Developer accidentally triggers iPhone tethering in 3.0 beta

Feature wasn’t due to be active until the 3.0 software release

An iPhone developer working with beta code for iPhone 3.0 has stumbled upon the feature that lets a notebook PC link to an iPhone via USB or Bluetooth and then access the Internet.

A programmer "hacking around" with the beta release of the just-announced iPhone 3.0 operating system has stumbled upon the feature that lets a notebook connect to the iPhone and share its Internet connection. He just can't remember how.

The tethering feature, though announced by Apple, wasn't intended to be operational until this summer when the new OS version will be available for download and Apple has coordinated with AT&T in the U.S. and its other carrier partners globally. (MacRumors.com picked up on the news early.) 

For so-called "jailbroken" iPhones, this isn't news. These phones have been hacked by their owners, using tools such as PwnageTool or WinPwn, enabling the phone to use other carrier networks besides AT&T.

But for Steven Troughton-Smith, a young Irish iPhone developer and student, it was a big deal. On Wednesday (March 18), he suddenly found that he had activated the tethering preferences screen, and then connected his iPhone and notebook with a USB cable, and successfully connected the PC to the Internet via his carrier 02. But he has no idea how he accessed the feature.

He apparently was trying to enable Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) in the 3.0 beta software at the time, and was posting on Twitter as he worked, when he stumbled upon the tethering feature:

• Ok so im not sure if this [enabling MMS] is working or not. I seem to get a timeout - possibly my SIM isn't enabled for MMS yet. Will try another [7:45 AM Mar 18th from Chalk]

• Not quite sure how i enabled tethering! (iPhone 3.0)

• Tethering must have come after I uploaded my custom Carrier Settings file. Awesome!

• Haha even the Apple employees are jealous on seeing me with tethering enabled. :-D

• To all: I have no idea how I did it. Sorry! I was hacking around with APNs in the Carrier.bundle itcc file

• While tethering over USB seems to work (shows up in Network Prefs), it causes a hard-reboot of the phone. Trying Bluetooth next

Troughton-Smith posted two photos of his iPhone display, one showing the words "Internet tethering" above the icons on his home screen, and a second showing the "Internet Tethering" preferences page, where the user can turn tethering on, and then connect a notebook to the phone by either USB cable or Bluetooth.

There are still some questions to be answered by the carriers. One is whether AT&T will charge extra for tethering. Another is whether the carriers will be able to handle the additional data traffic loads created by their subscribers' Web surfing, streaming and even gaming. Several online stories and blogs have pointed to an Austin, Tex., music festival earlier this week, where a big crowd of iPhone users overwhelmed AT&T's cellular net.

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