No Google Voice on iPhone: one year later

Tech Crunch's Jason Kinkaid reminds us that it's been a year since Apple responded to the FCC about Google Voice's rejection (or perpetual non-acceptance) from the iPhone App Store.

Apple denying the app to those who want it, especially when it allows similar apps such as Line2 into the App Store, means it's almost certainly what we thought it was last year -- less to do with what the app does than what it represents.

Before the Google Voice rejection story broke Apple and Google still seemed to have a love affair going on. Apple provided beautiful devices and Google supplied incredible services. It was a match made in heaven.

Following the Google Voice rejection it became clear that those two goals were becoming less cooperative and more competitive. Apple wants their beautiful devices to be the focus, and to be able to swap in and out different services behind the scenes without affecting the UI or being noticeable to end users. Google on the other hand wants their incredible services to be the focus regardless of device, and to be able to easily swap users from iPhone or Pre to Google's own, growing, Android platform.

Apple's exclusionary control over the iPhone is a huge problem for Google, just as Google's predatory control over their services is a huge problem for Apple.

What if Apple pulled Google from the iPhone? Google could lose a huge percentage of revenue to Microsoft (or whomever Apple swaps in) in the blink of an eye. What if Google pulled their services from the iPhone? Apple could lose a ton of users to Android just as fast. (Whether Apple or Google would ever do that is besides the point -- it could happen, therefor strategically planning for the eventuality has to take place.)

Google transformed their original Android-as-BlackBerry competitor to an Android-as-iPhone competitor. Apple began building data centers, acquiring PlaceBase and Siri. And generally the move from friends to fremies to enemies progressed.

Since the Google Voice rejection, Google has continued to leverage their services and Android has surged in popularity thanks to Verizon's Droid line, HTC's Evo 4G, and Samsung's Galaxy S.

Apple has continued to tightly control their user experience, creating controversies with Adobe but also introducing new features like FaceTime which depend on Apple owning the phone UI, not Google.

Has the Google Voice rejection cost Apple customers? Probably. Given that a) Google Voice is still only available in the US means its absence only effects US users and b) it's still a mostly geek-centric service, further reducing the pool of potentially affected users. Of those affected, it's perhaps further split between those who really want the functionality of Android over the user experience of iPhone, and those who wanted to grab headlines (and in some cases quickly came back to that user experience). Google's also had their own set of controversies, especially concerning privacy, net-neutrality, some of the content that's ended up in their app market, and that their much vaunted openness applies primarily to manufacturers and carriers, not necessarily users. Whether or not that has cost them any users is equally hard to tell.

Kinkaid says:

Most of Apple’s ardent defenders will simply tell people like me to go use another, more open platform if they have a problem with the App Store and Apple’s policies. Fair enough. But the time and uncertainty involved in having to switch to a new computer platform are far from trivial, and eventually we may have kids who are raised on iOS — getting them to switch platforms so they can use an innovative new browser or FaceTime competitor or whatever else Apple is quietly blocking from the App Store will be no easy task. It is this inertia, which is only going to become more difficult to overcome as iOS becomes more successful, that troubles me most. Apple will be able to get away with even more egregious behavior, because its users will want to stick with what they know.

And maybe so, but would moving from iPhone to Android really be any harder than moving from Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, Google Docs, Google Talk, Google Reader, Google Voice, Google Navigation, Blogger, and all their other services to Apple's, Microsoft's, or anyone else's? Probably not. (Personally, it's far, far easier for me to pick up a Nexus One, stick in my Google ID, and go than it ever would be to transfer all my Google stuff over to Microsoft or someone else if I had to -- even the thought of the work involved makes me wince.)

At the end of the day -- or of the next year -- Apple and Google have both become devils we know. Apple will reject another app for annoying, intolerable reasons and Google will allow in a Nazi theme or malware app. Apple will block a competing service and Google will abuse our privacy. What troubles me is the mistaken belief one is essentially better than the other. What assuages me is that we have both -- and potentially a resurgent and more open Palm webOS, and equally controlled Windows Phone on the horizon.


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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

No Google Voice on iPhone: one year later


How many more Google services can Apple explicitly ban from iOS devices? they can remove native gmail, but the online version is arguably better anyway, and personally losing integrated google search would slightly bother me, but I could always use google's website or just start using Bing.

It's almost like Apple is holding a grudge against Google. I have no reasoning that I can find on Apple's part why they would reject the Google Voice app at this point.

Good article. I find it entirely disingenuous that people say things like "I'm voting with my wallet" over something like app rejection, yet fail to see they are simply switching to yet another company out to make a buck. Do we seriously think Google is going to save us from Apple? Only the biggest anti-Apple types still believe that, and they have since lost all credibility among the small tech crowd that might even care.
Yes, I vote with my wallet - but I (mostly) chose to vote on the best product available at the time of my decision. Right now thats clearly Apple, but who knows what next year will bring.
Where I will draw the line is how I'll act if I switch to a different phone. If it means being as annoying as most Android "lets help Google save the world" types no thanks - I'd rather be among the most annoying of Apple fanboys than become what I guess we now call a Fandroid.
Why can't it just be a choice among good mobile devices and software and stop being such a religious battle. Anyone that moved away from the iPhone because of Google Voice simply jumped into the same boat just a different color. Maybe it will take another year or so before most believe that.

It's absurd, and among a significant number of reasons why android is a viable and attractive option to ios.

