Android data wars begin: Google, carriers block tethering apps

by Kristen Nicole

Android users won’t be able to tether their phones as modems anymore, at least not without paying extra for the data usage. As free tethering apps gain popularity in the Android Market, wireless carriers such as AT&T have moved to snuff out the competition. The competition being, of course, a potential loss of revenue. With smartphones becoming the center of wireless data exchange, service providers see a booming economy in data transfer alone.

Google (GOOG) has given in to growing pressure, joining AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) and T-Mobile in their efforts to block the download of tethering apps, some of which allow users to share a phone’s data connection to five other devices via Wi-Fi. As PCWorld notes, this new restriction applies only to American carriers, excluding Sprint (S) customers.

Mobile becomes data battleground

The petition to control data exchange has transcended an array of devices, from the telephone to the cable box. Coupled with the industry standardization of hot-spot surcharges, you can see why carriers are anxious to get a handle on its economic behavior. AT&T, in particular, is being reactionary to the market, modifying data plan rates as consumer usage soars. The impact is seen as the data war shifts to mobile, picking up where broadband left off in home networking.

Amazon color tablet soon?

The carriers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of consumer’s data lust. Tablets have become a marketing tool, with branded versions swooping in from all directions. Amazon (AMZN) has already positioned itself as an Android middleman, but swelling enthusiasm for their yet-to-launch tablet has people speculating as to Amazon’s true influence in the mobile economy. Reported to ship in the second half of this year, the color touchscreen tablet will allow Amazon to expand its digital offerings beyond the Kindle marketplace.