Google Voice hits iPhone — sort of, and what it means

Google Voice users — not to mention the FCC, we’d imagine — are still waiting for Apple to approve Google’s submission of its Google Voice iPhone app. In the meantime, developer RiverTurn  has created a browser-based approximation of an iPhone Google Voice app, dubbed VoiceCentral and now available in limited beta. 

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The move is interesting for a couple of reasons:

  • How will Apple respond? It can’t “stop” a browser-based application, but it can probably make life difficult for the developer if it wants to.
  • If a developer can build a browser-based app that looks like a native iPhone app, why go the native route — along with the attendant approval process — at all? One reason, of course, is to get iTunes distribution, but as the app store is now ridiculously crowded, that may be less of a reason. A second reason is that that native route gives the developer access to APIs to more direclty access hardware and software elements of the iPhone — but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
  • Also interesting is that the browser remains the only way to build cross-platform (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc) apps. It’s what made the Web take off in the first place, users could access the same Web sites regardless of what OS or hardware they were running. Certainly, native smart phone apps have a better UI and better integrated usability than browser apps — but maybe browser apps have a role to play to help ease cross-platform issues.

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