Apple leaves door open to approving Google Voice, albeit a different incarnation


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Apple today denied it had rejected the Google Voice app for distribution on its iTunes online store, technically leaving the door open for Google to submit a modified version that would address Apple’s concerns about the app’s look and feel.

The Federal Communications Commission last month asked Apple, Google and AT&T, the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the U.S., to explain why Google’s app had not been approved by Apple. At the time, many observers denounced Apple for trying to protect its partner, AT&T.


AT&T today told the FCC it had no role in Apple’s decision. ‘AT&T was not asked about the matter by Apple at any time, nor did it offer any view one way or another,’ wrote James Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive vice president, in a letter to Ruth Milkman, chief of the FCC’s wireless division.

In its letter to the FCC, Apple said, ‘Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and is ‘still pondering at this time.’ The statement seems to leave a door open to the possibility that Apple may approve the app, if it was altered to Apple’s satisfaction.

Until now, Apple has not publicly revealed what its concerns were. Today’s letter lays out at least some of its rationale: ‘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.’

In short, Apple is saying it has qualms about Google supplanting the carefully crafted look and feel of the iPhone.

The Google Voice app would let iPhone users manage their home, office or cellphone numbers by routing the calls through a central Google number. It would also record voicemails and send written transcripts of the messages as e-mails, using AT&T’s 3G data network. The app also would allow users to send SMS messages and make inexpensive international calls.

Although iPhone users can still download Google Voice via the phone’s Web browser, Google told the FCC that the app, if distributed through iTunes, would be able to access the iPhone’s address book ‘and dial directly from the application, thus providing a more seamless experience.’

It’s that seamlessness that’s apparently troublesome to Apple, whose strict control over the interface of its products is renowned.

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.