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Google Voice for iPhone Released (googlevoiceblog.blogspot.com)
209 points by johns on Nov 16, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 76 comments



I'm struck that it appears to do very little local caching. In that sense it feels like a highly polished web app, always at the mercy of an available network.

Also, it's iPhone-only. Following the direct download link from an iPod or iPad yields an error. Guess I'm sticking with Boxcar for iPad push notifications.


Guess I'm sticking with Boxcar for iPad push notifications.

Same here, except using Notifo.


The inbox is incredibly slow to load up ("refreshing conversations...") compared to the native SMS app or even Whatsapp (iPhone 4, 4.2, 3G 3 bars). And while it loads up, it doesn't seem to be possible to switch from the inbox to the dialer or the "Menu"... It's also crashed twice when opening after receiving a text notification. (disappointed sigh).


The "no caching" effect is much less pronounced with fast app switching. Are you on iOS 3.x?

Also, in my experience, there are often weird consistency errors in the App Store when something new is rolling out. (I could only see it on my Mac for a while before it appeared on my phone.) Try again in an hour.


I'm on 4.1. I noticed the caching behavior after seeing that the text and voicemail views start with no data loaded, even after viewing the inbox. Forcing the app to exit zeroed out all three views.

Loading data is pretty fast on wifi, and the app is certainly nice to look at, but not taking any advantage of local persistence seems to push the web-centric worldview a step too far.


Thanks for staying around. We have some really cool stuff coming up @Boxcar.


Google Voice is kind of the wrong product for the wrong time. It improves voice telephone calls exactly at a time when that's no longer very interesting.

The only semi-interesting thing would be cheap international calls - but I have Skype for this already.

Voice mail, I don't use. If it was improved like with GV - I'd still not use it. SMS, I have plenty of free texts, never exceed my limit - though I wonder how they get away with making them free, given that carriers make lots of money with that.

One number to rule them all - that would be cool - except if it's controlled by one company which will eventually seek to monetize. Those chefs and massage services cost money... I don't, by the way, see how being available on the phone to anyone at any time, no matter what number they call and no matter where I am - as a feature. More like a bug. I am already easily reachable on my phone, via SMS, via emails. I don't need to be any more available.

Anything that I'm missing? Why would I want GV?


For me, Google Voice's features allow me more granular control over my availability, and reduce the total time my telephone takes by letting me skim textual versions of voicemails, direct calls hither and thither, etc.


If searching in the appstore, "google voice" didnt bring up anything but "googlevoice" worked


It was on the second page of results for me.


I second searching for "googlevoice"


This long-awaited arrival throws quite the wrench into the Android v. iOS platform wars.

Google was obviously already on the iPhone (with search, its popular native app, gmail, etc.), but Google Voice is clearly different in that in competes with the core functions of the phone.

What do you guys think the impact of this will be? Could Google use this as a Trojan horse to hook people on GV then try to upsell them to an Android device with better GV integration? Or will it not matter?


For an upsell to work, you'd first have to believe that people buy iPhones primarily to make phone calls. Then you'd have to believe that these phone-centric individuals are tolerant of the voice latency in GV calls. I don't see it.


There is no voice lag in GV that I've noticed, I think it works more like call-forwarding than voip.


I'd love to find some rigorous way to measure it, but (as of six months or so ago) when I sat with two phones, held down a button, and waited for a tone to come out the other end, the delay was observably longer with a GV-to-GV call than with a GV-to-cell call, which took longer than cell-to-cell.

I find myself saying "no, go ahead" or talking over the other person far more often with GV than not. It's certainly usable, but I avoid GV if the call quality really matters.


It definitely takes longer for calls to connect and I think it may drop calls more frequently when using it on a cell (although it has improved greatly in that regard from about a year ago). I recently started using it through gmail and have been told the calls sound much better. Not sure what it all means.


In fact there is no VoIP component to Google Voice, except perhaps at the carrier level.


I think its yet another killer Android application that is now available on iPhone. While I can see their logic in this instance I still don't understand why Google insists on porting all of their good Android applications across, removing any competitive advantage they give to Android.


Because Google isn't in the business you think they're in.


But what about Google's partners in the Open Handset Alliance? Most of them are definitely trying to compete head-on against the iPhone.


Pawns


Unlike the hapless consumers who would be the pawns, if Google took the (common) strategy of undermining competitors rather than simply producing better products.


So why make Android at all? If Apple removes Google search from the iPhone and disallows AdMob then how are they going to make money from the iPhone?

Google Voice isn't a good example of what I'm talking about (so, I guess that makes this off topic), but take Google Goggles for instance, where is the benefit of them porting that to iPhone? - I'm genuinely interested here. Surely there is more money to be made from people having Android which is loaded with Google, to supporting more sales of iPhone.


Google wants more people to use that Internet more often. That's it. The more users (web, mobile, tv, whatever) the more money they make (in the big picture).

