Apple's Credibility in Question: Google Spills the Beans on the Google Voice App Rejection
Article by George Norman
On 21 Sep 2009
You might remember that once upon a time Google wanted to launch a full featured Google Voice app for the iPhone. But thanks to Apple the app was never admitted to the App Store – the Cupertino-based company cited the fact that the Google Voice app duplicates “features that come with the iPhone” and rejected it. This came as no surprise, if you take into consideration the fact that Apple also rejected Google’s native Google Latitude iPhone app and Google was forced to release it as a web app.

After the rejection Google decided to take the same route it did with Google Latitude, mainly to release Google Voice as a web app. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) on the other hand did not take it so lightly. What it did is launch an investigation into the matter. Basically it asked Apple to explain why it rejected Google’s iPhone app. Six questions were asked and this is what Apple responded. Basically Apple said it most definitely did not reject the app – it is still going over it and it is still talking with Google about it.

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Question 1. Why did Apple reject the Google Voice application for iPhone and remove related third-party applications from its App Store? In addition to Google Voice, which related third-party applications were removed or have been rejected? Please provide the specific name of each application and the contact information for the developer.

Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it. The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone’s core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail. Apple spent a lot of time and effort developing this distinct and innovative way to seamlessly deliver core functionality of the iPhone.

Question 2. Did Apple act alone, or in consultation with AT&T, in deciding to reject the Google Voice application and related applications? If the latter, please describe the communications between Apple and AT&T in connection with the decision to reject Google Voice. Are there any contractual conditions or non-contractual understandings with AT&T that affected Apple’s decision in this matter?

Apple is acting alone and has not consulted with AT&T about whether or not to approve the Google Voice application. No contractual conditions or non-contractual understandings with AT&T have been a factor in Apple’s decision-making process in this matter.
Question 3. Does AT&T have any role in the approval of iPhone applications generally (or in certain cases)? If so, under what circumstances, and what role does it play? What roles are specified in the contractual provisions between Apple and AT&T (or any non-contractual understandings) regarding the consideration of particular iPhone applications?

Apple alone makes the final decisions to approve or not approve iPhone applications.

There is a provision in Apple’s agreement with AT&T that obligates Apple not to include functionality in any Apple phone that enables a customer to use AT&T’s cellular network service to originate or terminate a VoIP session without obtaining AT&T’s permission. Apple honors this obligation, in addition to respecting AT&T’s customer Terms of Service, which, for example, prohibit an AT&T customer from using AT&T’s cellular service to redirect a TV signal to an iPhone. From time to time, AT&T has expressed concerns regarding network efficiency and potential network congestion associated with certain applications, and Apple takes such concerns into consideration.


Question 4. Please explain any differences between the Google Voice iPhone application and any Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications that Apple has approved for the iPhone. Are any of the approved VoIP applications allowed to operate on AT&T’s 3G network?

Apple does not know if there is a VoIP element in the way the Google Voice application routes calls and messages, and whether VoIP technology is used over the 3G network by the application. Apple has approved numerous standard VoIP applications (such as Skype, Nimbuzz and iCall) for use over WiFi, but not over AT&T’s 3G network.

Question 5. What other applications have been rejected for use on the iPhone and for what reasons? Is there a list of prohibited applications or of categories of applications that is provided to potential vendors/developers? If so, is this posted on the iTunes website or otherwise disclosed to consumers?

In a little more than a year, the App Store has grown to become the world’s largest wireless applications store, with over 65,000 applications. We’ve rejected applications for a variety of reasons. Most rejections are based on the application containing quality issues or software bugs, while other rejections involve protecting consumer privacy, safeguarding children from inappropriate content, and avoiding applications that degrade the core experience of the iPhone. Given the volume and variety of technical issues, most of the review process is consumed with quality issues and software bugs, and providing feedback to developers so they can fix applications.

Question 6. What are the standards for considering and approving iPhone applications? What is the approval process for such applications (timing, reasons for rejection, appeal process, etc.)? What is the percentage of applications that are rejected? What are the major reasons for rejecting an application?

Apple provides guidelines to developers in our developer agreement as well as on its web site regarding prohibited categories of applications. These materials also contain numerous other provisions regarding technical and legal requirements that applications must comply with, and Apple uses these standards in considering whether or not to approve applications.

Alongside Apple, AT&T and Google also answered the FCC’s questions. AT&T basically denied the fact that it had any implication in the Google Voice app rejection.

“What role, if any, did AT&T play in Apple’s consideration of the Google Voice and related applications?” asked the FCC.
“AT&T had no role in Apple’s consideration of Google Voice or related applications,” said AT&T in its response.

Google’s answer could have been the one to cut through the BS, but unfortunately it wasn’t. Its letter to the FCC was incomplete, the one answer that would have shed light on this matter was redacted (and so were many other parts of the letter)

As of today, that answer has gone public and here it is:

FCC Question 2. What explanation was given (if any) for Apple’s rejection of the Google Voice application (and for any other Google Applications for iPhone that have been rejected, such as Google Latitude)?
Google’s response 2. Apple’s representatives informed Google that the Google Voice application was rejected because Apple believed the application duplicated the core dialer functionality of the iPhone. The Apple representatives indicated that the company did not want applications that could potentially replace such functionality.

So what we have here is a he said, she said situation. Apple says it did not reject Google Voice, Google says Apple did reject the app. Whose word are we going to take on this one? At this point Apple’s credibility is not that good, not if we take these two into consideration: Steve Jobs’ health and the layoffs earlier this year.

Initially Apple spokespersons said Steve Jobs is “suffering from a common bug” and that is why he did not make the traditional keynote speech at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference – but as it turned out, Jobs has a serious medical problem which lead to him getting liver transplant. This March, Apple denied rumors that it laid off some sales employees – but the laid off employees then came forth and confirmed the rumors.

You can check out Google’s complete letter (no redactions) to the FCC here (PDF Warning).
You can check out Apple’s complete letter to the FCC
here.
You can check out AT&T’s complete letter to the FCC
here.



Tags: Apple, iPhone, App, App Store, Google, Google Voice, FCC, Investigation
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
You can follow him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter

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Apple's Credibility in Question: Google Spills the Beans on the Google Voice App Rejection
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