By Jason Meserve | Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 9:23 am
Google Voice aficionados–of which there are more by the day–were excited to see mobile apps for the service launch for Android and BlackBerry devices. The general consensus: A similar iPhone app must be right around the corner. Not so fast.
The unofficial GV Mobile app written by Sean Kovac has been rejected by Apple or, more likely, AT&T, according to Mashable and Kovac. GV Mobile lets Google Voice account holders dial numbers through the address book or keypad, send SMS messages, retrieve call history data and take calls on a different phone–all functions the Google Voice web site offers. Google too had its official Voice application rejected by Apple, according to TechCrunch.
The problem with Kovac’s app, Apple says, is that this duplicates functionality of the iPhone and therefore is not needed. “Richard Chipman from Apple just called–he told me they’re removing GV Mobile from the App Store due to it duplicating features that the iPhone comes with (Dialer, SMS, etc). He didn’t actually specify which features, although I assume the whole app in general,” Kovac wrote on his blog.
As Mashable rightly points out, this is a bit of a fishy excuse, even if it has been used before. There are plenty of current applications that duplicate iPhone functionality: Skype lets you make calls, there are a million camera apps that duplicate the iPhone’s camera function, and the list goes on. Many are pinning the blame not on Apple itself, but AT&T, which may fear that the Google Voice service may circumvent many of the features it charges users for.
AT&T does have a right to fight the competition, but how does a Google Voice app for the iPhone impact its ability to make money? Yes, Google Voice lets customers place US calls for free, but you get that anyway on a US AT&T iPhone plan. Plus, you’d still be using airtime minutes when making that call over the AT&T cell network. An iPhone plan comes with an unlimited data plan, so the Google Voice application does not impact potential revenue on that front. Voicemail could be an issue since all voice messages would be routed through Google Voice, but one does not pay extra for voicemail service on on iPhone.
The only place Google Voice and its related apps might take a swipe at AT&T income is the SMS message plan. If one can route SMS messages through Google Voice and thereby receive them over the data network and not the cellular network, it would eliminate the need to pay extra for a SMS plan, which can tack on up to $20 extra to an iPhone owner’s bill. Even that rationale is lacking, since Google Voice customers can just log in to their accounts via Safari to send SMS messages.
Not every iPhone customer is going to be a Google Voice user and for those that do use both, a Google Voice iPhone app would make both the device and the service more useful. Isn’t that the idea behind the iPhone? After all, Apple does claim: “There’s an app for that.” Just not when it comes to Google Voice.