Is Google Voice as a Web App an Acceptable Alternative?

Google Voice Icon

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?


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