Suddenly Apple’s competitors see a weakness in the iPhone, and it’s Google Voice. We’ve heard from a source close to Palm that the company plans to roll out deep integration with Google Voice on the Pre phones for users who want it. That could convert a lot of iPhone users to the Palm Pre fast. But there’s just one problem: at this point, Google isn’t building an app for the Pre.
Google Voice gives users a lot of freedom with their phone – they can ring several mobile and landline phones at once through one number, manage text messages, auto-transcribe voicemails and also block/manage callers depending on who they are and when they are calling. Want to switch phones or carriers? If you use Google voice, you don’t have to port your phone number or tell everyone what your new phone number is.
Which is exactly why Apple fears it.
What really makes Google Voice useful is when it integrates deeply with native apps like the dialer and contacts. That way all outbound calls use the Google Voice phone number (and caller ID) instead of the phone number associated with the phone. When it works perfectly, as it does with Android phones, the underlying device phone number is more like an IP address for a website – it’s there but no one uses it. Your Google Voice phone number is more like the domain name, which everyone remembers and associates with you.
We’re hearing that Palm wants that deep integration to lure iPhone users to the Pre, and our source said it would roll out an official app some time in the next month or so. But from what we hear from sources close to Google, no one there is actually working on a Google Voice app for the Pre. They have apps for Android and Blackberry (and iPhone in purgatory), but that’s it.
Officially Google is saying “Google is interested in bringing the mobile experience of its products to many platforms, including Palm, as we have for the Palm Pre with Google Search, Google Maps, and YouTube built in, as well as easy sync to Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Contacts. We look forward to providing a mobile experience for more Google products to Palm Pre users.”
But our understanding from other sources is that Google only intends to roll out a browser based version of the service for Pre, which lacks the deep integration with native apps like the dialer and contacts. The user experience isn’t nearly as good.
There are already third party Google Voice apps for the Pre, such as this one, but again, those apps can’t integrate deeply with the phone. That’s because Google Voice has no API right now, so Google has to build deep integration apps directly.
So what we’re left with is this – Palm really wants Google Voice for the Pre, but it isn’t at all clear that they’re going to get it any time soon.