Google Voice for the iPhone has yet to be sanctioned by Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), but Palm (NASDAQ: PALM) has embraced the Internet phone program by green-lighting a free third-party version for its smartphones.
Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) VoIP call-routing service, which is also available in Android and BlackBerry applications, offers users a centralized platform handling a unified phone number, SMS and automated voicemail transcription.
Controversy erupted when Apple failed to approve Google Voice for the iPhone, prompting an FCC inquiry into the matter in which Google, Apple and AT&T all filed explanations of their respective roles in the matter. AT&T (NYSE: T) is the sole carrier for the iPhone.
In contrast, Palm, recently approved gDial Pro, a third-party version of the app, for its mobile application store by drawing parallels between Google Voice and its own smartphone software.
“One of the most powerful aspects of webOS is Palm Synergy, which brings together your online accounts in one simple, logical view, and keeps them synced up automatically. Google Voice applies a similar philosophy to your phone number and phone services, offering you a range of options for everything from forwarding calls among your phones to transcribing voicemail messages into text. With gDial Pro, a webOS app from Mobile Entertainment Group, your Palm Pre can now use and manage your Google Voice account, ” writes Jon Zilber, Palm’s online communications director, at the company blog.
On the iPhone front, it appears the Google Voice app remains in limbo, for now. At the time of the regulatory filing, it was widely believed that AT&T had pressured Apple to reject the VoIP app because it would eat into its revenue if users were allowed to make lower-rate international calls and to send SMS messages, which would be funded through a user’s data plan as opposed to through texting fees.
Based on how Google Voice operates on other mobile operating systems, calls made on the iPhone app, however, would still incur minutes purchased under a user’s AT&T plan.
However, Apple took sole responsibility for not endorsing Google Voice, and said it had not been rejected but rather was still reviewing the program. In the regulatory document filed in August, Apple seemed to be concerned that the branding of Google in the app diminished Apple’s role in the iPhone user experience.
“Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it,” the company said in its filing. “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.”
Other developers of Google Voice have reported being likewise locked out from the Apple App Store, but recently Vonage, a prominent Internet telephone company, received approval for its iPhone app, raising eyebrows in the industry.
Vonage is currently conducting a beta test and has yet to disclose any more details about the app other than to say general availability will be announced at a later date.
Meanwhile, the Google Voice Mobile iPhone app flap is not the first time that Apple has acted to ban an app involving VoIP technology.
Earlier this year, Apple allowed VoIP application Skype into the App Store only after it agreed to limit its service to iPhone users on Wi-Fi connections — not when the device was connected via 3G. The move meant that on-the-go users still have to pay AT&T for voice communications.
Neither Apple nor Google responded by press time to inquiries for comment.