Google Voice is a pretty amazing service, but it comes with a number of minor annoyances, including the way it handles outgoing calls and SMS messages. Fortunately, Google has recently come out with a number of smartphone apps for BlackBerry and Android that obviate the need for any extra steps, making Google Voice a natural replacement for your phone’s native dialer. The iPhone still lacks an official client, but that hasn’t stopped a handful of third party developers from releasing their own apps, which have been available on the App Store for the last few months. Today, however, it sounds like Apple has made the decision to crack down on these: Sean Kovacs, the developer behind the popular app GV Mobile, has written on his blog that Apple is going to be removing his application, citing the fact that it “duplicates features that come with the iPhone”.
From Kovac’s blog:
Richard Chipman from Apple just called – he told me they’re removing GV Mobile from the App Store due to it duplicating features that the iPhone comes with (Dialer, SMS, etc). He didn’t actually specify which features, although I assume the whole app in general. He wouldn’t send a confirmation email either – too scared I would post it. I’ll see what I can do to get it back up there gang…
Once again, Apple’s App Store policies have crossed the line from irritating to totally ridiculous. GV Mobile taps into a service that is entirely different from the iPhone’s native dialer, making Google Voice far easier to use than it normally is. It’s also laughable that Apple would refuse to specify exactly which features the app was duplicating.
Even more worrying are the implications this would have if it becomes Apple’s policy to ban Google Voice apps from the App Store, which would strike a major blow to the service. There is at least one other Google Voice app already available on the App Store, called VoiceCentral, and we’ve previously confirmed that Google has an official app in the works. Update: VoiceCentral has been removed from the App Store as well. This looks like a store-wide policy change.
It’s entirely possible that Apple’s decision to ban the app is being driven not by user confusion, but by AT&T’s request. Google Voice is very powerful, and is only becoming increasingly so as it releases new apps and features that make it easier to use. It also hits the carriers where it hurts, making it easy for users to swap numbers on a whim, get cheap calls, save on SMS, and much more.
And while it would be surprising if Apple blocked Google’s app from the App Store, it wouldn’t be the first time Google was forced to bow to Apple’s wishes — just last week Google had to scrap a native app built for its Latitude service in favor of a web app at Apple’s request. Yet another possibility is that Google’s official application is imminent, and the GV Mobile app was pulled to reduce confusion once that’s out (though this seems less likely).
Update: Apple has removed VoiceCentral from the App Store as well. While both GV Mobile and VoiceCentral still have their profiles available in the store, attempts to buy them results in an error message that they are no longer available.