The Fact & Fiction of Google Voice's iPhone Rejection

122 Comments

[qi:gigaom_icon_voip] Updated: This morning’s tempest in the teapot involves Google Voice apps being rejected by Apple’s iPhone store. iPhone App Developer Sean Kovacs says his GV mobile app was pulled and since then several others have been rejected by Apple as well. Even Google’s official app has been turned down, because apparently it “duplicates features that come with the iPhone.” Some allege that Apple is doing this at AT&T’s behest.

That is just flat-out wrong: If it were true, then Google Voice would be banned on BlackBerry devices that use AT&T as well. As of this morning, everything is working fine on my AT&T-connected Bold (except for the usual dropped calls, of course). And are people forgetting that you need AT&T’s voice network to send and receive Google Voice calls?

As I wrote in my post, Meet Google, Your Phone Company:

The mobile app for Google Voice uses the regular PSTN connection to place a call to Google Voice, which then places a call out to the person you need to reach. Since these calls (and SMS messages) originate from your Google Voice, they display your Google Voice number for the recipients. The service needs a data connection but it isn’t necessary to have a Wi-Fi connection to place and receive calls. The wireless number you buy from the cell phone company becomes less relevant.

What The Web Is Saying
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.
Mike Masnick: this seems like an argument for why more open solutions will win out in the end.
Larry Dignan: The only way to elude these conundrums is to develop more browser based apps. The problem is that browser based apps require better connections. It’s quite a chicken and egg problem.
John Gruber: Don’t think about it in terms of Apple’s relationship with its carrier partners, but instead think about it in terms of Apple’s competition with Google. Google Voice is a mobile phone service provided by the maker of one of the biggest competitors to the iPhone OS. What if Google Voice were instead Microsoft Voice?

As a result, AT&T still gets to count minutes spent making and receiving calls via Google voice. So how is that bad news for AT&T? It’s not, and the only way it could be was if Google Voice worked over Wi-Fi. Apparently, even that hasn’t been much of an issue thus far because Apple has been approving WiFi-based VoIP apps.

If AT&T indeed was the villain here or Apple was against VoIP calls, then by now all voice applications would have been given the boot. My Skype, Truphone, Nimbuzz and Fring accounts are all working fine. You can download them from the iTunes store. So again, I think people are jumping to conclusions here.

Update: Our good friend, John Gruber says he has heard from a reliable source who tells him that it is indeed AT&T. I called AT&T PR and their response was: “We can’t say anything and Apple is the only one who can talk about the App store.” I emailed Apple PR and I am waiting to hear from them. Regardless, there is more that what meets the eye and I am not just yet ready to throw Ma Bell to the wolves (despite my personal distaste for their network.)

The other thing that really got me going about this was the idea of Google being the underdog. (I can hear it now: “Mommy! The big bad Apple is going to kill me!”) Well, if you believe Wired magazine, and there is no reason not to, there are certain officials in Washington who think Google is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and nothing but a big, bad monopoly (which I agree that it is.)

Google is using this so-called rejection as a way to score some karma points. Never mind the fact that it owns a competing platform called Android. When I asked Google about the whole fiasco, the company sent me this statement:

We work hard to bring Google applications to a number of mobile platforms, including the iPhone. Apple did not approve the Google Voice application we submitted six weeks ago to the Apple App Store. We will continue to work to bring our services to iPhone users, for example by taking advantage of advances in mobile browsers.

I, for one, would like Google to share with us the reasons Apple gave the company for rejecting its app. Otherwise, as I said… great way for them to earn Karma points.

122 Comments

James Body

After all the excitement about this story, the fact remains that the Google Voice application from Google has not been put up in the iTunes apps store and the two previously approved apps (which thankfully I downloaded before the ban went live) have also been removed.

I would very much like to hear a spokesperson from Apple explain to their customers why this has happened!

JB

Salty917

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork…G Orwell’s…1984

Together the big and biggest slowly will control everything from one giant CPU. You may think your having breakfast but in reality your working in the rice paddy. Don’t even try to fight it “resistance is futile”

Have a nice day!

me

wait… what does GV mobile need the internet for if it’s using phone minutes for calls?

http://www.seankovacs.com/index.php/gv-mobile/

Please note that GV Mobile relies heavily on the use of an internet connection (3G, EDGE, Wifi, etc).
If your internet connection is shady a best, this app may not function properly. A future update will include ‘Offline Mode’ which will allow for dialing using your Google Voice number without the need of an internet connection.
By using GV Mobile, you understand that I am not liable for data charges you may incur.
Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

me

wait… what does GV mobile need the internet for if it’s using phone minutes for calls?

http://www.seankovacs.com/index.php/gv-mobile/

Please note that GV Mobile relies heavily on the use of an internet connection (3G, EDGE, Wifi, etc).
If your internet connection is shady a best, this app may not function properly. A future update will include ‘Offline Mode’ which will allow for dialing using your Google Voice number without the need of an internet connection.
By using GV Mobile, you understand that I am not liable for data charges you may incur.

theotherme

It needs an internet connection because it logs on to your google voice account over the intertubes, It might need to use it heavily because it will need to download any of your voicemails that you want to listen to and for all anyone knows, your mother could follow up on her threat to call and read war & peace to you if you don’t answer the phone calls.

