Apple, AT&T and Google have responded to an Federal Communications Commission inquiry into the Google Voice app flap. Apple says Google Voice apps interfere with iPhone functionality. AT&T says it had no role in the App Store approval process. If you recall, Google Voice related applications were booted from Apple's App Store in a move that raised a few regulatory eyebrows.
AT&T's Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive vice president, external and legislative affairs, says:
Let me state unequivocally, AT&T had no role in any decision by Apple to not accept the Google Voice application for inclusion in the Apple App Store. AT&T was not asked about the matter by Apple at any time, nor did we offer any view one way or the other.
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.
So now what?
Apple spent a lot of time outlining its App Store approval process. First and foremost, Apple said its responsibility is to its users and core iPhone functionality. The company said:
Most rejections are based on bugs found in the applications. When there is an issue, we try to provide the developer with helpful feedback so they can modify the application in order for us to approve it. 95% of applications are approved within 14 days of their submission.
In a nutshell, Apple is arguing that the Google Voice application replaces iPhone functionality like Visual Voicemail. Simply put, Apple considers that takeover one helluva bug.
Meanwhile, it's unclear what will resolve the stand-off. Apple added:
The Google Voice application replaces Apple’s Visual Voicemail by routing calls through a separate Google Voice telephone number that stores any voicemail, preventing voicemail from being stored on the iPhone, i.e., disabling Apple’s Visual Voicemail. Similarly, SMS text messages are managed through the Google hub—replacing the iPhone’s text messaging feature. In addition, the iPhone user’s entire Contacts database is transferred to Google’s servers, and we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways. These factors present several new issues and questions to us that we are still pondering at this time.
Apple maintains that it acted alone in its decision about Google Voice. It's unclear how the FCC will react. Can the FCC really dictate how Apple approves apps?
One wrinkle that may garner FCC attention is this one from Apple's statement:
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.
However, the way Apple positions that agreement it's portrayed as standard operating procedure.
Update: Here's a PDF of Google's response to the FCC. Most---if not all---of the good stuff is redacted.