Preface: I suspect the answer is "no", but I reckon I'd shoot my shot.

MacOS has an auto-discovery called Instant Hotspot feature for shows nearby iPhones that are available to provide a hotspot. These are listed in the WiFi menu along with their battery level and cell signal strength.

Crucially, this appears before a hotspot has actually been started. Clicking on the menu entry will remotely enable the hotspot on that iPhone.

The WiFi menu on macOS, showing "Eric's iPhone" listed, with 5 out of 5 LTE bars, full battery, a proprietary hotspot link icon, and a full WiFi signal strength indicator

Has anybody managed to make an Android app that let's an Android play ball with this feature?

If this feature relies on iCloud accounts (I don't think it does, I can see strangers' hotspots) or some central registration server, then this will obviously not work. On the other hand, if it's just using some local WiFi frames, then it seems plausible to reverse engineer and spoof. Is there any existing work on this?

  • 1
    I don't know exactly how this feature works, but based on your description it can not only works using WiFi. My guess is that is uses Bluetooth to detect nearby devices. As MacOS and Icloud are closed source systems and Android devices don't contain an Apple certified secure enclave (which is used most likely by the Apple devices for mutual authentication) I don't see high chances to port such a functionality.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 13, 2022 at 23:08
  • @Robert I think it's most likely that they're using 1) They could be broadcasting availability with special frames at the PHY layer (802.11 WiFi), 2) they could be using Bluetooth. It's possible to lock down the feature using a private key only found in legitimate iPhones, but if it's not, it should be possible to replicate on other systems. If no one has already done so, I could look into myself and share my findings!
    – Alexander
    Commented Aug 13, 2022 at 23:17
  • There's a comment on a slightly related question, Make iPhone hotspot always detectable on Android phone on Ask Different: "Apple devices know the hotspot is there, because they're all logged into the same Apple ID, and use BTLE to ask the iOS device to actually turn the hotspot on."
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 4:10
  • According to this answer on Apple.SE, the feature is called Instant Hotspot and it relies on both WiFi and Bluetooth enabled on Apple devices.
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 4:20
  • 1
    Ah yes, I'll incorporate that name into my question, thanks for sharing! "... because they're all logged into the same Apple ID, ..." I'm skeptical of this. In crowded public spaces I often see multiple strangers' iPhones who most definitely (hopefully!) aren't on my Apple ID
    – Alexander
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 9:26


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