Mike Becky

Tag Archive for ‘Google Voice’

Google Voice Available for iPhone ➝

Christian Brunschen writing on the Google Voice Blog last week:

Today we’re taking the Google Voice experience on the iPhone to a whole new level with the launch of the official Google Voice for iPhone app.

I don’t use Google Voice so didn’t try out the application. I’ve heard good things about the app, but the real news here is that this finally lays to rest Apple’s study of the Google Voice application.

Google Voice – Free

VoiceCentral Returning to the iPhone ➝

VoiceCentral, a Google Voice application, will be returning to the iPhone. Not as a jailbreak application, and not as an App Store app either. VoiceCentral will be coming back to the iPhone as a web app.

The VoiceCentral developers, Riverturn, call the new version “Black Swan” edition. They are currently excepting registration for the private beta. This new version of VoiceCentral works very much like the native app did, the only downside is that you have to export your contacts to Google Voice to access them from within the app.

With Mobile Safari’s support of HTML5 web apps are becoming an incredibly viable alternative to the App Store.

But, there is still the issue of commerce.

FCC May Investigate Google Voice
8/22/09: Apple, AT&T, and Google Respond to the FCC
8/4/09: Apple, AT&T, and Google Voice

FCC May Investigate Google Voice ➝

In an interesting turn of events the FCC may investigate Google over Google Voice. The concern is that the service blocks some numbers in rural areas claiming that it is too expensive to connect. Federal law prohibits traditional carriers from blocking such calls.

AT&T has complained about this to the FCC saying that Google would have an unfair advantage if they didn’t have to follow the same rules as the other carriers. But, as we all know, Google Voice isn’t a traditional carrier. In fact Google Voice is barely usable without pairing it with a traditional telephone service.

This is just one more flare up in the ongoing feud among Google, Apple, and AT&T. Things will eventually get sorted out and I have a hunch that the FCC will get what’s best for users.

AT&T Lifts Restriction on VoIP Over 3G
9/19/09: Google Un-Redacts Its FCC Filing
8/22/09: Apple, AT&T, and Google Respond to the FCC

Update 10/14/09: From AT&T’s latest letter to the FCC (a copy of which can be found on TechCrunch):

But Google’s call blocking begs an even more important question that the Commission must consider as it evaluates whether to adopt rules regarding Internet openness. If the Commission is going to be a “smart cop on the beat preserving a free and open Internet,” then shouldn’t its “beat” necessarily cover the entire Internet neighborhood, including Google? Indeed, if the Commission cannot stop Google from blocking disfavored telephone calls as Google contends, then how could the Commission ever stop Google from also blocking disfavored websites from appearing in the results of its search engine; or prohibit Google from blocking access to applications that compete with its own email, text messaging, cloud computing and other services; or otherwise prevent Google from abusing the gatekeeper control it wields over the Internet?

Harsh words indeed. AT&T also says that Google Voice is blocking calls to an ambulance service, church, Benedictine nuns, doctors, etc. This feud is getting more interesting by the day.

Update 10/28/09: The Washington Post is reporting that although Google is still blocking some phone numbers, they have reduced the number of blocked numbers to fewer than 100.

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

There is a Difference Between ‘Not Approved’ and ‘Rejected’

To users and developers there is no difference between an application that has been rejected and one that has not been approved, either way the app still isn’t available. But, to Apple, there is a difference.

Imagine a file named “todo.txt” sitting on your desktop. Inside the file is a list of things that you want to get done. Deleting that file means that you aren’t going to accomplish the items on the list. We all know how people are with to do lists, they get put off and often times never get done. But, rather than admit that you’re (most likely) never going to get the items done, you leave todo.txt on your desktop and, if asked about it, you would say that you are “working on it.” You still haven’t done any of the items on the list but you also haven’t decided that you aren’t going to do them.

Google Voice is todo.txt and right now it is sitting on Apple’s desktop. They haven’t placed it in the Trash yet (rejected it). But, they likely aren’t actively doing anything with it either. Apple is “working on it” just like you are.

Google Un-Redacts Its FCC Filing
8/22/09: Apple, AT&T, and Google Respond to the FCC
8/4/09: Apple, AT&T, and Google Voice

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

Google Un-Redacts Its FCC Filing ➝

When Google initially sent their response to the FCC the section detailing why Apple rejected the Google Voice application was redacted. Google has since retracted that request and the full filing is now publicly available.

