You're already paying a monthly fee for Internet access at home and an additional fee of equal or greater size for your smartphone's data plan. When all is said and done, you end up paying nearly $2,000 a year to access the Web from two devices, but only one of those connections is mobile and ubiquitous, unless you pay extra to take your home ISP with you on the road.
With these costs, paying an additional $15 to $50 to tether your iPhone to your laptop can seem difficult to stomach. Well, now you may not have to. For whatever reason, Apple has approved an iOS app that lets you do exactly that for a one-time fee of $15.
iTether uses USB to turn your iPhone into a personal hotspot, enabling other devices to piggyback off its data connection. It does this without going through the carriers and without a monthly fee of any kind, hence some people's shock at the fact that this app made it through Apple's rigid approval process.
Still, it's not the first time Apple has embraced a feature that poses a potential threat to the revenue streams of the carriers. In iOS 5, they launched iMessage, which replicates the functionality of SMS text messages among iOS device users. It allows people to send and receive texts and pictures without relying on the carriers. If you know and routinely text enough people using iOS 5, you can reduce your monthly texting plan and save some money.
It's also possible that the carriers are less concerned about this feature now that most of them offer limited data plans for smartphone users. If you eat up your monthly data using your laptop, it's no skin off their back. You're just going to have to pay extra to stay connected on either device.
Of course, those of us who have been grandfathered in to unlimited data plans have the luxury of avoiding those extra costs, assuming Apple doesn't pull this from the App Store as many are predicting. It wouldn't be the first time such a thing has happened.
UPDATE: Aaaaand Apple has already pulled the app. We'll update this post if anything changes.