If they can help the carriers get more people using smart phones, they are happy. The android vs. iPhone stuff is just the small battle. The war is Internet use vs. Anything else (jogging? Sex? Swimming? And other activities google can't target with ads)


Yeah I realize their is net benefits there.

Out of interest, I wonder how much money Google actually makes from mobile Safari usage? Ie, if you took away Google search + Admob integration into the iPhone, how much benefit would they still have? (Even worse, replace it with Bing search, so that most searches the user does on their phone see Bings in-search advertisements)

Would be interesting to see the stats on how advertising goes in mobile optimized websites, and just how likely a user is to click on an ad-link while using their phone browser. I know my mobile browsing is either reading stuff, or looking up information I want to see, then getting out, whereas on a PC I'm more likely to wander around the internet earning money for Google.


> What do you guys think the impact of this will be?

Apple does the majority of its sales outside the US. GV does not work outside the US.


GV sms is free and I use chrome extension quite a bit for sms. Now I would probably cancel my sms plan on iphone.

I think the most important thing is, Google would get contacts this way. I already uploaded my address book removing email ids from the csv file.


Doesn't seem to be available for iPod Touch even though many of the features would work fine on it.


Some of the big ones - like receiving calls - don't.


Not to mention placing calls. That's a huge part of the interface.


It appears number portability and iPod Touch support is not on their priority list. I have no clue why. With those two features, personally, I would be free from cell phone carriers.


To my understanding, it doesn't implement calling functionality -- you have to have a number for the Voice service to call to. It isn't a VOIP client like Skype, so I wouldn't expect this to support the iPod touch any time soon -- unless you were planning on using it to forward to a Skype number or something like that.

It's really more of a telephony abstraction than a client.


It does essentially give you number portability.

1. Set up Google Voice to forward your GV # to your cell phone.

2. Install the Google Voice app to get push notifications for SMS messages sent to your GV #.

3. Give out your GV # instead of your cell phone number.

4. Change the forwarding rules at will -- you can even use the same number for multiple phones.


Number portability in this context means the ability to use an existing number with new service, not the ability to use a new number which points back at your existing number.

Google's been on the record for several years as hoping to support this in the future.

http://www.google.com/support/voice/bin/answer.py?hl=en&...


There are way more iPod touches out there than iPhones. This could have been a great ipod touch app for people who don't want to pay ridiculous amounts for a phone.


Well it would only be good for SMS, since the iPod Touch doesn't have any ability to make and receive phone calls over the regular cell networks.


Are there actually? Could you link me to numbers on that?


http://www.infosyncworld.com/reviews/cell-phones/apple-iphon...

iPod touch and iPad users account for a little under half of all iOS devices. Still a huge portion of the market to miss.


Thanks! That looks just about what I was (mentally) predicting.


It doesn't install on the iPad either. My guess is that they set it to require "sms" or "telephony" functionality.

http://developer.apple.com/library/mac/documentation/General...


Google intends to release a version that will work with the iPad/iPod Touch (no VoIP calls, at least at first, but you'll be able to use texts and access your voicemail).


This is great - but you still have to be in the app to make a phone call (doesn't integrate with the native iPhone phone app well). Does anyone know if the Android version has tighter integration?

I'd like to not have to remember to launch the app to return a call and use the native SMS app to send from my GV number. Is this possible with the Android version?


The Android version of Google Voice integrates with the native dialer and SMS apps.


Tks - that might be enough reason to switch to Android actually.


Note that this doesn't mean GV on Android is using VOIP or anything along those lines. It simply dials one of the GV numbers for you and then connects you.


Overall the polish of the app seems a little lacking but the fact that push notifications are finally available makes it the service itself actually usable on an iPhone. I'm not amazed but certainly a happier person than I was yesterday.


It's ironic that Apple might have changed their app store rules to allow a Google product (GV) into the app store in order to counter another Google product (Android)


My understanding is that this change in policy was directly in response to pressure from the EU and FTC probes.


It's interesting the extent to which apple is pre-emptively trying to avoid anti-trust actions by allowing apps like opera and gv and backpedaling on ad network competition. I assume that's because they see it as a real possibility that an EU remedy could be something like forcing them to natively support competing app stores. That would be a huge blow to apple revenue.


are you suggesting they make a notable amount of direct money off the app store?

Or are you suggesting the more indirect: more app stores->less confidence, more confusion, less sales->less device sales->less revenue


Thanks for correcting me in a polite way - I see that analysts place app store profits at only about 1% of apple's gross profits since the store opened. Huge was obviously a poor choice of words, but still the numbers are compelling - $189M in gross profit on ~$1.3B gross revenue (assuming the $1B paid out * 1.3) - 14.5% margins even while including operating costs associated with free apps. One can also assume that the 1% contribution to profit is a growing figure since it includes the entire time the app store has been open but sales have been increasing steadily. While apple calls it "a bit over break-even", that has always been the line with itunes as well yet there are various pieces of evidence that suggest that is somewhat of a fib.

