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Apple Kills Google Voice Apps On the iPhone 541

Posted by kdawson
from the hey-wait-isn't-he-on-our-board dept.
molnarcs writes "Apple pulls Google Voice-enabled applications from its App Store, citing duplication of functionality. The move affects both Google's official Google Voice and third party apps like Voice Central. Sean Kovacs, main developer of GV Mobile, says that he had personal approval for his app from Phil Shiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, last April. TechCrunch's Jason Kincaid suspects AT&T behind the move."
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Apple Kills Google Voice Apps On the iPhone

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  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:14PM (#28858129) Homepage

    Whoever wins ... apple fanboys lose.

  • by Nerdfest (867930) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:18PM (#28858197)
    As they say, any press is good press. The unwashed masses are only hearing "Apple, Apple, Apple".
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:20PM (#28858225)

    So if AT&T can get an app banned (as Gruber [daringfireball.net] says is the case), what happens later on when the iPhone is not tied to any one phone company in the U.S.? Carrier specific stores? That smells like the stuff people dislike about Verizon... but Apple can't let multiple companies triangulate on what apps they like.

    Also interesting is that AT&T seems to allow some apps on other phones they move to keep off the iPhone, it could be because there are just so many more iPhones on AT&T they are really worried about the data load (which would explain why Slingbox is WiFi only on the iPhone but works over 3G on the blackberry).

  • by Late Adopter (1492849) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:21PM (#28858249)

    Sean Kovacs, main developer of GV Mobile, says that he had personal approval for his app from Phil Shiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, last April.

    If this bit is true and documented, then sue for lost development time. Apple gave assurances they wouldn't do something, Google committed resources, then Apple did it. Whatever Apple's reasoning here for changing their minds, they can't yank the football away any more than a contest promoter could decide not to give awards to a winner.

  • by Khue (625846) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:21PM (#28858251)
    I don't know about an iPhone but this app works fantastic on my Blackberry. Every strike against Apple like this means companies like RIM get good press. They need to be careful about this type of activity. On a happy note, I recommend applying for the Beta if you have a Blackberry. It's nice using my personal 8320 for work mobile, home, and personal mobile phone.
  • by DrEldarion (114072) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:22PM (#28858267)

    That sure worked well for AIG and Enron, hm?

  • by sustik (90111) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:26PM (#28858351)

    Can iPhone users buy the app in another store? I hope so; buying a (smart?)phone for a couple hundred dollars which can *only* run apps from a single store is not very appealing to me.

  • by mcgrew (92797) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:32PM (#28858449) Homepage Journal

    So if AT&T can get an app banned (as Gruber says is the case), what happens later on when the iPhone is not tied to any one phone company in the U.S.?

    Then I'll buy one. AT&T is about the only thing that keeps me from an iPhone.

  • by MathiasRav (1210872) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:33PM (#28858455) Journal

    Can iPhone users buy the app in another store? I hope so; buying a (smart?)phone for a couple hundred dollars which can *only* run apps from a single store is not very appealing to me.

    I am not an iPhone user, but from what I've heard it's either Apple's App Store or a jailbroken iPhone with no official warranty or support.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:34PM (#28858475)

    Not as clear cut as you make it. Companies are a bit different than a person because not every person in a company can commit a company to something. Exact conversations and the apple employee's job description would be needed to be evaluated to see if this 'promise' really binds apple to anything. Without all sorts of specifics recorded about what features could be included I think it would be near impossible to win a suit due to the complexities. What exactly did Google get approval for? Not the name of the app but what features. If you can't explain to me, down to every detail, what Google was allowed to include then they have no footing in court as Apple can simply claim they assumed X feature was allowed, but apple didn't authorize it.

  • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:41PM (#28858603) Homepage

    Sean Kovacs, main developer of GV Mobile, says that he had personal approval for his app from Phil Shiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, last April.

    If this bit is true and documented, then sue for lost development time. Apple gave assurances they wouldn't do something, Google committed resources, then Apple did it. Whatever Apple's reasoning here for changing their minds, they can't yank the football away any more than a contest promoter could decide not to give awards to a winner.

    Sounds to my (admittedly untrained) ear like a time to apply the legal doctrine of estoppel [wikipedia.org], especially promissory estoppel. If I was Google, I'd be looking to recover as much as possible from Apple here, or (better yet) force the app down their throat, as that would vastly annoy both Apple and AT&T.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:42PM (#28858609)

    What's going to be really interesting is seeing what happens to apps that use Google Voice to make [free] VoIP calls on Google Android devices...

