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Summary:

First it was just apps that gave users access to Google Voice features, but now it seems as though even an official app from Google, who have traditionally been very close with Apple, will not (for now) see the light of day. GV Mobile and Voice […]

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First it was just apps that gave users access to Google Voice features, but now it seems as though even an official app from Google, who have traditionally been very close with Apple, will not (for now) see the light of day. GV Mobile and Voice Central, two apps that allowed Google Voice users to access the service on their iPhone have been pulled from the App Store for duplicating functionality, and an official Google Voice app won’t see release at all for the same reason.

According to a Google spokesperson speaking to TechCrunch, Apple received the app submission from the internet search giant six weeks ago, and “did not approve the Google Voice application.” Apple has bandied about the feature duplication defense before, when they rejected Podcaster prior to releasing their own integrated podcast direct search and download section to the iPhone’s iTunes store.

Unless Apple somehow plans to introduce their own built-in Google Voice support in the near future, a scenario which I find highly unlikely, then this particular use of the feature duplication line is completely ridiculous. Google Voice isn’t actually duplicating anything, it’s only reducing AT&T’s ability to make money, which suggests that the wireless provider has much more control over Apple and their approval process than I previously suspected.

Through Google Voice, people can have one number for all of their phones, free long distance calling, and free text messaging. Two of these would obviously cut into AT&T’s bottom line, since users would no longer have to pay AT&T’s exorbitant service charges for messaging and cellular long distance. In fact, Google Voice customers could probably pare down to a bare minimum data plan and still retain all the functionality of their iPhone.

What makes Apple look particularly bad in this instance is that both BlackBerry and Android already have Google Voice apps available in their own app marketplaces, which, if Voice continues to grow, and expands beyond the U.S., could begin to have a serious effect on which device consumers invest in.

GV Mobile apparently received Phil Schiller’s personal seal of approval, so you know someone else is pulling the strings at Apple HQ to get these apps pulled. My question is, what threat does AT&T have that could force Apple to comply? An end to AT&T exclusivity would seem only to harm the company, not benefit it. There’s something to be said for not making your friends angry, sure, but there’s also no way you should let your friends direct internal policy. Maybe Apple should become an MVNO?

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  1. Yet another reason for never, ever buying or using a locked cellphone of any kind.

  2. Maybe if enough people speak out, they should stop the so called duplicates. Not only did iphone stop firefox, now they are stopping Google? Seems like they want to kill competition. Wouldn’t be surprised if a VLC media player app is killed as well. And they complain about Microsoft practices.

  3. I don’t understand why Apple wouldn’t allow this app working through wifi only like Skype or Fring. :-/ AT&T is pathetic.

  4. I find it interesting that most of the articles overlook one simple fact: Phil Schiller, Tim Cook and company aren’t running Apple anymore. Steve Jobs is back and I bet that the killed applications can be laid directly at his feet. This particular action is petty and somewhat irrational. It alienates customers and developer partners. In short, it’s got Jobs’ fingerprints all over it.

    I’m not sure if he was pressured by AT&T (likely), or if he really believes that service apps like GV Mobile dilute the phone experience on the phone and lead to customer confusion, but the return of Steve Jobs can single handedely explain why the very popular app (which probably was personally approved by Phil Schiller) is now dead.

  5. If not for Google the iPhone would not be the phone that it is today….Maps and Search on the original iPhone was a big selling point. Thanks but no thanks i will keep my storm…it does email better anyway……

    1. agreed it’s sad the app got shot down…comparing the Storm to the iPhone is a joke though…the Storm’s been riddled w problems…freezing up, radio issues, that horrible sure touch screen…ease of use is not the Storm’s calling card

    2. My storm does not freeze up…For the record battery pull before i go to bed is all that my storm requires to run smoothly. They even have an app for it (sorry had to do it). But email is better on my blackberry, not sure if the masses agree but for my own personal solution, i’m very happy. After the recent software upgrade multimedia is even better…

  6. I was under the impression that GV on the iPhone still dialed out using AT&T so it still used minutes?

  7. Arvin

    It still does dial out and you do use your minutes. Now if Apple partnered with Verizon, you could make your Google Voice number one of your “friends and family” and call out for free. So really, the only revenue AT&T loses is from the SMS issue.

    If this were just an AT&T issue, I think the app would be wifi only or iPhone users could use it across the world with other carriers. I think Rob is onto something.

  8. “This particular action is petty and somewhat irrational. It alienates customers and developer partners. In short, it’s got Jobs’ fingerprints all over it.”

    We have a winner!!!

    Steve Jobs is like Napoleon to Apple’s France. He brought it great growth and glory. But we know how it eventually ended.

  9. A comment regarding who has more control in the relationship, Apple or AT&T…

    The truth is, who knows? Both companies are secretive and lie through their teeth about their positions.

    I work for a large (huge, gigantic) media company and we have dealings with both Apple and AT&T. Anytime a discussion comes up regarding “the other entity” – and of course this discussion always surrounds the iPhone since that is what their partnership is based on, both representatives from Apple and AT&T refuse to take any responsibility for the issue being discussed.

    The AT&T reps say, “We have no control over that. That is Apple’s territory…our contract is so restrictive. We have no control, they have all the control…blah, blah, blah…”

    Ask the same question of the Apple rep and you are told: “We have no control over that. That is AT&T’s territory…our contract is so restrictive. We have no control, they have all the control…blah, blah, blah…”

    Either one or both companies lie to your face with every question involving their “partner”.

    I don’t know why or what’s going on that makes both companies feel the need to constantly throw the ball into the others’ court, but those of us in the business community who have dealings with both organizations all recognize the constant smoke screen of lies peddled by both companies. We have no way of knowing what the truth is, but we know when we are being lied to and dealt with in a disingenuous manner..

    The general feeling is that Apple’s penchant for secrecy is rubbing off on AT&T, who was always more friendly and transparent before their partnership with Apple.

  10. The Fact & Fiction of Google Voice’s iPhone Rejection Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    [...] TheAppleBlog: Unless Apple somehow plans to introduce their own built-in Google Voice support in the near future, a scenario which I find highly unlikely, then this particular use of the feature duplication line is completely ridiculous. [...]

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