Apple tells FCC jury still out on Google Voice


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 22, 2009 at 4:31 AM EDT

Apple has told US regulators it is studying a Google Voice application for iPhones and is not conspiring with telecom partner AT&T to bar the software from the coveted mobile devices.

Apple, Google and AT&T each explained their sides of the story in letters released on Friday by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officials investigating why Voice for iPhones hasn't made it to the App Store, a distribution network for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

"Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it," Apple vice president of worldwide global affairs Catherine Novelli said in an August 21 letter to the FCC.

"Apple is acting alone and has not consulted with AT&T about whether or not to approve the Google Voice application."

In late July, FCC investigators intent on finding out whether Apple is unfairly flexing its muscle in the smart phone market sent "inquiry letters" to Apple, Google and AT&T, iPhone's exclusive carrier in the United States.

"AT&T does not participate in Apple's day-to-day consideration of specific applications," AT&T senior vice president of external and legal affairs James Cicconi said in written responses to FCC questions.

"Nor does Apple typically notify AT&T prior to including applications in the App Store."

At Google's request, the Internet firm's answers to FCC questions about what it was told by Apple on rejecting the Voice iPhone application were removed from a copy of the letter released publicly.

In his written response, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel Richard Whitt referred to the subject of the correspondence as "Apple's rejection of Google Voice for iPhone application."

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said inquiry letters were sent because the agency wanted to get "the facts and data necessary to make the best policy decisions on behalf of the American people."

The FCC move came after Google said a Voice application for the iPhone was rejected by the App Store and related applications were removed.

Apple said it has not approved the Voice application because it appears to replace the iPhone's mobile telephone features with a Google interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail.

Voice also transfers data from iPhone users' address books to Google servers and Apple doesn't know how that information will be safeguarded, according to Novelli.

"These factors present several new issues and questions to us that we are still pondering," Novelli said in her letter.

"Apple spent a lot of time and effort developing this distinct and innovative way to seamlessly deliver core functionality of the iPhone."

Apple has approved Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony iPhone applications such as Skype and Nimbuzz that rely on Wi-Fi instead of data networks belonging to AT&T.

"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," Cicconi said in his letter.

"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."

AT&T and Apple also agreed that if a third party enables an iPhone to make VoIP calls using AT&T's wireless service, Apple has no obligation to take action, according to the carrier.

"We plan to take a fresh look at possibly authorizing VoIP capabilities on the iPhone for use on AT&T's 3G network," Cicconi said.

In the year since it opened, the App Store has grown into the world's largest wireless applications shop with more than 65,000 applications, according to Apple.

An Apple review board consisting of senior managers has reviewed more than 200,000 applications and updates, according to the California company.

"We've rejected applications for a variety of reasons," Novelli said.

"Most rejections are based on the application containing quality issues or software bugs, while other rejections involve protecting consumer privacy, safeguarding children from inappropriate content."

Google Earth and Google Mobile applications for iPhones have been approved. IPhone users are able to use Google Voice by accessing the website on the Internet or calling a designated number, according to Whitt.

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