Will Apple and AT&T allow iPad tethering? (updated)

Summary:The latest developer release of iPhone OS 4 includes a setting for Internet tethering. While almost a year late, the feature isn't yet released and begs the question: will Apple and AT&T allow you to tether your iPad to your iPhone?

http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/4/2010/05/500x_tethering_01.jpgGizmodo reports that iPhone OS 4 beta 4, released to developers yesterday, includes an option for Internet tethering.

The setting is now clearly visible in Settings > General > Network as a button labeled "Set Up Internet Tethering" (pictured). The descriptive text underneath reads:

Internet Tethering allows you to share your iPhone's Internet connection with your computer via Bluetooth or USB.

If tethering is actually released next month, AT&T would finally be delivering on its promise almost a year late. Tethering was promised at the end of summer 2009 then at the end of 2009, so excuse me if I sound pessimistic.

The real question is how Apple and AT&T will implement iPhone tethering. It's obvious that AT&T will charge for the service and one need look no further than the data plans available for the iPad 3G for a hint of what's to come. Two 3G data options are available for the iPad:

  • 250MB of data - $15 per month
  • Unlimited data - $30 per month

Both require a one-month minimum but no extended contract beyond that. It would stand to reason that AT&T will offer similar plans to iPhone owners.

My question is whether Apple will allow the iPad to tether to the iPhone. Sure, it sounds like a no-brainer, but then again this is AT&T we're talking about here. If Apple doesn't, I'd imagine that customers would revolt. After all, isn't the iPad just a computer? How could Apple/AT&T allow tethering to a MacBook but not to an iPad?

Conspiracy theorists would say that Apple wants to sell more 3G iPads (which carry a $130 premium over the Wi-Fi model) and that AT&T would rather you purchase another data contract. But if you're already paying or an iPhone data plan and tethering for your notebook computer, no one would purchase a third data plan for their iPad? Would they?

Again, I don't think that Apple/AT&T have any choice but to include the iPad in its tethering plans, but truth is often stranger than fiction.

The best tethering option -- hands down -- isn't tethering at all. The Palm Pre+ offers a mobile hotspot app that allows up to five devices to share its 3G Internet connection - for free. That's $60 less per month than a MiFi and (an estimated) $30 less than AT&T's tethering plan.

Photo: Gizmodo

Update: Gizmodo notes the other new features since beta 3: a utilities folder, new wallpapers, the ability to turn off group messages and viewing photos in landscape mode.

Topics: Apple, AT&T

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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