Apple yanks iPhone tethering app from App Store

Now you see it, now you don't; Apple squashes another carrier-sidestepping tethering app

Apple has removed a tethering app for the iPhone that let users share the smartphone's cellular connection to the Internet with a Mac or Windows notebook.

iTether landed in Apple's App Store late Monday, and while it was available as of 11 a.m. ET Tuesday, 45 min. later it had been yanked from the e-mart.

At that time, the App Store returned the boilerplate message: "Your request could not be completed. The item you've requested is not currently available in the US store."

Apple has regularly -- and quickly -- booted earlier tethering apps from the App Store, typically without explanation.

iTether, created by a company named 3235106 Nova Scotia Ltd., was priced at $14.99 in the App Store while it was available. A companion application was required for any Mac OS X- or Windows-based notebook; that free application can still be downloaded from the Tether.com website.

On Tuesday, Tether.com was online, but very sluggish due to traffic driven by multiple media reports of the new app's availability on iOS. Developers then shifted some of the Mac/Windows client download traffic to a Facebook page.

Before Apple pulled the plug, 3235106 Nova Scotia Ltd. developers said that they were furiously adding server capacity to handle the influx of users.

"Our team is battling all the traffic.... We've added 20 web servers to handle the load," the company said on Twitter around 10 a.m. ET.

3235106 Nova Scotia Ltd. already had similar apps for Android and BlackBerry users, debuting the latter in 2009 and adding the former in 2010.

iTether app for iPhone
While it was available on the App Store, iPhone owners could download iTether and use it to connect their Mac or Windows notebooks to the Web.

The company could not be reached for comment on the disappearance of its iOS app, but earlier Tuesday, MacRumors.com quoted the firm as saying, "We were very clear with Apple what our app did. They asked us a bunch of questions and then approved us."

Computerworld confirmed that iTether worked as advertised -- a MacBook Air equipped with the client could access the Internet sans Wi-Fi -- and that it continued working even after Apple pulled the program.

Mobile carriers usually charge extra for tethering services. AT&T, for example, prices its tethering service at $20 per month, with a 2GB data allowance.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

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