It was an exciting weekend for Google Voice fans who use the iPhone, with not one but two native apps back in the App Store after being unceremoniously outlawed by Apple more than a year ago.
TechCrunch is reporting that developer Sean Kovacs has made a triumphant return to the iOS platform with GV Mobile+, an updated version of the Google Voice client that was dumped from the platform last year. The app was made available again late Saturday night, a byproduct of the new, looser App Store guidelines that Apple recently put in place.
GV Mobile+ is a front-end client for the free Google Voice service, which essentially allows you to have “one number for life” and route those calls to multiple phones (be they landlines or cell-based), including SMS, voicemail and more. After being dumped by Apple, the app found a new home on Cydia, where it has continued to be updated for users with jailbroken devices. But now it’s back where it belongs, in the App Store.
Apple must also be feeling extra generous to Google Voice users, since GV Mobile+ actually wasn’t the first such app to return to the App Store this past week -- on Friday, a new app called GV Connect from developer Andreas Amann actually beat Kovacs to the punch, although GV Mobile+ is the better-known app given its troubled history, which has been widely documented in the tech press.
As you may recall, GV Mobile+ and a competing app from Riverturn called VoiceCentral were both available for sale prior to July, 2009. When Google submitted their own Voice app to Apple, it was effectively banned from the App Store, and the two third-party solutions were banished as well. To this day it’s still not clear what happened, since none of the apps actually broke any App Store rules; TechCrunch and many others have been left to assume that the Google Voice clients simply got “caught in the crossfire of the growing rivalry between Apple and Google.”
Whatever the reason, we now have two native Google Voice clients available for the iPhone, and a third solution has been available for months as well in the form of Riverturn’s VoiceCentral Black Swan, which is essentially a souped-up HTML5 bookmarklet that circumvents the App Store entirely and does a fine job of offering Google Voice functionality on its own terms. Riverturn claims that they will likely revise and resubmit their own native VoiceCentral app in the near future.
GV Mobile+ and GV Connect are each $2.99 and both offer similar functionality; neither app currently offers push notifications for SMS text messages, but Kovacs plans to implement them in GV Mobile+ with a future update. A free Google Voice account is required to use either app.
Now the real question is, where is Google’s own, official Voice app? After being denied a spot in the App Store and sparking an infamous FCC inquiry last year, the app remains a no-show. Google only offers the following non-statement: “We currently offer Google Voice mobile apps for Blackberry and Android, and we offer an HTML5 web app for the iPhone. We have nothing further to announce at this time.”
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