  • by Whuffo (1043790) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:42PM (#28858617) Homepage Journal
    Google Voice (Grand Central rebranded) is a wonderful service. Not for the reason many tout - its bevy of useful features. It's incredibly valuable because it provides a virtual phone number which redirects to whatever phone number you have now. Change carriers or move out of their service area? No problem; just change the forwarding phone number in GV and anyone who calls your GV number still is calling you.

    This is something that is also valuable with email - Mail.com used to offer free redirection for life but they've since gone back on their promise and now charge for their service. Imagine having an email address that is yours forever - one that simply redirects mail to whatever account you currently have. Change providers? No problem; change your address at the redirector and nobody has to change the email address they reach you at.

    Anyone who has changed phone numbers or email addresses knows what a hassle it can be - these redirection services provide a solution to this problem.

    Hey, AT&T and Apple - what me, a customer, wants is to have a phone number and email address that is mine - one that will be mine for as long as I want - no matter if my email or phone provider changes or goes out of business. That's what Google Voice provides and AT&T does NOT. Phone number portability is largely a joke as anyone who's tried to keep a phone number knows. Portability doesn't help if you move to a different area code, anyway.

    Phone companies like to lock in their customers - one of the ways they do this is through the fear they instill in their customers. If you change providers, you'll have to tell everyone you know that you've got a new phone number. Rather than deal with that nuisance, people accept yet another fee increase and stay with the same provider. This isn't customer service at all - it's corporate service where they inconvenience you to insure that the corporation makes more money. That's why they sabotage "portability" in any way they can - and it's why AT&T doesn't want Google Voice on the IPhone.

    And they'd really prefer that you didn't realize that if your phone number is in one area code and your Google Voice phone number is in a different area code that you could be receiving local calls from a much larger area. In areas like Silicon Valley this can make a huge difference in the ability of people to contact you.

    Stuff like this is why I do not have an IPhone - it's a nice piece of hardware but since it's tied to AT&T it's not for me. I got away from AT&T years ago and never looked back.
  • by PotatoFarmer (1250696) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:43PM (#28858639)
    Sort of - it's Apple's App Store in addition to a jailbroken iPhone with no official warranty or support. You can use both at the same time. As far as the warranty part goes, given that jailbreaking is a software process and not a hardware mod, resetting your iPhone to an Apple-approved state is a trivial process. Unless the hardware is dead, in which case there's no way they would know you've jailbroken the thing anyway.
  • Re:It was AT&T (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wookaru (1521381) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:49PM (#28858739)
    If that is true, its interesting that AT&T allows GV apps for Blackberry users... [techcrunch.com]
  • Sherman (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:50PM (#28858745)

    Ok, if anyone is an anti-trust lawyer, enlighten me if I'm off base, but how is this crap not a total violation of Sherman and Clayton? Apple is specifically yanking apps that compete with their own. How is that allowed? How has Apple not been bitchslapped for violation of the Sherman antitrust act and the Clayton antitrust act?? I thought Sherman and Clayton were created specifically to prevent this kind of garbage from ever occurring again?

  • by SpectreBlofeld (886224) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:53PM (#28858789)

    There's still a reason for them not to like it.

    Have you considered the fact that this sort of behavior will stifle application development by developers? Do you really think Google would have put effort into developing the app for the iPhone if they knew it was going to get rejected? (They were previous told it would be accepted).

    Developers are going to see stories like this and be dissuaded from development if their app idea in any way steps on Apple or AT&T's toes by 'duplicating functionality', which is a shame, because a great deal of the time a third-party solution is far superior to the native app.

  • by rennerik (1256370) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:53PM (#28858797)
    As TFA mentions, Apple pushed the recording industry to accept the $0.99/track, even when they weren't happy about it. When the iPhone was being developed, and Apple was shopping around for a carrier, AT&T made a significant amount of concessions that other carriers would never have made: modify the voice mail system, lack of network branding on the phone, complete control by Apple over the design of the phone, etc. It can be said that a lot of this would not have been possible without Steve Jobs at the helm, with his influence and charisma telling these other companies that *they've* got to work *with* Apple, not the other way around, if they want a slice of the pie.

    Now it seems AT&T is walking all over Apple and Apple is just letting them. Is it because Jobs is absent from the spotlight, and he's lost his influence? What is going on that makes them cower in the corner and submit to AT&T? If anything, it should be the other way around. AT&T would be *nothing* without the iPhone, and Apple would be able to go to any other carrier and have them begging at their feet (contracts notwithstanding).

