Google Voice May Come To iPhone Via Browser


Google is building a Web browser-based application for Google Voice to run on Apple’s iPhone.

Apple may have rejected the Google Voice application Google submitted to the Apple App Store two months ago, but the search engine is working on another version of the application to bring to millions of iPhone users, according to a new report from New York Times technology writer David Pogue.

In a piece questioning whether the Google Voice application, which provides one number through which calls to users’ home, work and cell phones may be funneled, Pogue writes blithely about a new version of the application Google is developing for the iPhone:

“Already, Google says it is readying a replacement for the Google Voice app that will offer exactly the same features as the rejected app—except that it will take the form of a specialized, iPhone-shaped Web page. For all intents and purposes, it will behave exactly the same as the app would have; you can even install it as an icon on your Home screen.”

When asked for more details about this application, a Google spokesperson said “we’ve always said we would like to bring this functionality to the iPhone and leveraging advances in mobile browsers is one way we could do that. It’s too early to say (what that will be).

The spokesperson declined further comment.

Taking Pogue’s and Google’s comments together, it’s clear Google is building a new Voice app to be deployed through the Web browser, not as a native iPhone app.

Hence, Google continues to walk a tightrope created by Apple’s intricate App Store rules. Google cannot build applications that will overlap with functionality on the iPhone and hope to see them endorsed by Apple.

However, nothing can stop Google from building a special Google Voice application users may access from a Web browser. Google has been down this road before with Apple.

When the search engine company built a version of its Google Latitude social location app to run natively on the iPhone, Apple asked Google to build a Web-based version. Google assented:

“After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a Web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles,” wrote Mat Balez, Google Mobile Team product manager, in a blog post 23 July, just days before the Google Voice-Apple firestorm ignited.

Word of the Google Voice rejections in the App Store surfaced on 27 July, when Google confirmed its Google Voice app had been denied entry to the App Store. Sean Kovacs, creator for Google Voice third-party app GV Mobile, reported his app had been removed from the App Store for duplicating features of the iPhone. VoiceCentral later reported the same.

Apple’s cavalier hush hush attitude to its lateral application rejections removals angered developers, bloggers and iPhone users,spurring a minor revolt.

This caught the attention of the Federal Communications Commission, which July 31 sent letters to Google, Apple and iPhone carrier AT&T to get to the heart of the matter. James D. Schlichting, acting chief of the wireless telecommunications bureau of the FCC, signed the letters and asked the companies for to respond by 21 August.

Stay tuned. EWeek is watching for two things here. One, it will be interesting to see how Apple and AT&T respond to the FCC. Two, it will be interesting to see what the new Google Voice app for the iPhone is like.