuming it doesn't reconnect to a known network) allowing support for the likes of AirDrop, AirPrint, etc. Seems to be making shortcut to keep you out of System Preferences.

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