But there is a workaround. My wife uses the Google Voice Web App on her iPhone as her exclusive work number, and has no problems with it at all. Sure, web apps aren't the "sweeet" solution that they were intended to be, but it is a very viable workaround for a minor annoyance.

Who gives a crap? Google Voice is so over-rated I can't begin to explain. If you must have Google products, get an Android phone, otherwise stop your belly aching.

What I find interesting is that Google is basically following Microsoft's failed mobile strategy, while Microsoft is heading toward tighter (Apple-like) control. However, as Rene said, in the end you just choose your poison. You trade one set of shortcommings for another.
And why do people mistakenly believe one is better than another? It's human nature. Whatever you're currently invested in (phone, significant other, etc.) has to be superior. Until you can't stand their faults any longer. Then they're obviously the Devil, and that new model you've been eyeing looks pretty sweet.

You can't begin to explain because you are full of crap. I typical fanboy response, its not on my device so it sucks. Google Voice is extremely useful, especially for those of us who have multiple numbers/devices between work and personal use. Just the fact that I can send and receive sms and check voicemails from my work computer where personal cell phones are not allowed in the building makes Google Voice invaluable. Not to mention the insane customization options and the ability for my sms and voicemails to follow me no matter what device or carrier. The ability to listen to a voicemail as it is being left and jump into the call, personalized voicemail greetings based on the caller, controlling which phones ring based on the day and time, etc... Seriously stop being a tool.

You don't need an app to use Google VOice on the iPhone or any smartphone. It is web based.. simply go to and quit crying.

@ Matt Sawyer - "I have no reasoning that I can find on Apple’s part why they would reject the Google Voice app at this point."
As the article says, Apple bought Siri, which has decent voice recognition and acts as a "concierge." I wouldn't be surprised if Apple merged Siri functionality into their Voice Control in a future iOS release. And Apple would obviously not want users to control their iPhone with a competing voice recognition app.

Rejection? Isn't Apple maintaining the fiction they haven't rejected it, only that they are still reviewing it, in order to slime past the government?

@ GraysonIP - "It’s absurd, and among a significant number of reasons why android is a viable and attractive option to ios."
And the reason why Fragdroid is neither a viable nor attractive option to iOS is that Google is falling all over itsef to obsolete Fragdroid with Chrome OS. There are insurmountable problems in malware propagation, version fragmentation, and conflicts between hardware manufacturers' and Google's development schedules (unsupported cameras being just one example.)
Oh, and I almost forgot that Oracle's lawsuit does in fact have merit. Google tried to weasel their way out of the Java licensing terms, they failed, and now Fragdroid software will be "impounded and destroyed." Viable? Not so much.
Of course, if you are so philosophically challenged that you oppose Apple because of its success, or whatever, then sure, Fragdroid is your oyster. I'm sure you'll be able to keep you collectors' item Fragdroid handsets running for years with bootleg Fragdroid software from warez sites.

I do believe Jimbo is right. Apples's response that Google Voice was not rejected but "under review" on an ongoing basis is beneath our collective intelligence.

SockRolid you sound like a complete idiot. Android users want an alternative to be associated with people like you, as much as they do with Apple.

I guess the big question is do you trust Google? If people want to warm up to big G and give away their privacy for free stuff that's their choice but not everyone's choice. I could care less if there's an app for Voice since there's a web app. Under that scenario everyone wins - Apple snubs them, Google thumbs their nose at Apple, folks who want it get it and those who don't live their lives in peace.

I wish they could get along. I'm envious of a few things android users have. I'd kill to have Google's voice-to-text on my iPhone. Google Goggles would be amazing although it's supposedly coming to it.

Do you really think Apple won't be collecting and using the same info as Google as they development their iAds platform?

I in all honesty have never used Google Voice in my time with Android, and personally, I really don't have a need for it. Firstly, no one I know uses it. I rarely ever talk on the phone, and I usually text (if only Google would turn out a free texting service..). I really don't think Google is as heartbroken as you all speculate. I mean, really, there's an online version, so people still have the option to use it. I would however be extremely disappointed if Google removed their services from iPhone, especially Maps and Search, and I do also feel the lack of updates for Google's services on iPhone is disappointing. I really miss the free turn-by-turn navigation in Maps. Hmm. This is a perplexing topic, no?

Sometimes I really believe it's just that when someone say you can't have this or that people want it more. Both companies are learning from each other. Just as the other competitors are. Apple is becoming the machine they always tried to shy away from and was happy not to be. But I will admit when I see some of Google success when it comes to phone OS I wish Apple would pay attention. Swipe to text is genius. Really if Apple didn't have iTunes and everything that comes with it they would be racing to get out new and improved features instead of resting on app developers to give us what we need instead of incorporating it into the OS. Where google wins is they are strictly trying to better software. I guess it's all the gift and the curse of technology. This next year should be interesting.

Apple is going to give regulators a reason to impose restrictions on them just like they have done to Microsoft on Windows computers.

Apple makes excellent hardware and software, but the turf wars do little for the consumers who after all can and will vote with their wallet. I am giving the iPhone a go but can say if will switch back without issue since I have apps for Android that do pretty much the same thing. I jumped on this iPhone because I have seen apple drag their feet and have the attitude that people will pay for the tiny upgrades year after year, I won't it has to be a big jump in iP5 or I will just wait or move to Android 3.0.

GV is great free alternative for people who are on carriers that charge for visual voicemail

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