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Developer slips tethering into iTunes

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An iPhone developer slipped a tethering application onto the iTunes store: getting past Apple's ban on such applications by disguising it as a pocket torch.

The app has now been removed, Cupertino having been alerted by reviews that called for a background-running version of the application, but those who paid a dollar for the app are still able to get their laptops online through the iPhone without paying AT&T's tethering fee.

Tethering - providing internet connectivity to a laptop over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or a cable - used to be a standard feature of smartphones, but as the mobile internet grew in popularity network operators started charging a premium for those who want to access the internet from a laptop.

The fact that a modern smartphone is capable of consuming just as much bandwidth as a laptop isn't important: the majority of handset users don't consume much bandwidth, while the majority of laptop users do, which is why the operators want to charge more.

Not that it's easy to distinguish between laptop and handset browsing these days, and light users have long got away with connecting without paying the premium, but the control Apple has over the iPhone platform enables operators to technically block tethering until the subscriber stumps up the higher rate.

Avoiding that premium is what drives so many people to unlock their iPhones, so Handy Light, from developer Nicholas Lee, is an idea solution for everyone except AT&T, and (by extension) Apple.

The application appears to just paint a single colour across the iPhone screen, for no readily-discernible reason (white, sure, for those moments when one needs light, but blue, red, green?) but while running the application also creates a Wi-Fi hotspot with internet access channelled over the phone's 3G connection.

The initial reviews are quite subtle: "Great app! Works like a charm. And with 6 wonderful colours to choose from!" says one: "a great deal for those who want a lot out of a small package" says another. But then the spell is broken with a blurt of "Yay Tethering!!!" and before you know it the application has disappeared.

Nicholas is a one-man-band developer, and hasn't got back to us about his feelings on the matter. His half-dozen other apps are still listed so Apple obviously isn't too upset, though don't expect the next version of Handy Light to be similarly equipped. ®

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