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Google Voice in action on the iPhone -- as a HTML5 web app  (Source: Engadget)
Google uses a web app to skirt Apple's app store

Google Voice became the face of complaints about both AT&T's service policies and Apple's App Store policy.  The app, which would allow for free SMS texts and domestic calls (using data rather than the voice network), was set to promise iPhone owners a way to escape pricey voice packages.  In the eleventh hour, though, it was, perhaps unsurprisingly, rejected and devolved into an FCC inquiry and back-and-forth between Apple, AT&T, and Google.

Despite harsh criticism from AT&T, which claims Google is breaking federal telecommunications laws by blocking premium phone numbers (such as phone sex lines), Google Voice is finally back in action on the iPhone.  Rather than try to wade through the App Store submissions process again and likely be rejected, Google this time opted for a web app, accessible via the iPhone's browser.

The new HTML5 app is tailor-fit for the iPhone and Palm smartphones (webOS), though it will work on any HTML5-ready phone.  Texting is easy, but calling has been partially crippled. 

Basically, to call you still have to place a call to a random Google number.  This means that downsides are that your call history will be filled with random numbers and you will still pay for the minutes.  The upsides, though, are that you can use the service as a means to mask or screen calls on your mobile, and you can get international calls at much lower rates.

To try the new service out, go to voice.google.com (you will need to make a Google Voice account before you can use the site).  The page might not be up yet, but refresh until it is.

For those thinking that web apps may be a new way to skirt Apple's restrictions, it's important to keep in mind that its much harder to develop a full-featured web app for the iPhone versus a dedicated app, which can leverage Apple's APIs.  Also, Apple did likely give Google the okay on the web app, so there's no telling whether Apple would try to block future rebel web apps.  Nonetheless, some see promise in this path.



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RE: Apple needs to get rid of web browsers.
By Spivonious on 1/27/2010 10:12:45 AM , Rating: 4
I remember when Apple insisted that the browser would be the only app you'd ever need on the iPhone. That was before they realized they could make more money selling apps.


By grath on 1/28/2010 1:12:23 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly, the battle lines had not yet been drawn, but now they are. On the one side are those invested in the traditional OS+software model that has most recently manifested as mobile app stores, and on the other side is Google telling us that we don't really need an OS, just a browser to run all our apps out of the cloud. Refusal to support Flash is a convenient excuse to limit the capability of web apps. Now we are hearing Bing might replace Google as the default search on iPhone? I wonder how long till the iPhone native maps app loses Google Maps, and what then... AOLMapQuest? Then a firmware update causes mysterious errors with Google Voice web app...


"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook














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