Apple, AT&T, and Google Respond to the FCC

Apple, AT&T, and Google have finally responded to the FCC regarding the rejection of Google Voice. It’s worth noting that Apple is the only company that has published their response publicly on their website, but Engadget is hosting copies of both AT&T’s and Google’s.

Apple puts it very clearly:

Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it.

It’s interesting to know that Apple’s decision isn’t final. But, remember that Google’s initial statement regarding the application didn’t use the word “rejected” either. Instead the Google spokesman told TechCrunch:

Apple did not approve the Google Voice application we submitted six weeks ago to the Apple App Store.

Apple also gives a rather clear explanation for why the application hasn’t been approved:

The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone’s core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail. Apple spent a lot of time and effort developing this distinct and innovative way to seamlessly deliver core functionality of the iPhone. For example, on an iPhone, the “Phone” icon that is always shown at the bottom of the Home Screen launches Apple’s mobile telephone application, providing access to Favorites, Recents, Contacts, a Keypad, and Visual Voicemail. The Google Voice application replaces Apple’s Visual Voicemail by routing calls through a separate Google Voice telephone number that stores any voicemail, preventing voicemail from being stored on the iPhone, i.e., disabling Apple’s Visual Voicemail. Similarly, SMS text messages are managed through the Google hub—replacing the iPhone’s text messaging feature.

I wouldn’t say this is a very good reason, as there are several applications in the App Store that replace the iPhone’s dialer and SMS interface. It also doesn’t explain why Apple removed other Google Voice-related applications that were approved in the past.

Apple is also concerned about Google’s application transferring the user’s entire contact database to Google’s servers saying:

we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways. These factors present several new issues and questions to us that we are still pondering at this time.

Apple also claims that they have not consulted AT&T in their decision making-process. It isn’t clear whether or not they consult AT&T on any of their decisions but it is nice to know that they didn’t consult them on this decision.

AT&T has revealed that they do have technical discussion with Apple and discussions on whether certain types of applications are consistent with the agreement between Apple and AT&T and AT&T’s terms of service. AT&T also says that their deal with Apple prohibits applications that allow VoIP calls on AT&T’s network but they plan to take a “fresh look” at authorizing these types of applications.

It seems that AT&T is more concerned with maintaining the quality of their network, and I’m not at all surprised by that. When you have that many iPhones on your network that are all hitting the data services really hard, I would be worried about it too. Especially when customers already complain about the quality of AT&T’s service.

Google didn’t really have much to say on the issue, basically just saying that the best experience for Google Voice is with the native application, not with the web app. But, what seems fishy is that the reasons Google was given for why the application was rejected is completely redacted from Google’s response. The fact that Apple gave their answer publicly and Google’s response is redacted makes me wonder what is really going on.

Apple also gives a little insight into how the app review process works.

There are more than 40 full-time trained reviewers, and at least two different reviewers study each application so that the review process is applied uniformly. Apple also established an App Store executive review board that determines procedures and sets policy for the review process, as well as reviews applications that are escalated to the board because they raise new or complex issues. The review board meets weekly and is comprised of senior management with responsibilities for the App Store. 95% of applications are approved within 14 days of being submitted.

Since Apple receives 8,500 new applications and updates every week that works out to 80 application reviews per person per day, no wonder the App Store has so many problems.

Apple Answers the FCC’s Questions
AT&T’s Response (hosted by Engadget)
Google’s Response (hosted by Engadget)

Previously:
8/4/09:
Apple, AT&T, and Google Voice

Update 8/24/09: It’s interesting to point out that from a users standpoint their is no difference between an application that has been rejected and an application that hasn’t been approved. Either way you still can’t use it.

Update 8/24/09: Further proof of Apple’s App Store hypocrisy, an application called “RingCentral Mobile” with a similar feature set to Google Voice has been in the App Store for roughly 10 months and remains there today. It doesn’t appear to have been held up to nearly the scrutiny that Google Voice has.

I would guess that one of the reasons Apple hasn’t approved Google Voice (this may go for Latitude as well) is because Google has moved into markets competing with Apple and Apple isn’t happy about it.

Update 8/24/09: Mac|Life is quoting Kevin Duerr of Riverturn (the team behind VoiceCentral) regarding Apple’s response to the FCC inquiry:

Perhaps they are assuming no one at the FCC ever used VoiceCentral or the other two Google Voice Apps that were available for months before they were removed from the App store. Or maybe Apple is banking on the FCC not being deeply familiar with either the iPhone or the Google Voice service. Because anyone who knows the services in question, or anyone who ever used our app, would be able to see the insincerity in many of Apple’s statements.

Update 9/10/09: PreCentral reports that Palm has rejected their first application from their App Catalog and The Official Palm Blog announces that they have approved a Google Voice application.

Update 9/19/09: Google Un-Redacts Its FCC Filing

Update 9/21/09: There is a Difference Between ‘Not Approved’ and ‘Rejected’

Update 10/4/09: Apple and Google Slowly Parting Ways

Update 10/7/09: AT&T Lifts Restrictions on VoIP Over 3G

Update 8/14/09: FCC May Investigate Google Voice

Update 1/1/10: Patently Apple found an Apple patent for something that appears to offer very similar functionality to Google Latitude. It’s possible that this is why Apple decided to reject Google’s Latitude application.

Update 1/2/10: VoiceCentral Returning to the iPhone

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