Apple sending mixed signals with recent app approvals?

Last night MacRumors reported that, a company developing tethering apps for mobile devices had released iTether, an official iPhone tethering app on the App Store. The iTether app allowed users, with the help of a companion Mac or PC desktop application, to tether their device over USB and use their iPhone’s 3G data connection. Tethering applications have traditionally not been allowed on the App Store, presumably due to agreements with cellular carriers and the duplication of Apple’s own Personal Hotspot functionality that was introduced in iOS 3.0.

Therefore it was perhaps not surprising that iTether was removed from the App Store late this morning with no comment from either Apple or as to the reasons for its disappearance. In 2008, another developer, Nullriver Software had produced a SOCKS5 based tethering application for the iPhone and also found it similarly pulled from the App Store after only a few hours.

Notably, however, had indicated via Twitter that “We were very clear with Apple what our app did.

They asked us a bunch of questions and then approved us.” iTether had no other features nor hidden functionality that would have obscured its true purpose, suggesting that Apple’s lower-level review process may be out of sync with overall company policy at this time. This marks the second time in less than a week that Apple has approved an app for sale with claims from the developers that the functionality of the app had been discussed with Apple prior to approval; last week Big Fish Games announced a novel released a subscription gaming app that was pulled by Apple only a few hours after the announcement, despite claims from the developer that Apple had in fact gone so far as to approve the developer’s press release.