The Fact & Fiction of Google Voice's iPhone Rejection

[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.

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