Your iPhone is more than just a phone; it's also a 3G modem, able to pull down data at broadband speeds. Alas, it's no good at sharing: Unless you pay your carrier a king's ransom (i.e. $20 per month or more) for Personal Hotspot capabilities, you can't leverage that 3G goodness on any other device.
That's a shame, because think how many times you've needed Internet access on, say, your laptop when there was no Wi-Fi around.
Enter Tether, a new subscription service that lets you, well, tether your iPhone to your PC--without apps, without jailbreaking, and without violating any Apple terms of service. The price: a mere $30 per year. (Actually, if you sign up now, you can get your first year for $15.)
If the name sounds familiar, it's because Tether made a short-lived splash in the App Store last November, offering unlimited, jailbreak-free tethering for $14.99. Unsurprisingly, Apple pulled it in a matter of days.
This new version dispenses with apps altogether, instead relying on a browser-based solution. However, it's still designed to work solely with Windows and Mac systems, so it's not quite the same thing as a hotspot. What's more, you need a physical connection between your iPhone and your PC, so you'll have to pack a sync cable.
I was actually lucky enough to grab the original Tether, and I can say from experience it works well. The new version is functionally similar, except that instead of running an app, you open Safari on your iPhone and point it to tether.com/web. Then you run the Tether client on your PC or Mac, plug in your iPhone, and presto: You're off to the races. Because all the activity occurs within your browser, Apple can't object, and your carrier shouldn't be any the wiser.
Alas, the developer offers no free trial, but a $15 investment is hardly a big risk--especially when you consider the overall math. At a bare minimum, paying for Personal Hotspot will run you $240 per year. This is $15 now, $30 next year. Any questions?
By the way, by using a utility like Connectify, it might be possible to share your laptop's newfound 3G connectivity with other devices--like, say, a tablet. I'll update the post if I'm able to get that working.
In the meantime, hit the comments and let me know what you think of Tether--and whether you're buying in at this compelling introductory price.