Google Voice for iPhone Becomes Official Native App

It's official. Google's native Google Voice application has come to Apple's iPhone, some 16 months after Apple first rejected it and made Google jump through hoops.

On Nov. 16, Google finally saw its native application for Apple's iPhone approved for Apple's App Store, putting an end to a 16-month rift between two companies competing fiercely in the mobile phone market.

Google Voice is a phone management application that more than 1.4 million people use to route calls to their phones, via a special phone number.

The app, which enables free calls in the United States and cheap international calls, lets users enjoy automatic voice mail transcription, the ability to listen to live messages as they are being left on voice mail, and several other tools. Users may also display their Google Voice number as caller ID when making calls.

Google submitted a version of its app for the iPhone to Apple's App Store for approval in June 2009. Google's app was never approved, although Apple said it never actually rejected the app.

After the Federal Communications Commission formally questioned Google, Apple and AT&T about the issue, it turned out that Apple had indeed silenced Google Voice on the iPhone because it duplicated too many features of the popular device, including the dialer capability.

The standoff shed light on just how deep the rift between Apple and Google had grown.

In January, Google launched a Web version of Google Voice for iPhone based on HTML5. However, that app lacked certain perks, such as push notifications to alert users to new voice mails or text messages, and quicker call connections.

This new, native "official Google Voice for iPhone app" has those features, and it's available for download from the Apple App Store today.

iPhone users need an iPhone with iOS 3.1 or later and a valid Google Voice account to use the app, which is currently available only in the United States.

Apple made the official Google Voice app possible in September when it relaxed its iPhone developer terms after enough developers complained about the gauntlet they had to run to get apps approved in the App Store.

Developers of the GV Mobile and GV Connect Google Voice applications for the iPhone rushed to take advantage of Apple's loosening of the reins, rolling out their apps that month.

It was believed then that Google's official app would follow shortly after, but it took almost two months to appear, perhaps a sign of just how touchy the App Store policies are.