Remember the dustup last summer over Apple’s rejection of the Google Voice app for the iPhone? Everyone was pointing fingers and even the FCC got involved. Michael was so upset that he quit the iPhone rather than give up his Google Voice. Well, now he can come back because Google Voice is finally on the iPhone via its browser, and Apple can’t really do anything about it..
Google Voice will become available today for both the iPhone and Palm Pre/Pixi via a new mobile Website which will go live later today at http://m.google.com/voice. The new Google Voice mobile site shows your inbox with transcribed calls, which you can play from the browser. You can also send SMS messages or dial from the browser. The application ends up making a local call through your cell phone to Google Voice, which then routes your call through its own lines. When someone gets the call, they see your Google Voice number instead of your AT&T number. And when you get a voicemail, a notification even pops up on your iPhone with the transcribed message (through SMS).
It is built on HTML5 with most of the functionality of the original iPhone app, except that it cannot access the local contact list in your iPhone’s address book. It lets you manage a separate Google Voice contact list which is kept in the cloud instead. Google Voice voice routes your calls through its servers and acts as a new hub through which you can manage calls and forward them to various phones. You can also manage your settings and various phone numbers. The HTML5 makes it very fast, allows for local caching of data, and supports the voice tags necessary to play the audio voicemails through the browser.
Mobile apps like Google Voice really show what can be done in the browser and point to an alternative way to build sophisticated apps for the iPhone without going through the gatekeepers in Cupertino. VoiceCentral, one of the third-party Google Voice apps that was also pulled from the App store, created a similar browser-based version of Google Voice for the iPhone. Both of these apps went the browser route because they didn’t have any other choice, but you can hardly tell them apart from regular apps. Once mobile phones allow access to deeper phone functions such as the local contact list from the browser, there will be even less reason to create a device specific app. The Web, after all, supports many different platforms. With a few tweaks to the UI, the mobile Google Voice site also works on Palm phones.