Apple to FCC: We're still evaluating Google Voice app

Apple issued a response late Friday to the FCC's inquiry into Google's submission of its Google Voice app into the Apple App Store, explaining that the app has not been banned outright but was still under review.

"Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it," Apple said. "The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone's distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone's core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail."

Added Apple: "We are continuing to study the Google Voice application and its potential impact on the iPhone user experience. Google is of course free to provide Google Voice on the iPhone as a Web application through Apple's Safari browser, just as they do for desktop PCs, or to provide its ‘Google-branded' user experience on other phones, including Android-based phones, and let consumers make their choices."

In its response, AT&T said it had nothing to do with the situation.

Apple's lengthy statement included a number of interesting tidbits. The company said "There is a provision in Apple's agreement with AT&T that obligates Apple not to include functionality in any Apple phone that enables a customer to use AT&T's cellular network service to originate or terminate a VoIP session without obtaining AT&T's permission." Apple also disclosed it employees 40 full-time "trained reviewers" to check each App Store submission.

AT&T also addressed the VoIP issue, explaining that both Apple and AT&T "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. Thus, 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 this arrangement, the prices consumers pay for the iPhone--particularly the broadband-enabled iPhone 3G--would likely have been higher than they are today."

In a post unrelated to the FCC's inquiry, Google said it would allow VoIP applications into the Android Marketplace. "While the first generation of our Android software did not support full-featured VoIP applications due to technology limitations, we have worked through those limitations in subsequent versions of Android, and developers are now able to build and upload VoIP services," wrote Google's Andy Rubin, vice president of the company's mobile platforms.

In letters sent earlier this month to Apple and Google as well as iPhone operator partner AT&T, the FCC asked why Apple chose to turn down Google Voice. The issue has sparked a range of reactions from across the wireless marketplace, action that appears to be culminating in an FCC review of the industry's competitive landscape.

For more:
- see this Associated Press article
- see Apple's full statement here
- see AT&T's response here and here (PDF)
- see Google's response to the FCC here
- see Google's VoIP post here

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Article updated Aug. 24 with additional information