Google Voice Über Alles: You Left the iPhone For This?


Edible Apple has a good piece about those apparently ditching their iPhones because of the Google Voice app issue.

The posts from Michael Arrington and Steven Frank smack (in my opinion) of a “grass is greener” mentality. Even more-so, they smack of a case where it’s sometimes human nature to not miss an opportunity to feel morally superior to something.

For Arrington’s piece there’s also a great refutation here. I believe it’s safe for anyone to predict he’ll be back with the iPhone eventually. And his reason for returning will be as easily found as his reason for leaving, which of course will make another sensationalist blog post. Wanna bet?

Mr. Frank’s piece is more thoughtful and, unlike Arrington, one can’t help think he believes in what he’s doing. Unfortunately, I don’t think that makes it any less misguided. What I especially can’t understand is why Frank states that by moving to Palm’s Pre his conscience will be clear. How?

Frank is moving to support a company hacking its way into Apple’s iTunes by deliberately misusing the USB Vendor ID. This is a cheap tactic, and while I don’t expect Pre owners to leave Palm in droves as a result, I fail to see how jumping on board after leaving Apple for ethical reasons makes any sense at all. Indeed, as a developer I would expect Frank to find Palm’s unauthorized use of someone else’s software particularly vile.

Further, I believe that taking actions committed by a company personally is way too much anthropomorphizing. When a company kicks butt, I don’t walk around like I had a hand in it, or am somehow responsible. Well, guess what? The same also goes for any mistakes they might make. I’m no more “embarrassed” at alleged transgressions than I am “proud” of any successes.

To me, the bottom line is we’ll never find that one, shining company in all of this. Not just because such a company does not exist, but also because we could never all agree on what constitutes a “shining company” in the first place. When I look at Apple’s App Store, I see an overwhelming amount of “good” that, for now at least, easily beats any “bad”.

7 thoughts on “Google Voice Über Alles: You Left the iPhone For This?

  1. The “point” you gave to the Pre was to assume it MIGHT get GV, and to assume the iPhone will NEVER get GV. Those are assumptions you cannot make. Apple has gone back and allowed numerous apps that had previously been rejected; there’s plenty or precedent that the final word on GV is not yet heard.

    As for the Pre or Android stores not having a “guardian”, of course they do. For example, with Android’s Open Marketplace you go through Google, and they have already rejected apps:

    This is what bothers me most about the App Store ranters. The other stores falling all over themselves to compete with Apple will NOT be more open. They MUST still honor copyrights, patents, contractual obligations, objectionable content, etc. The utopian open market some think these other stores will provide DOES NOT EXIST.

    You wanna go outside the marketplace to get these kinds of apps? Knock yourself out. But you can also do that with Apple via jailbreaking, and only 50 people (relatively speaking) are gonna join you. Not the large customer base a developer might be interested in (not presuming to speak for you).

    Regarding iTunes, why doesn’t Palm cry like babies because they can’t use Microsoft’s Zune software, or RIM’s? They’re hacking into Apple’s software, yet could have written their own had they not been sitting on their asses sucking their thumbs and going out of business the last few years. Their inability to release the Pre with better hardware, a decent SDK, and a desktop software component is not Apple’s problem. To suggest in any way that this is an Apple issue about “openness” is nonsense.

    As for the App Store, if 65,000 apps and 1.5 Billion downloads isn’t enough to convince you the incredible “good” that has come from it, I’m not sure what to say. Screw the fart apps. I don’t have any, but I’ve got 64 third-party apps, seven of which I use DAILY, and a dozen others I use at least once a week.

    There’s been perhaps 25 high-profile rejections (many of them rescinded), and maybe a few hundred (if that) in total. That’s TRIVIAL compared to the whole. Of course Apple is making mistakes. No doubt about it. But it’s not like Apple hasn’t admitted errors and instituted changes, and won’t institute more.

    The App Store is still young; the thrust of my post was to say that bailing on it now for a company whose business plan is to eschew writing their own software by hacking into someone else’s just makes no sense to me.

  2. Ah, but it was a good rant. So let’s try to take this slowly.

    The point: Google Voice is a killer app. People want to use it on their phones. They cannot use it on their iPhone. So they get a phone where either they can use it or at least stand a better chance of being able to use it someday.

