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Google Goes for Browser-based Voice for iPhone




Six months after Google said that Apple rejected a Google Voice app for the iPhone (Apple maintained that the app was merely under review, a process which usually takes about a week), Google has finally decided to circumvent the ban. VP of mobile apps engineering Vic Gundotra told the Crunchies Voice would get on the iPhone “one way or another.”

Here’s another: they’re going for a browser-based Google Voice (like the rest of us are using). This option was formerly less viable, but now Google has improved the mobile version of their site for iPhone and Palm Pre users.

The controversy, of course, is that Google Voice allows users to make calls and now send text messages without charge, and without using the minutes in their carrier’s plan.

The New York Times documents the improvements:

Of course, iPhone users were always able to point their mobile Web browser to m.google.com/voice to access their Google Voice accounts. But plenty of things didn’t work right. For example, making calls was a two-step process and the outbound caller ID feature didn’t work, meaning that whoever received the call couldn’t see who was calling, which is one of the more compelling features of Google Voice. [Senior product manager for Google Voice Vincent] Paquet said that all those problems have been solved, and that the new version of Google Voice also offers free text messaging.

Naturally, Google maintains that this isn’t a strike against mobile carriers, just a response to the high demand they’ve had from mobile users with browsers capable of interpreting HTML5.

What do you think? Is this a fourth volley this month in the budding Google/Apple war? How will Apple respond?

  • http://www.michaelcarwile.com/ Michael Carwile

    I just tried the mobile Google Voice “app.” I have to admit, I’m impressed. I think they may have taken recent steps to improve their call quality as well. I’ll definitely use it more now than I used to.

    I have the old Google Voice app installed as well – I was able to install it the day before Apple pulled it from the App store. It works well, and I have used it often, but I obviously haven’t been thrilled about relying on an app that couldn’t officially be supported by the developer any more.

    There have been rumors that Apple will remove Google as it’s primary search engine on the iPhone and use *gasp* Bing as a replacement. That is even rumored to be a temporary solution and that Apple is in the process of building its own search engine – an idea that I think is silly, but admittedly interesting to ponder.

    I personally think Apple will respond by leaning on AT&T to impose some form of restriction(s) on said iPhone use. I have no ideas on what they might even be able to get away with in that area, but AT&T and Apple have never seemed to care too much about “legal” when it comes to “protecting” their profits. They have a back-scratching relationship. AT&T leaned on Apple when Verizon slammed their 3G coverage and got them to make mentions of the network in the iPhone commercials, something Apple hadn’t done before until then. AT&T will be obligated to return the favor.

  • http://mxdtr.com/ John

    Instead GV now puts up a dialog box with some unfamiliar number to connect the cellphone to and thus place the outbound call. If that number remains constant I can live with it by putting *that* number in my list…but why didn’t GV just keep the functionality the same?

    Hopefully someone will post if:
    1. GV fixes this in the new webapp.
    2. The connecting number is a constant.
    3. There is a way to access the *old* mobile website (or that functionality from a mobile device).

    Thanks