Google Voice apps suggest App Store changes working

In the immediate aftermath of Apple’s recent changes to its App Store policies, the prevailing attitude was one of “wait and see.” To many critics, the changes sounded positive enough, but Apple’s often cavalier attitude had made them cautious. Less than two weeks after the change, though, there are already signs that Apple has turned over a new leaf—previously persona non grata in the App Store, Google Voice may turn out to be the prodigal son.

When Apple announced its App Store changes earlier this month, hope for Google Voice was reignited. GV Mobile developer Sean Kovacs reported that he was invited to resubmit his application to the store, and last week the first third-party Google Voice app, GV Connect, appeared for download. GV Mobile followed shortly thereafter.

Google’s telephony service, which lets users take advantage of digital voicemail, the ability to ring multiple numbers simultaneously, and free texting, was unceremoniously booted from the App Store last year. Apple pulled several existing third-party applications, such as GV Mobile, GVdialer, and VoiceCentral, giving only a vague excuse about “duplication of features.” It was one of the first hints that the previously solid relationship between Google and Apple was beginning to show signs of strain.

Not long after that, it came to light that Google had at some point submitted its own iPhone client for Voice, which initial reports said had been rejected from the App Store. The plot thickened when the Federal Communications Commission investigated the allegations; Apple posted an open response to the FCC in which it claimed it was “continuing to study the Google Voice application.”

Google’s own response to the FCC investigation had contained a redacted section which the company later unredacted and published. It stated that Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller had personally called Google senior vice president Alan Eustace and told him that the app was rejected. The softly creaking sounds of strain between Google and Apple were now punctuated by the first sharp cracks.

Yet those expecting an outbreak of open hostilities found none: Apple and Google went blithely about their separate ways; Google even released an HTML5 Web app interface for Google Voice in January. Little more was said about Google Voice—beyond the increasingly rare “Whatever happened to it, anyway?” comments.

Of course, the elephant in the room is Google itself. Will Apple’s new rules extend to cover a company that has more and more positioned itself as a major competitor? There may yet be hope; Apple’s recent changes also backpedaled in another area of contention between the two companies: analytics.

Earlier this year, Apple changed its rules to prohibit third-party applications from distributing analytics info the ad networks besides Apple’s own iAds, a move some saw as retribution for the fact that Google had snapped up mobile advertiser AdMob, which Apple had been in the market to buy. But the alterations to the rules appear to unfetter competitors once again, and Google itself has been positive about the move.

It’s unclear as to whether or not Google has or will resubmitted its Google Voice application to the App Store. A Google spokesperson that Macworld reached for comment said only, “We currently offer Google Voice mobile apps for Blackberry and Android, and we offer an HTML5 web app for the iPhone. We have nothing further to announce at this time."

However, now that Apple’s approved a pair of third-party apps for Google Voice, it would seem to be in a bind regarding an official, first-party client: if Google’s were to submit an app that didn’t get approved, Apple would have some tough questions to answer. In the meantime, the app remains in limbo, along with Google and Apple’s relationship.

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