Last July, Apple refused to allow Google Voice's iPhone app
onto the App Store, claiming it violated the iPhone SDK's restriction against duplicating native features like dialer and SMS, after pulling the third-party GV Mobile app for the same reasons
. And despite the fact that Vonage's app
is essentially feature-for-feature the same, Google's app remains banned from the App Store. So in January, Google decided to do an end-run around the App Store and release a mobile Web portal to Google Voice, allowing iPhones as well as other devices with HTML5-compliant browsers to access the service. Now, Riverturn has also come out with a feature-rich Google Voice front end - what it terms a "weblication" - called VoiceCentral Black Swan.
This weblication is simply a Safari link on your Home screen that goes to the Voice Central site, a Google App Engine-powered middleware layer between your iPhone and Google Voice. Since all the processing is done in the cloud, the app is quick and much
slicker than the one at m.google.com/voice
. The dialer and contacts screens all resemble the native iPhone interface, with little details like swipe-to-delete and navigation icons at the bottom of the page.
The web approach is definitely a clever way to escape the App Store tyranny, but certain limitations of Safari create flaws in the otherwise seamless look-and-feel of VoiceCentral. When you dial, for example, Google Voice calls your phone and you have to answer your phone to place a call
. It's pretty strange, though it's not hard to get used to once you're expecting it. Another unexpected but manageable quirk is due to the fact that Safari can't use the earpiece to play sounds: you have to listen to your voicemail through the built in speakers or through headphones. And you won't be able to use your iPhone's contact list, but this is fairly easily worked around by using Google Sync.
It's a web app, and free for the basic version: just go to voicecentral.riverturn.com/install
to load the client-side databases and create the Home Screen link. Riverturn is having a sale on its Premium Subscription: for $6 US a year - discounted from $10 - you get to import contact pictures, a Do Not Disturb option, unlimited calling history and (coming soon) inbox searches. Premium subscribers can also get live response to support requests within 24 hours. They're currently offering 7 days free subscription for anyone who wants to try the Premium feature set.