Earlier this week the internet was abuzz over Apple rejecting the official Google Voice (GV) iPhone app. This story was quickly followed by Apple removing every GV-enabled app already available in the App Store. The official GV app and all previously approved GV-enabled applications appear to have been removed from all international App Stores. Based on many accounts, the culprit behind this dastardly deed is none other than AT&T. Does this mean that AT&T, the U.S. mobile carrier, has veto authority across all U.S. and international App Store applications?
Outside of the obviousness of how utterly irresponsible Apple is behaving with their lack of professional administration of the App Store, I have to wonder why Google Voice is not allowed in the U.S. App Store and the other international App Stores. One logical explanation is that Google only submitted the official GV app to the U.S. App Store since Google Voice is currently only available for U.S. consumers. That still does not explain the perceived authority AT&T has displayed over the entire U.S. App Store.
I have never seen this information published anywhere, and a few quick web searches did not really yield a solid answer, but is the U.S. App Store intended solely for U.S. consumers who posses a valid U.S. address?
For example, are U.S. expatriates living in non-English speaking countries supposed to be forbidden from the U.S. App Store, thus forced to use the App Store tied to the country the live? If this is not the case, which I suspect, then why is AT&T allowed to dictate what applications are available to international consumers not using AT&T as a mobile provider?
Customers of SoftBank in Japan using GV-enabled applications do not interfere with the AT&T network whatsoever. Why does AT&T get to make the availability determination for the whole of the U.S. App Store even when the potential traffic will not travel through their network?
Another point I am interested in is the partnership between Apple and AT&T. Is the entire U.S. App Store somehow tied to AT&T? Think about that for a moment – if it is, then there is potential collusion and anticompetitive behavior taking place. Not as if that ever happens, right?
I wonder if one of the contractual obligations between Apple and AT&T is that AT&T gets some form of right of first refusal for all applications submitted to the U.S. App Store. Essentially, when AT&T deems necessary, they merely ask Apple to pull an app or disapprove a submission and the app is banished from the U.S. App Store. Based on the treatment of GV, the pulled GV-enabled applications and the SlingPlayer app, one certainly has to wonder if this is a possibility.
I have been quite disappointed since Apple started acting so irrationally with the App Store back in the first place. But now I am severely dismayed and wonder if this is even fixable. Apple, with its peculiar and secretive nature, will undoubtedly remain tight-lipped and never publicly comment on the issue.
The only good news to come out of this is that the FCC is looking in to the GV rejections. The agency sent letters to Google, Apple and AT&T, querying all three companies on the issue. Hopefully there is reconciliation, and the type consumers require – allowing GV-enabled applications in to the App Store.