Google Voice for iPhone: Missing in action

hrough digital rights management, your ability to read, view, listen to, watch, or use a digitally downloaded product can go poof at any time.

Big Brother is a little late in arriving, having been expected by 1984 at the latest. But he has shown his face twice recently in the world of mobile technology: First, in the mass removal from Amazon Kindles of George Orwell's 1984 (oh, sweet irony) and Animal Farm e-books. Second, when Apple banished all Google Voice-related apps from its App Store--including one excellent app, GV Mobile, which Apple had approved and which had been available in the iTunes store since early May.

Amazon's move was by far the more outrageous of the two. If you'd purchased Orwell's e-books from Amazon's Kindle store, you'd have awakened one fine July morning to find that an entity more powerful than you had spirited those e-books away in the dead of night, like dissenters in a totalitarian regime.

Okay, so that metaphor is a bit over the top--but so was what Amazon did. Amazon says it took this drastic action because Orwell's publisher changed its mind about distributing the late author's works as Kindle e-books. People who downloaded Orwell books to their Kindles received a refund--and Amazon CEO Jess Bezos ate a big slice of humble pie after the public hue and cry. But the point from this escapade was clear: Through digital rights management, your ability to read, view, listen to, watch, or use a digitally downloaded product can go poof at any time.

GV Mobile Missing in Action

And then there's the case of GV Mobile.

About a month ago, I paid $US3 to install developer Sean Kovacs's excellent GV Mobile app from Apple's iTunes store on my iPhone. The app made it possible to use many of Google Voice's features on my iPhone, using an iPhone-like interface.

GV Mobile first appeared in the iTunes store in early May, says Kovacs. He offered both a basic free version and the $US3 version. But then, on July 27, Kovacs says he received word from Apple that it was removing GV Mobile from iTunes because it duplicated features inherent to the iPhone. Apple has sent into Siberia other Google Voice iPhone apps, such as VoiceCentral, and has rejected Google's own Google Voice app. It's not a stretch to suggest that AT&T, which is the exclusive U.S. wireless service provider for the iPhone, was none too pleased with Google Voice apps potentially taking revenue out of its pocket.

If you already have GV Mobile installed on your iPhone, it should continue to work as before, Kovacs says. (And indeed it does, at least for me.) But for how long? Apple has the technical ability to remotely disable apps on individual iPhones, having added a "remote kill switch" to the iPhone 2.0 OS--though not many people outside Apple seem to know exactly how it works or what it does. Steve Jobs has said its purpose is to allow Apple to retroactively disable an app that is malicious or objectionable in some way.

In the meantime, you do have some mobile Google Voice options:

The Wrap Up

The GV Mobile affair is yet another reminder that Apple has too much control over iTunes app developers, and wireless service providers in the U.S. have far too much power over us, their lowly subjects.

So what can you do about it? You could write your Washington representatives. You could sign up for pay-as-you-go mobile plans only, to regain some control. And you could jailbreak your iPhone, thereby diving into that cat-and-mouse game that's been going on since the first-generation Apple phone. I would never have done that, for reasons Geek Tech blogger David Murphy recently pointed out. But after what's happened with GV Mobile, for the first time, jailbreaking no longer seems like such a blatantly lawless act to me. In fact, it feels more like a small act of civil disobedience against forces that have too much control over what I can and can't do.

Keep on Clicking

Mobile Computing News, Reviews, & Tips

Apple iPhone vs. Palm Pre: The iPhone 3GS is faster and more refined than the Palm Pre. The iPhone has tons more apps and games. It works much better as an MP3 player. Oh, let's be honest: The iPhone walks on water. So why in tarnation does our Darren Gladstone prefer the Pre, after spending two weeks using both smartphones?

Toshiba Netbook Earns PCW Number-One Spot: Toshiba's maiden voyage into netbooks, the NB205-312, landed atop our Top 10 Netbooks chart. We gave the $US399 netbook a rating of 89, Very Good, for its amazing battery life, oversized touchpad, comfortable keyboard, and other attributes.

Your Notebook, Circa 2015: Ever wondered what a portable computer will look like in 6 years? Wonder no more by gazing at the solar laptop, a PC that can be placed on a steering wheel and project videoconferencing images on the windshield (!!), and other slightly futuristic portable computers.

Suggestion Box

Is there a particularly cool mobile computing product or service I've missed? Got a spare story idea in your back pocket? Tell me about it. However, I regret that I'm unable to respond to tech-support questions, due to the volume of e-mail I receive.

Contributing Editor James A. Martin offers tools, tips, and product recommendations to help you make the most of computing on the go. You can follow him on Twitter. Jim is also co-author of Getting Organized in the Google Era, to be published in March 2010. Sign up to have Mobile Computing e-mailed to you each week.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags GoogleAppleiPhoneiphone appsiphone app storegoogle voice

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

James A. Martin

PC World (US online)
Show Comments



Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?