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Summary:

When it came out that Google Voice had been refused entry into the hallowed halls of Apple’s App store, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. While I don’t have a horse in this race, or was driven to riot, I’ll admit to a certain […]

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When it came out that Google Voice had been refused entry into the hallowed halls of Apple’s App store, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. While I don’t have a horse in this race, or was driven to riot, I’ll admit to a certain amount of supplying villagers with pitchforks and torches.

The New York Times’ David Pogue is reporting that Google is planning on releasing Google Voice as an iPhone-optimized web app.

“Already, Google says it is readying a replacement for the Google Voice app that will offer exactly the same features as the rejected app—except that it will take the form of a specialized, iPhone-shaped Web page. For all intents and purposes, it will behave exactly the same as the app would have; you can even install it as an icon on your Home screen.”

Google’s Latitude App came back to life as a web app after being killed off at birth by the App Store.

“We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.”

OK, that one’s actually funny. What Apple is saying is: We think your app is going to confuse people with this other app that uses your data, too.

When Apple first announced the iPhone and tried to sell us on its utopia of web apps being far superior to a native app, I wasn’t impressed. Sure, my iPhone has a near-constant Internet connection — except for those times I can’t coax a signal to save my life. I’m still not sold on them, but apps like Google Voice might be making me come around a little.

I use Google Reader on my iPhone, and its iPhone page is, for all intents and purposes, a web app. Granted, it’s useless without an Internet connection, but since its goal is to read RSS feeds, I’m not dismayed it’s not native — unless, of course I want to download them for reading on a plane.

An app like Google Voice, which, again, relies on a connection of some sort, could do very well as a web app. A potential deal breaker could be the lack of push notifications for new messages. However, I could see Google getting an app that’s just a notifier for Google Voice through the approval process. It’s not a big stretch to see an app that displays a badge for a message a link that opens the web app.

While I don’t think a web app is an alternative for a lot of the rejected apps — I’d hate to have an e-book reader as a web app — apps that rely on a network connection I don’t have a big issue with it. On the other hand, as in an app like Latitude, it’d be nice to have the location pushed up to Google automatically without needing to open the web app.

How about you? Where do you find web apps a suitable workaround for the App Store?

  1. Sounds kind of like a Skype thing that apple and AT&T are blocking for business reasons. I use google everything for business and voice is great but slow to use on the iPhone. I was really waiting for an app to speed it up. Not letting it to because people willget confused is saying iPhone users are too stupid to use the phone is insulting. Maybe I should get a google phone at least they think I’m smart enough to us apps.

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  2. Just jailbreak and get GV already.

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  3. I would use a web app, if the functionality warrants it. Similarly to the old adage “The best camera is the camera you carry with you”, the same is true here as well. Better get the functionality than none at all

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  4. I have written a Google Voice iphone web app. It’s still in beta, especially in the contacts section, but it is up and working at https://gvisapp.appspot.com If you run into any bugs, I’d love to hear from you at http://groups.google.com/group/gvisapp

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  5. Sounds like a bunch of Apple Apologists. While a web app my work, why block a native app?

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    1. Gee, the reason wouldn’t be to stiffle competition? Funny how Apple was plenty happy to work with Google on apps until Android came along. Now Google is an Apple competitor. I assume Apple does not want to do anything that helps Google improve it’s position within the phone market. As Jilted said, why else could apple view google voice as something bad for iPhone?

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  6. no

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  7. I love that Apple and/or AT&T are trying to reject an app by Google when Google has the smartest PHD’s next to NASA. So Google is like, well I think we’ll just make web-app and try to stop us.

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    1. Actually, I think I read that Apple had asked Google to do GV as a web app in the first place. In any event, Apple was well aware of the web app option.

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  8. Paul Frederickson Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    Without push notifications, no, its not acceptable.

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  9. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the thoughtful and temperate piece. It’s very helpful, and the bit about possibly having an approved app that’s just a notifier is brilliant.

    How much would Google Gears affect this? I realize it’s not going to solve the notification issue, but how about other concerns?

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  10. The only real benefit of native app for GV over a web app, is as you say, to receive notifications of new messages. This would impact SMS but would also be a limitation for new VVM messages. These two areas are why I think Apple pulled the plug on the native app. With a native app that can notify you as soon as you get a new VVM or SMS and would then allow you to browse, read, listen to or reply to these messages, would impact Apple directly in terms of revenue.

    Some, but not all carriers of the iPhone allow VVM to be an optional add-on to a customers acct. Apple received a sub fee for every subscriber, as well as the carrier having to buy the VVM servers from Apple. A native GV app would mean that customers would have no reason at all to continue subscribing to Apple’s VVM through their carrier. A native GV app would be a complete replacement for the iPhones built in VVM browser and player. When Apple says the GV duplicated existing functionality, this is the functionality they were referring to. Many other apps exist that duplicate the other ‘features’ of the phone.app, but only GV would offer a free alternative to the whole shebang, most importantly, the features that Apple has been able to monetize. I realize the calls themselves would still go through phone.app, but that is only relevant to AT&T, as it means they have no vested interest in blocking the calling features, as things like calling cards and alternative LD providers can already be used. The feature that would impact AT&T directly would be the SMS. Again, this is only a ‘threat’ to AT&T because of Push notifications.

    So, I like the idea of a native app that only receives notifications and opens the Webapp. But, I think Apple will again block this app. It is Push that has made any GV integration a threat to both Apple and AT&T revenue streams. And so, any native app the enables Push for GV, whether GV itself is accessed through the native app or webapp, makes the native app itself the threat. A webapp is good enough for me, as long as a companion native app for Push Notifications is provided, but I don’t see this happening. It will be webapp only, which means what makes a GV most useful, VVM and SMS, aside from the free/cheap calling, totally useless.

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