FCC Probes the Google Voice App Rejection, Asks if AT&T Is Behind It
Article by George Norman
On 03 Aug 2009
Recently we reported that Google came up with a Google Voice app and submitted it to Apple for approval. Apple gave the app a look and decided that its place is not in the App Store, so it rejected it. Furthermore, the Cupertino-based company went on to throw out any other Google Voice-related apps from the App Store as well – like VoiceCentral from Riverturn. It goes without saying that users as well as developers were not pleased by this outcome.

Chief Executive of Riverturn Kevin Duerr in particular made sure to express his anger about the fact that Riverturn, an app that let users log into the Google Voice service, had been dropped. And his anger is well justified. He explains how Apple informed him that Riverturn had been dropped from the App Store, but then refused to provide any details about why it did so, or what he could do to get the app back in the store. And as if that was not enough, Apple is giving refunds to users that no longer want to use the app.

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“Users are freaked out. VoiceCentral will continue to work, we just can’t provide updates or new features. But they’re saying ‘I don’t want this thing,’ and Apple gives them a refund. Now they’re taking that money out of our pocket, and not just the 70% that we received [from the original purchase] but also the 30% that Apple received. That’s the way Apple’s agreement is written,” explained Kevin Duerr.

Getting back to the official Google Voice app, the reason invoked by Apple for rejecting the app is that it duplicates “features that come with the iPhone.” We would have liked to get a few additional details on why the app was rejected, but Apple did not provide them. Why our questions into the matter will go unanswered, the FCC’s questions will not.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has sent a letter to Apple asking why the Google Voice app has been denied access to the App Store. The letter, which you can read here (PDF warning), comes with a set of 6 questions that Apple has to provide an answer for:

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.

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?




Tags: Apple, iTunes, App Store, Google, Google Voice, AT&T, FCC, Federal Communications Commission
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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