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Apple bars Google's Voice from iPhone

AT&T handiwork?

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Apple has barred the official Google Voice application from the iPhone App Store while dumping two third-party apps that tap into Google's invite-only service.

Yesterday, the Google Voice-enabled app GV Mobile and VoiceCentral apps disappeared from the App Store, and today, word arrives that Google's own app has been summarily rejected by the Store's gatekeepers.

The decision doesn't appear to be Apple's. In fact, GV Mobile developer Sean Kovacs Tweeted that no less a luminary than Apple SVP for marketing and Jobsian keynote stand-in Phil Shiller personally approved his app.

We blame AT&T.

Among other treats offered by Google Voice are voicemail transcriptions and the ability to keep the same phone number for as long as you want, even if you switch carriers. Most threatening, perhaps, to AT&T is that they also allow you to make free long distance calls and text messages.

The now-not-iPhoneable GV Mobile app manages a smartphone's access to the Google Voice service and is currently available on the BlackBerry and Android smartphones. VoiceCentral does did much the same on the iPhone.

AT&T charges a premium for text-messaging on the iPhone: $5.00 a month for 200 messages; $15 for 1500 messages; and $20 for unlimited messages. Needless to say, a service that turns off this particular fiscal spigot would not be welcome in Dallas, AT&T's home.

When The Reg contacted Google for their reaction to being pulled from the iTunes Store, we received the following canned statement from a company spokesperson:

We work hard to bring Google applications to a number of mobile platforms, including the iPhone. Apple did not approve the Google Voice application we submitted six weeks ago to the Apple App Store. We will continue to work to bring our services to iPhone users - for example, by taking advantage of advances in mobile browsers.

Translation: "We're not happy about it, but there's nothing we can do."

And this is Google, mind you - the Mountain View ad broker that controls over 60 per cent of all web search traffic, earned $5.52bn in revenue in its most recent quarter, has its CEO sitting on Apple's board of directors, and comfortably resides in the search field on Apple's Safari browser on both iPhones and Macs.

In other words, a company with a bit more clout that the developers of the also-banned Hottest Girls app.

But not enough clout, apparently, to buck Apple's relationship with Big Phone.

Google now joins an exclusive - but growing - coterie of rejected developers of South Park episodes, Jesus impersonators, shaken babies, slasher comics, tethering apps, bouncing cartoon breasts (although real ones are apparently okay), and more.

But there is a ray of hope for Mountain View. The App Store guardians have changed their tune in the past, first rejecting and then accepting such apps as a Twitter reader, Nine Inch Nails media player, internet radio service, and even an app that allows access to the Sun's pneumatic Page 3 girls.

However, such a reprieve may only be granted if AT&T deems it allowable. Or, more likely, after AT&T's exclusivity contract expires, and Apple - with any luck at all - gives Big Phone the heave-ho.

What with late MMS support for the iPhone 3GS, an uncertain future for enabling internet tethering, and a hard-nosed 3GS upgrade pricing structure for early 3G adopters, AT&T is winning no friends among US iPhone fanbois.

In April, we reported that AT&T was negotiating with Apple to extend its iPhone contract. We now suggest that there may be at least one Apple board member who'd need a bit more cajoling to approve an extension than he might have needed yesterday: Google CEO Eric Schmidt. ®

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