FCC investigates Google Voice for iPhone

An ongoing saga of whether Google Voice will be allowed on Apple’s iPhone has, for the moment, died down.

In an eventful few weeks, Google, Apple and AT&T have waged a war of words and been investigated by the Federal Communications Commission, all regarding the Google Voice application for the iPhone.

Google Voice is an enhanced voice and data messaging application that consolidates phone service to one number accessible from anywhere.

For instance, someone with a personal cell, a business cell and a work phone number could have a Google Voice account that would re-route all calls and messages to the Google Voice number.

Among its attributes, Google Voice claims to be able to transcribe voicemails for free, host conference calls, lower the cost of international calls, and organize text messages and e-mails with no need to ever delete them.

Google Voice is also considered a Voice over Internet Protocol application. Google bought the service from a company called GrandCentral in 2007, and redeveloped the application in secret until this year, The New York Times reported in March.

Here’s the rub: Google Voice submitted an application for Apple’s App Store to be placed on the iPhone. Google said Apple rejected Google Voice, and Apple claimed they did not.

The main issue is that the Google Voice application could interfere with the active phone function in the iPhone, provided by AT&T. In essence there would be two separate phone services on one phone.

Patrick Blume, technical support specialist for Marquette IT Services, said when Google bought the old GrandCentral service it offered another option in the wireless market.

“Google’s VoIP service gives everything for free and can be competitive with any phone company,” he said.

In July, the FCC launched an inquiry into the submission as part of a larger investigation into the exclusivity between cell phone providers and service carriers. Apple has an exclusive contract with AT&T to provide wireless service for the iPhone.

Google, Apple, and AT&T all submitted responses to the FCC inquiry. None of the companies were available for comment and referred all inquiries to the responses.

In an Aug. 21 response to the FCC, Google claimed its App Store version of Google Voice could directly access the iPhone address book and dial straight from the application.

However, Google said Apple rejected this application. The explanation of why Apple rejected Google Voice was redacted in Google’s official response to the FCC.

When asked why Apple rejected Google Voice, Apple responded in an Aug. 21 release by saying that contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application and continues to study it.

In total, Apple’s App Store features more than 65,000 approved applications, according to their FCC response. AT&T said in their Aug. 21 response to the FCC inquiry they have no involvement in what applications are approved or not for the App Store.

Marquette technical support specialist Blume said AT&T may have played a role in the rejection, since Google would become an active competitor.

“It would take the essential phone functions and negate AT&T’s service,” he said. “It’s a U.S. phone number from whatever area you pick. It could take the place of what AT&T is doing.”

Eric Benderoff, editor of Appolicious, a Web site that reviews and recommends applications for the iPhone or other mobile devices, said this is as much a power struggle between corporations as anything else.

“I recall Apple saying they haven’t rejected Google Voice even though it’s not available for the iPhone,” Benderoff said. “In the big picture, the issue is another example of the tech giants battling for market share and mind share across several fronts.”

  • http://www.free-mobilephone.co.uk Free Mobile Phone

    Nice blog adding this to my twitter now

  • Michael

    The reality is that the iPhone is by all means the best touch screen phone on the market ,hands down. I have had 2 other ones and neither come close to the ease, functionality, smoothness of movment of display and overall coolness. HOWEVER…… AT&T are a bunch of monopolizing whores. I believe in capitalism and the truth of having the best product and charging a premium. If there are those that will pay …… More power to the seller. In this case with Google Voice ATT are just a bunch of chicken $hit bullies. Give me a break. Google has some of the smartest programers on the planet working for them. Thay are well aware of any conflict that would occur when writing the code for the Iphone app. With the big hullabaloo I have heard that ATT is going loosen thier grip and be more flexible with thier apps. Hopefully they will let Google Voice in. BTW…… Running a jailbroken Iphone right now and will unlock as soon as the new 3.1 code is broken. If you at ATT are so protective and brilliant ……..ha, you know where I am going with this :) to hell with ATT bully way.

  • Ethan

    You should think about firing your technical consultant. I’ll be happy to replace him!

    Your article is very incorrect in asserting that Google Voice is a VoIP service, and especially that a Google Voice app for iPhone would eliminate the need (or even negate the relevancy) of AT&T service on your phone. Google Voice does not provide a phone service that would allow you to receive phone calls without existing wireless service on your mobile phone. You must have a telephone number that Google Voice can forward calls to. And further, you must use your wireless minutes in order to send or receive phone calls on your mobile phone. Google Voice places calls using the existing wireless service on your phone, not by routing them directly over the internet. Google Voice is not meant to replace your existing phone service, but to augment it with advanced features in areas that phone providers have failed to innovate in. Google Voice will not work on an iPhone unless the phone already has service.

    So why are Apple and AT&T afraid of a Google Voice iPhone app? I’m not completely sure. You can send and receive free text messages using Google Voice with nothing more than an internet connection. And that is about all AT&T has to worry about. From what I can see, Apple should have no qualms about approving the Google Voice app for iPhone, which makes the situation all the more frustrating for those of us who are waiting on this to play out.

    I would hope you will be willing to make corrections to your article, as the errors I have pointed out really eat at the core of it.

  • matt

    I’m still waiting for this application to become available. This would be a revolutionary app. It would be one of a few applications that adds/enhances functionality of the phone, yet apple doesn’t let it through. I’m glad they’ve been allowed to bypass the whole issue by leaving the application in a “being studied” status (sarcasm). I guess the app store should only be reserved for foolish, mildly amusing games. Why would apple want to be a competitor in the business-user smartphone market anyway? They’re a bunch of clowns. I guess I could always jailbreak the phone and get the app that way. Once google allows me to port my existing number to their service, AT&T becomes insignificant to me.