Halo Wars: Appstore Blocks Google Voice

by Dave Michels

Google Voice recently released a clever application strengthening its offering. The application was released for Android and RIM/Blackberry phones. Supposedly aniPhoneversion is in the works.

That was strange. Sometime not long ago, theiPhonebecame the phone where all apps are born, and then if you are lucky they migrate to other phones. There had to be more to the story.

I can’t think of any non emotional reasons why Apple would care about Google Voice – but I can see a bunch of reasons why AT&T; would. Techcrunch noted that not only is Apple blocking Google Apps from the Appstore – they are even actively removing the ones that were there.

I’ve blogged before about how I feel about the Appstore. To quote myself (somebody should):

Somehow Apple turned this into a benefit – they censor the applications, take their time approving them, and charge 30% for their “value”.

I can see three reasons why AT&T; might be against making Google Voice stronger:

  1. Google Voice offers free SMS. SMS is a very lucrative piece of the wireless revenue puzzle. So lucrative Washington politicians have threatened inquiries.
  2. Google Voice offers inexpensive international dialing. Wireless phones have been very successful in blocking long distance choices. When the Bells were forced to allow competition in long distance (thank you MCI), rates dropped significantly and quickly. It is absolutely amazing what the wireless carriers charge for international dialing. Google penetrated it with dirt cheap rates. The free dollar that came with my account can provide over an hour of talking to Europe – on my cell phone.
  3. Google Voice devalues your Number. To make Google Voice really work, you need to give out the Google Voice number, not your cell number. The fact people don’t want to lose their numbers is a major reason customers can’t take advantage of those new customer special deals. It was bad enough when number portability got extended to wireless carriers – that freed up the totally dissatisfied. But for various reasons, people stay with their carrier because of their number despite portability. With Google voice, I could easily just cancel my number every contract term – and sign up for a new phone (and number) with the same or different carrier – with total transparency to those that call me.

Yes, Google Voice will not be popular with the wireless carriers. But what can they do really? The service isn’t violating any FCC rules or laws around the PSTN. They have crafted solutions – sometimes awkward ones – with fair practices.

So what can you? Apparently, you pull the applications from the app store – just like a book from a Kindle. I am not sure what the Terms of service say, but Techcrunch believes Apple is acting on the request of AT&T.;

GV Mobile got pulled today, it was in the store since May. Sean Kovacs blogged about the experience.

Apple just called – he told me they’re removing GV Mobile from the App Store due to it duplicating features that theiPhonecomes with (Dialer, SMS, etc). He didn’t actually specify which features…NOW after months Apple claims it discovers issue with duplicating features? There are many apps that actually do VoiP and social networking that have these so-called duplicating features!

VoiceCental (another GV App) has also been pulled.

TheiPhoneis a technical marvel, and we owe so much to it. But this Appstore is a constitutional disaster around freedom of choice. I am shocked how long it has lasted.

Prosecutor, judge, and jury – it is a duplicative feature. We don’t have to tell you which one. Na na na nana.

The Appstore police (AKA Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects the) were really only possible due to the Apple Halo. But interestingly enough, Google – and particularly Google Voice has a halo of its own. This might be an interesting brawl – there are going to be bloodied wing-feathers all over the place.

Almost reminiscent of Highlander – there can only be one. We’ll see.