Troy Angrignon

Om, what everybody seems to be missing is that with a quick way to dial from the address book, all of the long-distance charges that AT&(F)T would get disappear. This is pure lost long distance revenue. Although I agree with your assertion that if that were the case, they would have probably removed it from Blackberry but maybe they don’ thave the same leverage? Besides, Apple is more controlling and can afford to lose apps, Blackberry’s mangy little store can’t afford to leave a shelf empty.

I posted my rant here: http://www.troyangrignon.com/2009/07/28/apple-put-gv-mobile-back-youre-becoming-more-like-atfuckingt-all-the-time/

Regardless of where the blame lies, I’d sure as hell like an explanation.

iPhoneはAT&Tの手に負えるのか?

[…] この手のことにAT&Tが背後で動いているなど信じられないという人もいて、それはAT&Tが他の電話機ではGoogle Voiceを認めているし、この会社とiPhoneに関しては何ら新しい話ではないからだという。 SlingPlayerのiPhoneアプリがAT&Tのネットワーク経由での動作を禁止しながら、AT&Tの他機種ではOKしていたのと同じ議論だ。また、もし出たらの話だが、Huluのアプリの機能を削るであろうという話とも同源だ。 […]

r0b

Question: Why hasn’t RingCentral, which is essentially pay-per-minute Google Voice, been similarly removed from the apps store?

MIchael Brian Bentley

ATT’s contract with Apple is likely different from its contracts with other manufacturers, so ATT is perhaps more motivated to complain about apps on iphones that duplicate services. Like IM clients. Go figure.

Mark Sigal

Personally, this is one of those perception is reality deals. AT&T and Apple have a “special” relationship and App Store is THE app store so that mitigates the how/why between Apple and AT&T differently than the RIM/AT&T relationship.

At the same time, Apple and Google have a “special” relationship between Schmidt’s board seat, YouTube client and Maps app on iPhone/iPod touch, so lots of grays here.

The net out, though, is that given the fact that Google and Apple are the consummate chess masters, whose industry power (and dedicated ecosystems), combined with opposing views on computing (open, loosely coupled vs. proprietary integration; iPhone v. Android; free/ad supported v. premium prices) seems to make it inevitable that in the coming months these friends evolve into “frienemies,” something I blogged about in:

The Chess Masters: Apple versus Google
http://thenetworkgarden.com/weblog/2008/03/the-chess-maste.html

Check it out, if interested.

Mark

Hamranhansenhansen

> there are certain officials in Washington who think Google is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and nothing
> but a big, bad monopoly

Google played as the underdog is a joke, but it’s an even bigger joke to suggest there is a single soul in either Washington (DC or state) that knows bit one about technology. If they did, they’d be in Silicon Valley.

Mark Jaquith

I disagree:

• AT&T is not technically able to block apps on Blackberry devices, so the non-banning of similar apps on Blackberry devices is a red herring
• Google Voice results in lost revenue for AT&T due to text messages and international calls, as other commenters have detailed above
• Google Voice makes people even more carrier independent than number portability provides — this is bad news for carriers
• Apple has no real incentive to ban this app
• Phil Schiller from Apple personally approved this app, originally

tom

lets hope google release’s the banned app as a jailbreak install

Nick

As a recent convert from Windows Mobile to the iPhone, I do appreciate the polish and innovation that Apple brought to the mobile platform. However, it is ironic to me that Windows Mobile, while technically inferior and out of date, is the most open application platform out there. There are no restrictions whatsoever on the applications you can install on the device- in fact I’m not sure it’s even technically possible to have app-based DRM on WM. Maybe this is due to a lack of foresight on Microsoft’s part rather than some commitment to openness, but there’s an awful lot of innovation on WM these days- from alternate browsers like Opera Mobile 9.7, podcast RSS apps, to tethering apps that use the wifi hardware to turn your phone into a mobile access point. I’ll definitely keep my HTC Fuze around to see what’s happening in that application space.

PS- I do miss multitasking, it would be nice to surf the web or check the weather while listening to a podcast.

Jason Devitt

You say that if AT&T were responsible for blocking Google Voice on the iPhone, then it would have blocked Google Voice on Blackberry as well.

I don’t know who made the decision, AT&T or Apple, but this reasoning is false. It is not possible for AT&T to block Google Voice on the Blackberry, whether they want to or not, because customers can install any application they like on a Blackberry.

However, other people are making too much of the SMS argument: that AT&T would want to block any application that provided low cost SMS. Plenty of companies offer free or cheap text messaging for the iPhone, including Pinger (Textfree) and Gogii (textPlus).

Google Voice is the boldest attempt that any company has made so far to reduce the phone company to a dumb pipe. Yes, you still pay AT&T for the calls, but that price is going to zero one day. The future may be ads, or content, or transactions, or something else entirely. If you route every call through Google first, Google will have the first bite of that revenue.

Comments are closed.