updated 06:25 pm EDT, Fri August 21, 2009
Apple Denies GV Rejection
Apple on Friday took an unusual approach in its official response to the FCC's inquiries over the rejection of Google Voice for the App Store and denied that it had rejected the app at all. The company instead claims that it "continues to study" the software and now says its primary issues are with the integration of the app, which Apple insists duplicate too many iPhone features.
Among the objections, Apple claims that the auto-transcribed voicemail in the native app replaces its own phone app, and that SMS messaging also completely circumvents Apple's software, which it gave "a lot of time and effort" to produce. It also expresses concern that the submitted app may be violating privacy by passing iPhone contacts through the Google Voice servers that manage the call, although Apple doesn't attempt to explain why it sees no issue with syncing offline contacts with Google through iTunes.
The iPhone maker backs AT&T's story and is adamant that it neither asked for nor received input from that carrier regarding permission to carry the app. Alongside this, Apple echoes AT&T's interpretation elsewhere and says that it has barred bandwidth-intensive apps after discussion but that it has the final say on which software reaches the App Store. However, Apple appears to have done less investigation into Google Voice and says it "does not know" if VoIP is present; AT&T concluded that it doesn't and that it's only using a routing feature to direct calls to and from the Google Voice account.
Apple also argues to the FCC that customers still have choices as they can either use the web app or use a different platform where Google Voice is available, like Android or BlackBerry.
In addition to explaining its stance, Apple has also provided a rare insight into its app approval process, noting that over 40 staff review software and that at least two look at any given app to ensure consistent treatment. About 20 percent of apps are initially rejected, but 95 percent are approved within two weeks of the first submission, the company claims. An executive review board has also been established at an unnamed point in time to tackle exceptional issues with apps and sets policies. Unofficially, this board is believed to be behind Phil Schiller's public assurances that Apple is improving its approval process.
About 8,500 apps are submitted every week.
Google has issued its own response to the FCC but has chosen to self-censor its answer regarding Apple's response to the app, labeling it "confidential" in the public version of the document. It has nonetheless made clear that the web version of Google Voice loses the address book functionality of the native app and that its own open policies for apps submitted to Android Market would prevent it from manually blocking Google Voice, as it only makes automatic checks for content or features. Unlike Apple, Google allows Android apps to complement or even directly replace phone features such as the dialer.
The three responses appear to negate any initial accusations of collusion between AT&T and Apple to protect the former's voice business but nonetheless raise concerns of anti-competitiveness regarding features, as it bars third-party apps from competing with Apple on its own platform. Similar attitudes have led to some audio apps like RSSPlayer being at least temporarily banned from the App Store for competing with Apple's music features on the iPhone. Such rules have also prevented anyone from creating a direct alternative to the Safari web browser.