    Take the Palm Pre, for example. While Google Voice is not available for the Pre, it may become so. Especially since there is no “guardian at the gate” (like Apple and the iPhone), meaning that if Google decides it’s worth the time and effort, it will appear. In the meantime, there is an unofficial Google Voice app for the Palm Pre. There is no such app for the iPhone, whether you jailbreak it or not. Furthermore, Google can’t even release their unapproved app as a “jailbreak” app because Apple won’t let them.

    Point for the Palm Pre right there.

    In regards to the issue with Palm Pre and iTunes, I am a developer and I personally would have no problem if the thousands of Palm Pre users used my software. Unfortunately, it’s the MBAs who somehow feel that this is a bad thing. As a developer, I love it when people use my software. Personally, I’d like to create a way for people to use any devices with my software. Unfortunately, others decide these things–not developers. I’m sure the developers of iTunes were not really thrilled with having to take time off from interesting things in order to keep people from using their software.

    There are many people–Windows and Mac users included–who purchase things to send a message to others about who they are and what they believe. Apple is, of course, famous for this sort of marketing. Show the world that you Think Different™, like Gandhi and Thomas Edison and Amelia Earhart and Jim Henson! Buy a Mac!

    So you can’t really look askance when somebody decides that they can’t reconcile the company’s message and the company’s actions. When Apple claims that they stand for “innovation,” but refuse to allow an innovative application like Google Voice to run on their phone. When Apple claims they stand for “openness,” but refuses to let any other device access iTunes. So if they feel strongly enough about it that they will not use their products, I think that’s a good thing. I may not agree with their philosophy, but I have no problem with people who don’t eat meat or wear fur. At least they back up their beliefs with actions.

    Now, just for laughs, I’d love to hear about the App Store and how the good outweighs the bad. Why is it that you feel an App Store controlled by Apple, which decides which apps are available and which ones are not, is better than an environment similar to the Android, where you can distribute apps without having to go through the App Store?

  3. Peter,

    If you believe of the 65K+ apps there are none that “do anything useful”, you haven’t looked at any of them.

    I’m prepared for debate on this issue, but sweeping statements such as yours above, or that iPhone users are pretending to be Pete Mitchell, or the obligatory fart comments, or even misunderstanding my use of a marketing photo, won’t help you here.

    I explained why I thought Frank’s move was to another company easily pegged as unethical. You gave nothing in return but the above generalizations.

    Meanwhile, Google Voice is not even on the Pre (not officially, and if you want unofficial than you can jailbreak the iPhone), but don’t let that get in the way of a good rant.

  4. To coin a phrase, it’s about the apps, stupid!

    Way back when, IBM came out with the IBM PC. It was a nice little personal computer. But what sold IBM PCs was Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect (or WordStar, depending on how old you are), and Ashton-Tate’s dBase. In other words, tools that make the hardware actually useful!

    (For the Mac users out there, replace Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect, and dBase with PageMaker and Photoshop.)

    These are the so-called “Killer Apps”–things that offer customers an ability that they either never had or that was too expensive for them to previously afford.

    I’m amused by the picture at the top of this article. That and the title were like, “What? You gave up having a pretty compass and a map for the ability to have transcribed voicemail, one unified number, automatic routing, etc. etc.? What are you trying to do–actually make your phone useful?! Isn’t the fact that you can make fart noises with your phone enough?!”

    Mac users understand that it’s not about the number of apps available–it’s about what they can do. 65,000 apps that don’t do anything useful is less important than 1 app that does. Yeah, I might miss playing a flight simulator or a golf game. But the fact that my phone is a now valuable tool for managing my life is a bit more important to me than my ability to pretend I’m Pete “Maverick” Mitchell for a few minutes.

    Of course, it would be great if I could do both. It’s a pity Apple won’t let me.

  5. Seek out the alternatives to Google Voice. Get AT&T Virtual Receptionist, created by RingCentral. It’s in the app store. It gives you 60 minutes free calling each month and a FREE toll-free number (Google does not do that!). AT&T Virtual Receptionist does not transcribe voicemail into text for you to read, that is the cool thing of Google Voice, but if you can do without that, and get a toll-free number for nothing, it might be worth considering.

  6. Despite the huge success of the APP STORE and the iPhone, what must be remembered is that they are still both in their infancy, and just like the process of growing up, I naturally assume that Apple will make some pretty dumb moves in the process as well.

    Still, as you stated, I too think that the good far outweighs the bad, and as far as the bad goes, it will get better! Apple has already corrected some of their past mistakes and I think that they will continue to do so in the future.

    To give up on the iPhone now just because you perceived that Apple did something immature, is frankly a little immature in and of itself, is it not?

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