    On a completely different note, I wonder when this sort of thing will stop? Carriers have finally let handset developers do what they want, because they realized that companies like Nokia and Palm and Apple make better phones than Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile does, and that they shouldn't inject themselves into the process. This is all thanks to Apple. But these networks are still protective of their cashflow model, trying to use their relative exclusivity and propriety to keep relatively cheap methods of communication off. They charge for SMSes, even though these things actually, *literally* don't cost them anything (the packets in which SMSes are sent are sent or received regardless of whether or not there's an SMS in there) -- especially US carriers. The cost of text messaging in the US far outweighs any other market, for no reason other than it's a million dollar cash cow annually. They keep the Internet crappy, slow, and unreliable so that users can't use it to do anything important, other than get email or browse Facebook, because God forbid you should be able to make a phone call... then that keeps them from charging you $0.40/min when you go over your minutes; or charging you exorbitant monthly fees for voice time. When will all of this change?

    Something has to remove their stranglehold over the industry. I get that they want to protect their business model, but they've had it for close to 40 years now in one form or another, and they're stifling change and innovation. And I suppose we can only hope that by doing this, new players will come to market that will be the death knell for the old timers that can't or won't change. And technically, we don't even need a player; all we need is one of the current players to change their tune. Remember the unlimited plans? None of them had it until T-Mobile or Sprint (not sure which) introduced it, and then suddenly everyone jumped on the boat. The first company took an awful big risk to do something like that, but in the end, it paid off.

    Let's hope it happens again.
  • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @05:14PM (#28859093)

    I can install anything I want with no DRM whatsoever. I can even ssh into the phone. The applications are written in plain old Javascript, even the built-in ones, so they can be trivially modified. The Pre is a hacker's dream phone.

    It'll be a cold day in hell before I use a closed phone again.

  • by atomic_bomberman (1602061) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @05:17PM (#28859147)
    "Once exclusivity with AT&T ends..."
    Apple doesn't do business in the time of once. They do business now.

    "...open the iPhone up to larger markets..."
    AT&T was the largest wireless carrier in the US when Apple inked the deal.

    Any more ideas?
  • Next test: Spotify! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by itsdapead (734413) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @05:22PM (#28859221)

    Interesting test coming up in EU/UK: the "iTunes killing" streaming music service Spotify has announced that they've submitted their client app for the iPhone/iPod Touch to Apple. Cannily, they've got this all over the press [bbc.co.uk] which must have rather put Apple on the spot(ify).

    Spotify is nothing revolutionary but its well executed, easy to use and has a pretty good range of music from pop to classical (minus the usual digital hold-outs: Floyd etc.) and seems to have been very well marketed (starting with a Google style not-very-exclusive invitation/introduction system). Its been getting to quite a wide audience (not your usual pop download monkeys). If Apple reject this, then the App Store issue is going to be News in Europe. Could be fun.

    Looks like mobile apps are part of their business model: the basic desktop service is free with (not too bad) ads or 10 quid a month for ad-free, but you're going to have to subscribe to use the mobile version. That'd probably put me off, but we shall see...

  • Re:Coming to Cydia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mike Buddha (10734) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @05:33PM (#28859377)

    With decent hardware, people always have the option of breaking their software and running whatever they want, which is what a lot of us iPhone users do. With hardware, you're stuck unless there's an upgrade available. It seems like there are fewer and fewer hardware upgrades available for phones these days. They're not as simple to upgrade as PDA's I guess.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @05:40PM (#28859473)

    If you are just some "In my spare time," kind of author, ok maybe you don't care so much. You get the iPhone SDK and make apps and if they get rejected, oh well shit happens. You are just in it for fun and maybe some side money.

    This is not the case for real development studios. They are not going to go and spend the money to retrain people on a new development model, and then spend a bunch of man hours bringing an app to a platform, if that app risks arbitrary rejection. They are going to want to know BEFORE committing the resources that it is going to be allowed.

    In particular, this could really hurt the iPhone games market. For games on a mobile device to ever really take off, they are going to have to improve in quality. You need things like Nintendo DS games on there. Well, that can be done, but only likely by big game development houses. At this point, EA is at least trying it to some extent. However, game companies are NOT going to invest the time in a platform if they might get their shit pulled because someone at Apple or AT&T got whiny.

