Google and Apple are a little like BP and water; they don't mix, at least not well or very willingly. 18 months ago Google submitted Google Voice to Apple's store for use on iPhones; two months after that Apple decided not to accept it, or any third-party apps that used Google Voice functionality.
According to a Techcrunch article, Apple removed Google Voice because it was too similar to the built-in calling system on the iPhone. In a somewhat defensive response it added that it hadn't rejected the app outright, but was still considering it for approval. And don't we all know how long consideration takes.
Things got a little nasty and the government got involved, but now all is roses and iPhone users can happily download the Google Voice app and use it to their hearts' content, provided they live in the US and have iPhone models with at least iOS 3.1.
iPhone users won't be denied any of the functionality that other smartphone users enjoy; they'll benefit from cheap international calls, free text messaging to US numbers, voicemail transcription and Google Voice numbers will be displayed on caller ID systems. According to Google's blog, Google Voice features also include push notifications, so that you are aware the instant you receive a new voicemail or text message and calls being placed via Direct Access Numbers, so they connect just as quickly as regular phone calls.
MG Siegler (Techcrunch) cautions those familiar with using Google Voice on other devices that using it on the iPhone is a little different. As a result of the aforementioned tiff, Google Voice won't take over the iPhone's calling capabilities. To use the application you actually have to open it. Once you do so, however, you can make calls directly from Google Voice, send and receive texts and listen to voicemails.
According to many reviewers, the best thing about the Google Voice app is that it is free, but there is much more to the app than that. Evan Selleck (Slashgear) is a big fan of the fact that the app runs natively on the iPhone, he also likes that the messages between users and their contacts are threaded, which makes it easy to keep up with conversations. There's also the fact that users can read their history, just in case they need to check up on something. The only real hiccup Selleck found was some redundancy in notifications.
A review of Google Voice on the LA Times blog was less kind. The positive points, according to the LA Times, include simple setup, push notifications for new texts and voicemail and the ability to set up "quick dial" contacts or favourites (with photos). The less positive points include too many glitches (system freezes which require a restart), the tortoise-like pace when it comes to updating the quick dial function, and the erratic nature of the contacts functionality in general (apparently it ended up pairing the wrong face with the wrong name, and despite numerous attempts to create a preferred list order, it kept reverting to the original). There are some issues with keypad functionality, customisation options are limited and you can't archive or mark messages as read.
Overall the response has been good and many people are just thrilled to bits that they can finally access the app on their iPhones. International iPhone users will have to wait until 2011 before they can rejoice, but there is more good news on the Apple horizon (if you're a Google lover that is). Google is working on ways to bring Google Voice to the iPad and iPod.
Apple had better watch out; it seems that a total Googlification is imminent.
Phil writes about iPhones for South Africa's Premier Cellular Classifieds Website, PhoneTrader.
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