So much for free tethering apps on Android phones, at least in the Android Market. AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile are now blocking these apps, which offer a free or cheap alternative to the carriers’ official, subscription-based offerings.
As Engadget points out, you can still see tethering apps like PDANet in the Android Market, but if you try to install them on any of the major U.S. carriers besides Sprint, you’ll be told that “This item is not available on your carrier.”
T-Mobile has blocked illicit tethering apps for more than two years, but the action from Verizon Wireless and AT&T is a new development, albeit an unsurprising one. Wireless carriers charge $15 to $20 per month to use smartphones as portable modems for tablets and PCs, so either they just noticed that users were able to dodge the extra charges, or they finally got Google to play along.
Free tethering will still be possible by sideloading apps from outside the Android Market, but that’s not quite as convenient as an app from within the store. It’s also of no consolation to AT&T users, who can’t sideload apps at all without rooting their phones. (AT&T, meanwhile, has been sniffing out tethering on its own. Back in March, the carrier started sending warning letters to illicit tethering users, both on iPhone and Android.)
I’m still hoping for carriers to render this issue moot by offering capped bandwidth plans with tethering included across all devices. With this sweeping action to protect higher-priced data plans, something tells me it’s not happening any time soon.