On July 7, Mr. Eustace [Google Senior Vice President of Engineering & Research] and Mr. Schiller spoke over the phone. It was during this call that Mr. Schiller informed Mr. Eustace that Apple was rejecting the Google Voice application for the reasons described above in 2(a).

Google clearly states that Apple was “rejecting” the application. It seems that Google doesn’t see the difference between “not accepted” and “rejected.” The distinction doesn’t really exist for users and developers, but from Apple’s perspective there is a distinct difference.

From 2(a):

Apple’s representatives informed Google that the Google Voice Application was rejected because Apple believed the application duplicated the core dialer functionality of the iPhone. The Apple representatives indicated that the company did not want applications that could potentially replace such functionality.

There isn’t anything new here. And quite honestly, I don’t understand why Google wanted this redacted to begin with.

Apple, AT&T, and Google Respond to the FCC
8/4/09: Apple, AT&T, and Google Voice

Update 9/19/09: An Apple representative writes to Silicon Alley Insider saying:

We do not agree with all of the statements made by Google in their FCC letter. Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application and we continue to discuss it with Google.

The “continued discussion” is what keeps the application from being considered “rejected.”

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 1/2/10: VoiceCentral Returning to the iPhone

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)

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

Apple, AT&T, and Google Voice

The Recap

Early last week Apple began removing Google Voice applications from the App Store claiming that they “duplicate features that come with the iPhone.” Then we learn that Apple blocked Google’s official Google Voice application from the App Store.

The next day John Gruber wrote a very interesting piece regarding the issue which was later updated the article confirming speculation, AT&T was the one to blame.

Later in the week the Federal Communications Commission launched an inquiry into why Apple rejected the application. The letter sent to Apple (PDF) asked how AT&T was consulted in the decision, if at all, and “what are the standards for considering and approving iPhone applications?”

AT&T has denied blocking the Google Voice applications saying “AT&T does not manage or approve applications for the App Store.” This stance is contradictory to reports in May that AT&T limited the SlingPlayer app to Wi-Fi only.

The most recent (and most interesting) part of this story is that Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt has left Apple’s board. From Apple’s press release:

“Eric has been an excellent Board member for Apple, investing his valuable time, talent, passion and wisdom to help make Apple successful,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest. Therefore, we have mutually decided that now is the right time for Eric to resign his position on Apple’s Board.”

The Opinion

Apple is upset with Google. That is why Google Voice was rejected. Google has consistently moved into similar markets as Apple, this is why Schmidt had to leave the board. Remember Google’s Latitude application? That was originally going to be a native application but Apple blocked it, leaving Safari as the only option for Latitude users.

What’s funny about this is that Google also has a web based app for Google Voice that works on the iPhone, it isn’t as nice as the native app would be but it is at least an option.

The argument used for AT&T wanting the app blocked is that it replaces all of the phone functionality from the device. But, it doesn’t. The way Google Voice routes calls is that you punch in a number and Google Voice calls both you and the person you want to call, this means that you are still using your AT&T minutes when you use Google Voice. Long distance is often free on AT&T accounts and although international rates are cheaper when using Google Voice, there are already a bunch of services set up for calling international numbers at lower rates.

Many people complaining about the rejection of Google Voice are more upset about Apple’s policies than they are about being able to use Google Voice more seamlessly. It is silly that Apple would reject this application and I would love for someone to get the the bottom of this issue to find out exactly why it was rejected and who to blame. But, I don’t think that it is the governments job to do so. Instead it should be done by journalists. The same journalists that have been wasting their time complaining about the rejection should have been spending their time finding answers.

The idea that the government is going to get involved in a companies decisions regarding what applications are allowed on their phone, when the developers have agreed to the terms of service is just too overly involved and would undermine the contract between Apple and the developers. But, if a developer thinks that the removal of their application didn’t adhere to Apple’s own terms of service than they could take legal action.

This rejection is just one of many and I’m sure we will eventually know what all happened, I just hope it doesn’t take too long.

Update 8/7/09: David Pogue reporting for the New York Times writes:

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.

Update 8/10/09: Adding more fuel to the Apple-Google fire, a former Google employee “with knowledge of such matters” has told TechCrunch that Apple and Google “had an agreement not to hire away each other’s workers.”

Update 8/21/09: It seems these type of secret non-employee-poaching agreements aren’t that uncommon with Apple. Bloomberg is reporting that Apple offered a similar agreement to Palm but Ed Colligan rejected the proposal.

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.