Last summer, when Apple pulled third-party Google Voice applications from the App Store, one of them was VoiceCentral. Apple’s subsequent rejection of the official Google Voice app spurred an FCC investigation, but Google Voice never made it to the app store and none of the other apps ever made it back in.
Well, that’s not stopping the developers Riverturn, the company behind VoiceCentral. They are bringing back their app to the iPhone via the browser. They call it the Black Swan edition. You can get on a waiting list to be on the private beta here. The app is completely browser-based but has the look and feel of a regular app, complete with a dialer, list of transcribed voicemails, and SMS messages.
When you dial a number, Google Voice simply makes a call to your iPhone while simultaneously calling the number of the person you are trying to reach, so you still pay for the voice minutes. But the appeal of having Google Voice on your iPhone is the ability to read transcribed voicemails, or play them, and avoid SMS charges by texting through Google Voice. (You cannot yet do all of these things when you access Google Voice via the iPhone’s browser directly).
The downside is that it cannot access your contact list on your iPhone through the browser. Although, VoiceCentral mimics the look and feel of the iPhone contact manager, you have to export your contacts to Google Voice first and access them that way. Another limitation is that the audio plays through the speaker instead of through the earpiece, but if you are using a pair of earphones that is not a problem.
VoiceCentral will probably be a paid app, but Apple won’t get any of the revenues since it is simply a mobile Website. It even offers offline caching and takes advantage of the HTML5 features of mobile Safari. This could very well be the future of mobile apps. As mobile browsers become more capable, more and more developers are going to ask themselves why bother with the limitations of the App Store and be at the mercy of Apple’s whims? And it won’t just be developers like VoiceCentral who have no other choice.
Below is a promotional video which shows some of the features of VoiceCentral’s Black Swan app. Remember, this is all happening in the browser: