For a brief period starting on Monday, iPhone users were able to download an app called iTether for $14.99. As the name implies, the app enabled users to tether their iOS devices to their computers via a USB connection and share their cellular-based Internet connection. It’s a pretty useful feature if you happen to be on the road and using a laptop with no nearby Wi-Fi connection available. What’s more, it’s $5 cheaper than the tethering options offered by AT&T and Verizon.
Apple has historically not taken kindly to tethering apps in the iOS App Store so seeing iTether available for download in iTunes caught many by surprise. But the pleasant surprise would prove to be short lived as Apple subsequently removed the app a few hours later.
The folks behind iTether were completely caught off-guard as they had engaged in extensive discussions with Apple over the app’s functionality before it was eventually approved for sale in iTunes. By all indications, this app was 100% kosher before Apple had a change of heart this afternoon.
Addressing the issue, Tether issued a statement on the matter:
Around 12PM EST, Apple called our head office to let us know they were going to go ahead and pull our app iTether from the App Store. They stated it was because the app itself burdens the carrier network, however they offered us no way to remedy the solution… We were very clear when listing the app what the primary function was and they even followed up with several questions and requested a video demo then they approved the application.
We strongly disagree that it burdens a carrier’s network, as from our own data history on more than 500,000 users we know the average user consumes less than 200 MBs of data per month on Tether. In comparison, one TV show streamed from Netflix, an approved Apple App, could easily be in the 300-400 MBs range. Sure, there are some users that will consume way more than the average however that’s the case with any of these types of products.
Our team is very disappointed in Apple’s decision; as we strongly believe we help carriers better monetize their data stream by pushing customers into new data tiers further increasing their bottom-line. It is very anti-competitive to not allow any Tethering application to enter into this space to innovate. Our team has created a lot of innovative solutions for the BlackBerry product, which we were hoping to port over to the iPhone like end-to-end encryption, compression, website filtering and port filtering.
According to Apple, users who purchase iTether before it was pulled will continue to be able to use the product.
Our team is evaluating all of our options… Stay tuned.
Sounds to us like it had less to do with burdening carrier networks and more to do with providing a cheaper alternative to tethering than the ones provided by the carriers themselves.