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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 (s goog), who have traditionally been very close with Apple (s aapl), 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 (s att) 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?