This is a guest blog post by Sherman Nicodemus. This is my sixth post in a series this week on “Moving at the Speed of Creativity.” If you have questions about this post I’ll be glad to answer them via comments here.

Google Voice (GV) is a powerful and flexible telephony service which offers free features AT&T cannot presently match on the iPhone. If you’re not familiar with Google Voice and the features it offers, take 90 seconds and watch the following video giving the highlights.

In the summer of 2009, a great deal of hoopla surrounded Apple pulling the GV application from the official Apps store at the behest of AT&T. The Google Voice iPhone application remains available free via Cydia, but like the applications iPhoneModem and ScreenSplitr (discussed in previous guest blog posts by yours truly this week) it’s necessary to jailbreak your iPhone to use these applications. Whether or not you jailbreak your iPhone, however, Google Voice is available for iPhone users thanks to the browser-based GV app announced in January 2010.

Of these options, the Google Voice iPhone application is definitely the way to go if you’re willing and able to jailbreak. If you’re on an unlimited SMS text messaging plan this may be less of a “big deal,” but for those who are not UNLIMITED, free text messages via your Google Voice account is huge. Transcription of voicemail messages is also a fantastic feature, and all of these functions of Google Voice are most readily accessed via the iPhone application.

AT&T has exclusivity on the iPhone in the United States, and doesn’t want its customers enjoying the competitive options and advantages which come when other vendors are able to provide VOIP services on the iPhone. (Translation: AT&T wants to keep as much of your money as it can, and it has a team of very smart lawyers who help with this often.) A monopoly has its advantages, and AT&T is leveraging them with their exclusive iPhone contract.

For most iPhone users, jailbreaking is either not an option from a technical standpoint or something they are simply not willing to try. For those users, the Google Voice “web application” (m.google.com/voice/) can save the day.

The first time you visit the GV web app URL, if you have not already you’ll need to add your iPhone’s phone number to your account.

After your phone is added, you’ll be able to access the following BROWSER-BASED interface (using the Safari web browser, of course, since it’s the only one available on the iPhone presently) to make phone calls, send SMS messages, access your voicemail, call history, etc.

The new Google Voice web application was launched in January 2010, and it really is amazing to see what the creative folks at Google have been able to do within a browser-interface. This 70 second video gives a more detailed overview.

While I understand the need for Apple to secure a contract with a relatively reliable, nationwide cellular provider (AT&T) I lament the limits to creativity and consumer choice which this contract continues to impose. Should iPhone users be able to choose their carrier, without having to SIM unlock their iPhone or purchase a new iPhone in either Hong Kong or New Zealand, where the countries have negotiated with Apple to permit unlocked phone sales? Absolutely.

Should the Google Voice application, along with other fully-functional VOIP applications (like Skype) also be available via the Apple Apps store? Again, I would say “yes” with enthusiasm.

Stark limitations on function and application creativity continue to exist for iPhone users, however, but thankfully there ARE several options for those wanting to use Google Voice. Whether or not you opt to jailbreak your iPhone, thanks to Google software coders Google Voice is a telephony option you can begin using today! (As long as you can get a Google Voice invitation!)

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  • http://lardbucket.org aschmitz

    Whoa, wait a second there.

    You say, “Remember, the Google Voice iPhone application is not an app created by “third-party” developers: this is the SAME application the official team at Google developed for the iPhone, and ultimately faced rejection for because of AT&T and Apple’s cozy relationship.”

    Except I think you’re referring to the “GV Mobile” application there. In which case, it’s not. In any way.

    The “GV Mobile” application is created by a guy named Sean Kovacs, as shown in your screenshot. It’s not the “Official” Google application. (He even creates a “plus” version of GV Mobile that costs money.) While you may find the application useful, it’s not in any way the Google one, and you’re logging in through an application of a third-party developer. It is emphatically not the same as the “official” Google application, especially if you have qualms about private information potentially being passed to a third-party developer. (He’s *probably* not logging passwords, but he could, as well as everything else you use the application for.)

    But other than clearing that up, and noting the potential risk there (one I’m not taking, even though I use Google Voice and an iPhone), your article seems to be a fairly good overview of Google Voice on the iPhone.

  • Brian Mull

    So if I use this Web app on my iPhone to make a call, is it using my allotted minutes with ATT. What if someone calls that number?

  • Sherman Nicodemus

    Thanks for that correction, @achmitz. I deleted that sentence. Good point on the potential risk using the app. I was under the impression Google had re-released the app via Cydia, but I was wrong. I wonder if the official Google app will ever see the light of day, and how it’s functionality differs from the one on Cydia.

    Brian: When you use GV to make a call, the site calls you back. Those minutes ARE charged against your calling plan, from what I understand.

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