AT&T finally approves BlackBerry Bridge app, slaps on $20/month for tethering

Details on AT&T's newly approved BlackBerry Bridge app for phone and PlayBook tethering, plus potential workarounds to avoid paying AT&T tethering service plan.

Two months after the launch of Research In Motion's PlayBook tablet, AT&T approved the BlackBerry Bridge app that pairs BlackBerry smartphones with the slate, just this afternoon. To add insult to injury, AT&T is requiring an extra $20 per month tethering fee (unless their data plan already includes the option) for PlayBook users to access the Internet through the Bridge Browser while the RIM devices are tethered, as noted in fine print on the Official BlackBerry Blog:

AT&T users must have a tethering plan included with their wireless service plan to take advantage of the Bridge Browser.

Matthew Miller over at our Smartphones and Cellphones blog wants to know what took AT&T so long? None of AT&T's rivals Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile had any trouble enabling the same app back in April, and neither T-Mobile nor Verizon charges for tethering. Irate netizens seem to believe AT&T just needed time to block the Bridge Browser from the non-paying tether users.

BlackBerry Bridge is crucial utility app that gives the PlayBook tablet access to the BlackBerry smartphone user's existing secured BB emails, calender, contacts, tasks and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), in addition to the Bridge Browser. Without the Bridge app, the PlayBook has no native BB email client and is one of the reasons the device was slammed by users and tech journalists at the time of launch.

According to RIM's BlackBerry blog and from other PlayBook users, the Bridge app can work without cellular tethering for which AT&T wants to charge users. It sounds like it is possible to pair a BlackBerry phone with the PlayBook via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to enjoy the Bridge app's functionality without paying AT&T a dime. (PlayBook can also pair with a non-BlackBerry phone but just won't have access to BB-only software and data.) But it's unclear (at least to me) if the Bridge Browser would still be blocked when the phone is tethered to the tablet by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, or must the phone have the tether option to unlock the Bridge Browser function? Personally, I would refrain from surfing the Web while the RIM devices are connected.

AT&T customers who needed the Bridge app earlier probably already found a workaround by now, if not they would have moved onto the next tablet already. I wonder how many AT&T customers returned the PlayBook after they realized they couldn't use their phone and tablet as advertised before today.

AT&T's BlackBerry Bridge app is now available for download from BlackBerry App World.

[Source: The Official BlackBerry Blog, CNET, WSJ's AllThingsDigital via SlashGear]

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