Apple and AT&T Answer FCC About Google Voice Rejection: It's All Apple

PR speak doesn't usually come this blunt, but the situation warrants it. AT&T's full response to the FCC's investigation into the Google Voice app rejection can be summed up like this: This one's on Apple. As for Apple's? It's complicated.

An AT&T senior VP:

We appreciate the opportunity to clear up misconceptions related to an application Google submitted to Apple for inclusion in the Apple App Store. We fully support the FCC's goal of getting the facts and data necessary to inform its policymaking.

To that end, let me state unequivocally, AT&T had no role in any decision by Apple to not accept the Google Voice application for inclusion in the Apple App Store. AT&T was not asked about the matter by Apple at any time, nor did we offer any view one way or the other.

We had nothing to do with this! Really! But we're just saying, even if we did—we didn't!-it wouldn't matter, since you've got web apps! Seriously.

The most interesting in AT&T's statement is regarding VoIP. It seems like Apple could actually allow Skype over 3G, if it wanted to (though AT&T would really prefer all VoIP apps run over Wi-Fi), and they agreed when the iPhone contract was first forged that Apple wouldn't make its own VoIP app, meaning a video iChat probably ain't in the cards for a long time:

"AT&T and Apple agreed that Apple would not take affirmative steps to enable an iPhone to use AT&T's wireless service (including 2G, 3G and Wi-Fi) to make VoIP calls without first obtaining AT&T's consent. 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."

Apple's statement is even better, saying they haven't even rejected Google Voice:

Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it. 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. Apple spent a lot of time and effort developing this distinct and innovative way to seamlessly deliver core functionality of the iPhone. [emphasis ours]

Here's where Apple states it alone shot down Google Voice:

Apple is acting alone and has not consulted with AT&T about whether or not to approve the Google Voice application. No contractual conditions or non-contractual understandings with AT&T have been a factor in Apple's decision-making process in this matter.

Of course we all know their core reason—"it appears to alter the iPhone's distinctive user experience"—is a crock, since there are ton of other dialers and messaging apps out there, as we've pointed out. Apple pretending that it's also because they care about your safety is cute, too:

"In addition, the iPhone user's entire Contacts database is transferred to Google's servers, and we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways."

Riiiight.

Amidst the swirl of horsecrap, Apple does provides key insights into the App Store review process: There are merely 40 full-time reviewers for those thousands of apps, and at least two of them must review each app. Apps that might have a problem are escalated to an executive review board that meets "weekly." Even with these constraints, Apple says 95 percent of apps make it through the review process within 2 weeks. 20 percent of them are rejected. And incredibly they've reviewed over 200,000 apps and updates.

Anyway, there's a lot to sift through here, though amazingly, none of it really explains what happened to Google Voice. See for yourself: AT&T's full release release here; Apple's here. Warning: They're loooooong.