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GUEST BLOG: Bitter Apple? An update on Google's iOS Voice Search saga

JR Raphael | Aug. 24, 2012
Two weeks ago today, Google announced it was bringing its Android 4.1-level Voice Search feature to Apple's iOS platform. Would Apple ever actually allow this to happen?

Here's a little riddle for you: What happens when you have a company notorious for controlling its app store in self-serving ways -- and then a competitor upon whom it's declared "thermonuclear war" submits an app into that store for approval?

Okay, so it's not really a riddle. It's more of a rhetorical question.

Two weeks ago today, Google announced it was bringing its Android 4.1-level Voice Search feature to Apple's iOS platform. At the time, I raised what I called "the million-dollar question": Would Apple ever actually allow this to happen?

Turns out my skepticism wasn't completely unfounded. During its August 8 announcement, Google told reporters it expected the Voice Search app to hit the App Store within a few days. Two weeks later, we've got nothing but crickets.

A representative from Google confirmed to me that the company submitted the Voice Search app to Apple about a week before the August 8 announcement -- so around August 1, give or take -- and has yet to hear anything back about the app's status or lack of approval. Apple, meanwhile, doesn't respond to media inquiries as a general rule unless you work for The Wall Street Journal or your last name is Gruber.

This kind of arrogant gatekeeping game isn't unprecedented with Apple: As you may recall, the company's app approval committee "protected" iPhone users from Google's Google Voice app for a full year, allowing the program onto its pristine shelves only after a fun little evaluation by the FCC.

In that instance -- and countless other app rejection scenarios -- Apple's beef was that the app supposedly "duplicated" a "core functionality" of the iPhone. Evidently, offering an alternative to something magical and revolutionary is considered a cardinal sin in Cupertino.

Google's Voice Search, meanwhile -- not the same thing as the voice commands present in older versions of Android -- is kind of like Apple's Siri in that it lets you talk to your phone in natural language in order to get information or complete tasks. The main difference is that, by most accounts, it works much better.

In Apple's eyes, that could be quite relevant. As I noted before:

Not only does Voice Search have the potential to outshine Siri on Apple's own grounds, but it'll also bring top-notch voice-powered functionality to users of most iDevices. Siri, meanwhile, is made available only to those with either the iPhone 4S or the most recent iPad; users with older devices aren't granted access to the feature, even if they are running the latest iOS software.

So what's really going on inside the pearly iGates? Only Apple knows, and the company isn't exactly famous for communication. But come on: We're talking about an app made by Google here. It's hard to imagine any legitimate reason Apple couldn't have glanced it over and pushed it out within a matter of days if it wanted to.


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