Late Monday, Apple approved iTether in the App Store. The $15 app's description in the store is perfectly clear: iTether lets you connect your Mac or PC to your iPhone's data plan -- without requiring that you activate a tethering plan with your carrier.
The app requires that you download a companion desktop app from developer Tether's website; at this writing, the website is painfully slow to respond. Once I was able to download the desktop client, I did successfully establish a connection between my MacBook Pro and my iPhone with the phone tethered via USB. Unfortunately, in my early testing, the desktop Tether app crashed a lot -- taking the tethered connection with it.
[ Learn about consumerization of IT in person March 4-6, 2012, at IDG's CITE conference in San Francisco. | Get expert advice about planning and implementing your BYOD strategy with InfoWorld's 29-page "Mobile and BYOD Deep Dive" PDF special report. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobilize newsletter. ]
Apple's approval of the app is a smidgen confusing. Back in July 2010, Handy Light snuck into the App Store, a secret tethering app that masqueraded as a flashlight app to trick Apple into approving it. (Apple unsurprisingly gave that app the kibosh after just a few hours.) Two years prior to that, Apple approved -- and then pulled -- the $10 NetShare app that offered functionality similar to iTether's.
Unlike Apple's officially supported, built-in tethering mechanisms in iOS, iTether appears to work only over USB. iOS offers support for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi based tethering, too.
It's unclear at this writing whether Apple's approval of iTether heralds an App Store approval process policy change, or if it merely reveals an overtired App Store reviewer mistakenly pressing the wrong button on the app. If you snag the app before Apple pulls it, or if the company indeed chooses to leave iTether as a proud entry in the store, remember that your carrier may well be able to detect that you're tethering -- and may charge you extra for that data usage in accordance with the carrier's plans.