Apple Denies Rejection of Google Voice iPhone App
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The Cheese Stands Alone?
Apple confirmed AT&T's assertion that it did not work with Apple on any decisions regarding the Google Voice app.
"Apple is acting alone and has not consulted with AT&T about whether or not to approve the Google Voice application," the company said.
AT&T had "no role in any decision by Apple to not accept the Google Voice application for inclusion in the Apple App Store," James Cicconi, senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs at AT&T, wrote to the FCC. "AT&T was not asked about the matter by Apple at any time, nor did it offer any view one way or the other."
In addition to details about possible Google Voice negotiations, the FCC wanted to know if AT&T and Apple routinely commiserate on particular iPhone applications. AT&T responded that its exclusive deal with Apple for the iPhone was crafted before the iTunes App Store existed, so "AT&T has no specified role in Apple's consideration of particular iPhone applications."
AT&T and Apple do have a deal with its come to VoIP, AT&T said.
"AT&T and Apple agreed that Apple would not take affirmative steps to enable an iPhone to use AT&T's wireless service … to make VoIP calls without first obtaining AT&T's consent," Cicconi wrote. "AT&T and Apple also agreed, however, that if a third party enables an iPhone to make VoIP calls using AT&T's wireless service, Apple would have no obligation to take action against that third party."
Basically, AT&T said, it wanted to protect its investment and ensure that after being locked into a multi-year deal with Apple, it would not lose money via applications that let customers bypass AT&T's network to make calls.
"Both parties required assurances that the revenues from the AT&T voice plans available to iPhone customers would not be reduced by enabling VoIP calling functionality on the iPhone," AT&T said.
AT&T told Apple, however, that it had no objections to Apple enabling VoIP apps that use a Wi-Fi connection rather than AT&T's 2G or 3G wireless data service.
"Consistent with this approach, we plan to take a fresh look at possibly authorizing VoIP capabilities on the iPhone for use on AT&T's 3G network," Cicconi wrote. "AT&T will promptly update the Commission regarding any such change in its policies."
Skype said it welcomed this announcement.
"We welcome AT&T's willingness to take a fresh look at authorizing VoIP capabilities on the iPhone over AT&T's 3G network," Christopher Libertelli, Skype's senior director of government and regulatory affairs, said in a statement. "Skype hopes this is a step forward in enabling consumers to be able to use Skype together with their iPhone's and 3G connections."
While AT&T said that it is "not typically consulted" regarding the approval or rejection of a particular app, it did admit to collaborating with Apple on three particular apps it feared might cause network congestion: the Pandora and AOL streaming music apps, as well as an app from MobiTV and CBS that let people stream NCAA men's basketball games to their phones.
In those cases, AT&T worked with Apple and the app creators to come up with workarounds that would not disrupt the network, AT&T said.
Free Press, which has pursued Comcast for what it considered unreasonable network management, said this proves that "AT&T has been caught with its hand in the Apple jar" and asked the FCC "to move quickly to pass new rules to prohibit exclusive contracts for devices and violations of Network Neutrality."
What About Google?
Google, meanwhile, provided details on its Google Voice iPhone app, and said that "whether the application utilizes the voice or data capabilities of a wireless network depends on the particular feature utilized by the user."
Features that do use the wireless network, Google said, include accessing the inbox, placing a call, and sending SMS messages.
Google redacted its response to a question about Apple's explanation for rejecting Google's app and if Google has had any contact with Apple or AT&T about the issue.
AT&T and Apple repeatedly mentioned that while an official iPhone app for Google Voice does not yet exist for the smartphone, users can access the service via the browser. Google, however, argued that the Web-based version is limited compared to the iPhone app.
Only the App Store version can directly access the iPhone address book and dial directly from the app, Google said. Furthermore, the App Store version offers a distribution advantage over the web-based version due to the popularity of iTunes.