    Now this case is a big problem since Google got prior approval. That tells the game makers that even if you get the ok, your product still can be pulled. There is literally no way for you to be safe. That could quite easily convince them that the iPhone is a market just not worth developing for. Stick with the PC, consoles, handhelds and so on, screw the iPhone.

    While the idea of filtering content for a store is not new, this idea of retroactively shit canning apps for arbitrary reasons, after approval is. You'd better believe that if EA talks to Sony or MS about publishing a game on the console, they game will be cleared for release and that will not be revoked after the fact. Yes, there are licensing requirement that have to be met, but you meet those and you are good. Someone doesn't decide a few months later "Know what? We don't like that, so you can't sell it anymore."

  • Re:It was AT&T (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alanQuatermain (840239) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @06:01PM (#28859731) Homepage
    There are a number of regions availableâ" the default option is 'all'. You can, if you wish, make your application available only in specific regions (for instance an app for Nasza Klasa [nasza-klasa.pl] might initially be made available only in Poland. An app for Spotify [spotify.com] might not be made available in the US or Canada where the Spotify service just isn't available at all. In short: don't get your panties in a bunch, it's an opt-out system rather than an opt-in. It's there so developers of locale-specific apps don't have to deal with irate customers who bought an app they couldn't use at all (because they didn't read the info properly).
  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @06:33PM (#28860073) Journal

    What's even worse is that iPhone is the only platform that's locked down as bad. All other platforms are open - not just Pre and Android, but also Symbian and WinMo (okay, you might have to shell out some money for a certificate to sign binaries on Symbian, but they won't refuse you one because of "duplicate functionality"). We had an established tradition of open mobile platforms, and Apple is aggressively trying to change it for the worse now (and use the market success of iPhone to drive that). That's what is so bad about it all.

  • Re:It was AT&T (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @06:50PM (#28860241)

    Okay, so AT&T tells Apple to ban an iPhone app that provides a competing service.... would any antitrust lawyers out there mind explaining to me exactly what part of this isn't illegal under antitrust law?

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @07:58PM (#28860727)

    I am using a 6 yr. old computer, a 6 year old cell phone and a basic flat-screen TV w/ a $99 cheapo surround system.

    And I'm just as happy with the results today as I was 6 yrs. ago when I bought most of it.

    I just don't understand why people subject themselves to the BULLSHIT these companies impart on their customers just for a few SMALL incremental improvements in service. I won't even get into how much more money it would have cost me to stay "caught up" with so-called "improvements".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @10:58PM (#28861809)

    Nokia N810/N800 beat both of these. Why?

    No AT&T.
    No data plan costs.
    No monthly bill.
    800x480 screen
    External speaker built-in
    External mic built-in
    Video Camera - built-in (crappy)
    Linux.
    1,000s of Linux apps just run.
    9 days of powered on battery, not 2.
    WiFi.
    Linux. Debian apt-get install
    You don't need to "hack" your device to gain root access.

    Skype, SIP client, Claws, GNUmeric, OpenOffice, ssh in and out, VNC, GPS, SDHC, 1800mA batteries that you can easily swap yourself. No need to violate a warranty to replace it yourself.

    No money goes to Microsoft!

    $220. Cheaper now.

  • Re:Breakup (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cbhacking (979169) <<moc.oohay> <ta> ... isiurc_tuo_neeb>> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @11:48PM (#28862067) Homepage Journal

    You forgot possibly the biggest one: YouTube. Without Flash, the iPhone has to go though another API to access YouTube videos. What if Google decided that it wasn't in their best interest to support that access (or specifically changed it to block iPhones/iTouches)?

    Yeah, not going to happen. Still, it would be mildly hilarious, and they could do it.

  • by VeryVito (807017) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @01:25AM (#28862593) Homepage
    I have to admit I love my 3G iPhone, and I enjoy the simplicity of the App store, but even I've had more than my fill of AT&T (and Apple)'s regressive business practices in this arena. Although the 3GS looks impressive, I've promised myself that I won't buy another phone locked into the AT&T network (which spends more time trying to enforce a monopoly on services it just doesn't do well in the first place), and if I buy a piece of hardware that CAN do something interesting (and legal), I expect that it should be ALLOWED to do it. ï So yes, the iPhone is a great platform -- for both daily use and development. But the companies dictating how it can and can't be used need to stop cutting their customers off at the knees. Because frankly, although I love my phone, I'm already wondering what I'll get when my contract is up next year.

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