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Apple Goofs, Allows Tethering App on iTunes Store

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For the briefest of moments, Apple granted iPhone users an inexpensive way to avoid carriers' tethering fees.

Imagine! Allowing iPhone users to use their legally bought, still-capped data plans more efficiently! How utterly absurd!

Nevertheless, in an innocent lapse of judgment, Apple approved a tethering app named iTether to the iTunes Store which, for a one-time fee of $14.99, allowed iPhone users to share their wireless data plans with their Mac or PC via USB connection. (The developer also offers BlackBerry and Android versions.)

According to the app's description:

"Tether is an application that allows your Mac and PC to take advantage of your smartphone's data plan, providing you access to the Internet on your laptop anywhere there is cellular coverage from your smartphone.

Tether is easy to install, easy to use, works practically anywhere, and is very cost-effective."

Coincidentally, those four features are exactly what AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint don't want at their customers' disposal.

Typically, customers are forced to pay extra for tethering privileges, usually $20 on top of their existing data plans. iTether would circumvent that fee and grant users a tethering option for free after the $14.99 price. So you can see why the carriers wouldn't cotton to such an app being available to un-jailbroken iPhones -- what with negating their superfluous monthly fees and all.

As such, the app was quickly removed. Although Tether claimed in a Twitter post that it was "very clear with Apple" regarding what iTether did and fielded a number of questions from Apple prior to the app's approval, iTether was summarily taken down from the iTunes Store.

This isn't the first time Apple briefly gave iPhone users a taste of a free tethering option. In 2008 and 2010, it had approved the Netshare and Happy Light apps which eschewed the carriers' tethering fees. But like iTether, Apple's momentary indiscretion was quickly corrected and the apps were taken down from the iTunes Store.

So it looks like iPhone users are back to jailbreaking their devices to install tethering apps.

In other news, PdaNet remains available for free over at the Android Market.

(See also: Apple Reveals iPhone 5 in iOS Beta and Google Engineer Calls Google+ a Complete Failure)

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