It looks like Apple has slammed the App Store door on Google again. Apple has blocked Google Voice, the search giant's Skype-like service that provides a universal phone number, free SMS texting and domestic calls and cheap international calling, from its app storefront, according to a TechCrunch report. The app is already available for Android and BlackBerry smartphones, though on an invite-only basis.
A Google spokesperson told TechCrunch: "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."
The rejection comes a week after Google released its Latitude "app" for the iPhone limited to the Safari browser. Google revealed it had gone the Web route after Apple turned down a standalone version of the Latitude app because people might confuse it with the iPhone's Maps app. Tech bloggers lambasted Apple and Google for launching a "toothless" version of the location-sharing app.
Now, fingers are pointing at AT&T over the Google Voice rejection. Apple's wireless carrier partner came under criticism from consumer advocates and others earlier this year for blocking Skype's free app for the iPhone from its 3G network and limiting its availability to WiFi.
Though, technically, Apple imposed the restriction on Skype, AT&T said it had "every right" not to promote the services of a wireless rival. Now it appears the same reasoning may be keeping the Google Voice app out of the App Store. AT&T and Google are already fighting on opposing sides in the broader net neutrality battle.
The latest move won't win Apple, already under fire from critics for a capricious app approval process, or AT&T, any new fans. "The thing that really bothers me about the move is that Apple is now actively stifling innovation. Google Voice is the kind of service that can actually have a positive impact on your life, and not in a frivolous, entertainment-related sense," wrote TechCrunch's Jason Kincaid.
The Google Voice rejection could also help increase pressure to end exclusive handset deals, such as AT&T's with the iPhone. The major carriers have said such exclusive arrangements help to stimulate innovation and competition in the industry, while smaller carriers have complained the deals give their larger rivals an unfair advantage. The iPhone helped AT&T add 1.4 million net subscribers in the second quarter.