AT&T Does Not Manage or Approve Apps for the App Store (Though We May Bitch About the Ones We Dislike)

Published on August 3, 2009
by John Paczkowski

gvmobileAT&T has replied to a Federal Communications Commission letter of inquiry into the role it played in the rejection of a number of third-party Google Voice apps and Google’s official GV client from Apple’s iTunes App Store. The gist of the reply: Don’t look at us.

“AT&T does not manage or approve applications for the App Store,” the company said in a statement. “We have received the letter and will, of course, respond to it.”

A flat denial, and one that would seem to throw Apple (AAPL) under the bus for denying iPhone owners access to Google Voice. Though just why Cupertino would take issue with an an iPhone application that offers free text messaging and allows users to make calls, routed via the Internet, for free in the United States and for a small fee internationally is unclear. After all, it’s not Apple’s domestic and international calling business the app is potentially encroaching on.

And AT&T (T) is being somewhat disingenuous here since it acknowledged this past May that it had SlingPlayer for iPhone black-holed from the App Store because of concerns over bandwidth.

So while AT&T may not directly “manage or approve applications,” the carrier is clearly capable of influencing management and approval of them.

Could it be that Apple is contractually bound to reject apps that might compete with AT&T’s service? An agreement like that would certainly make it easy for AT&T to adopt the hey-don’t-look-at-me stance it has taken with the FCC.

That said, it’s entirely possible that the Apple’s rejection of Google Voice apps had nothing to do with AT&T and everything to do with its increasingly complicated relationship with Google (GOOG).

As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber notes, “Google Voice is a mobile phone service provided by the maker of one of the biggest competitors to the iPhone OS. What if Google Voice were instead Microsoft Voice? And what if Windows Mobile were as modern and competitive as Android? Would you be as surprised then that Apple is discouraging iPhone owners from using the service?”

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