I think you make an even better point than I was thinking of though. Apple clearly values the tight control they have over applications highly. Whatever their motivations there - ux, security, platform lock in, vertical integration, control over competitors - they surely believe that ceding that control would have a negative effect on their bottom line.


It is ironic but I think there is some truth to it. The gmail client for android is way better than anything available for iPhone, and so ultimately unless Apple is willing to offer apps that are roughly as good, it might as well allow users to use Google's.

I could see someone choosing Android just for the gmail app if email was very important and the other iPhone advantages didn't outweigh it. Mail.app for iPhone reminds me of the bad old days of email.


In what way is the gmail client better? I'm using the Mail app on iPhone 4 and I love it. Joined inboxes, threaded conversations. The only thing missing for me is the ability to add rules locally.


A few things I've notice (and why I stopped using it):

- It doesn't show new mail when it arrives

- It doesn't do threaded conversations so they're compatible with the gmail web app

- Its address book autocomplete is not as good

- It stores messages locally so you can't search past mails

- It does not hide the quoted text the same way gmail normally does, which sort of breaks that feature when you switch between mail.app and web based gmail.

edit: Maybe I'll try it again since you love it so much. It's possible that my initial frustrations led me to write it off prematurely (plus, I heard it's getting updates in IOS 4.2)


>- It doesn't show new mail when it arrives

That depends on the push function. If the server supports push then you get the mail when it arrives. Mobileme works out of the box, as does exchange. Sadly, if you want this to work with gmail you have to set up gmail as an exchange account.

>- It doesn't do threaded conversations so they're compatible with the gmail web app

Not sure what you mean, it doesn't do them the same way as the gmail app? I haven't looked at that but it does do them and it seems to work pretty well.

>- Its address book autocomplete is not as good

It works well for me, but maybe I don't have as many contacts. I only have about 90 or so.

>- It stores messages locally so you can't search past mails

It searches locally but there is a button at the end of the results called "search on server". Does this not do what you want?

>- It does not hide the quoted text the same way gmail normally does, which sort of breaks that feature when you switch between mail.app and web based gmail.

Yea, that's true. That's a killer feature of gmail.

>Maybe I'll try it again since you love it so much.

I don't love it, I just find it better than most clients I've used. I just asked because I was genuinely curious what was better because it must be pretty dramatic if it makes the decent iPhone mail app look so bad.


Thanks for taking the time to reply. I got acclimated to the gmail app for Android for a while before I ditched Android for iPhone, an the only things that are worse in my opinion on iphone are gmail and google voice, which happen to be two very cool apps, which, if stronger, would make iPhone more desirable.

I think that the lack of push was probably the biggest annoyance for me, so I may try mail.app again with your tip.


I think the current GV app is really a stripped down version of the one that Google originally planned. Didn't Apple lambast the original GV because it took over the standard phone functions.


Finally... Sweet GV push notifications... :D


There are some rough edges (like the SMS sending screen, yuck) but what I'm impressed by is how performant the app is on my old-ass 3G. It seems to open faster than the SMS or Dialer apps do. Probably 'cause it was developed back when the 3G was cutting-edge!


GV Mobile+ still has a lot of features that this official google app doesn't match, like the ability to paste phone numbers into the dial pad and ability to rout numbers via Skype.


GV Mobile+ has a lot of extra features, but I feel like the native Google Voice app is faster and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. There were also always glitches with the GV Mobile+ app I used, e.g. text disappearing or hiding behind a whole line of whitespace.


Now that they have an official app, maybe they'll iterate fast to catch up to GV Mobile's features.


On the other hand, if Apple really didn't want to allow the app, and only did so to satisfy regulators, they can do their best to slow and stall on every change that Google submits.


According to John Gruber it still uses your AT&T minutes for domestic calls. That should be a turnoff for most. http://twitter.com/#!/gruber/status/4619690240376832


Google Voice isn't, and has never been, a VoIP service. Phone calls made through the iPhone app or Android app have always used the phone's minutes.


It wasn't until they added the ability to make calls from the browser in Gmail using your Google Voice number. So they're not a full-blown VoIP service, but they have some VoIP features now.


I think that's technically considered part of GMail/Google Talk. Google Voice just provides a facility to route the call to GMail/Google Talk.


Actually it has been. You had the ability to link up your Gizmo account which was a 100% pure VOIP service. Then, from Gizmo you could link in an Asterisk server with SIP.

Google then bought Gizmo and put it on ice. You can use freeswitch/asterisk to login to your Google Talk account and take calls from your Voice account now and do the same thing.


Considering I have something like ten thousand rollover minutes because of how little I use my phone for voice calls, I can let this one slide.


http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-voice/id318698524 <-- Direct link, gogogo, before it's gone ;)


I don't think it's available in a limited quantity. :)


Europe is such a tiny market, why would they even consider trying something like this out here :)

sniff sniff

Do I have to make a sacrifice to some modern deity or something to see this on our side of the pond? Oh pretty please Goog? :)


I have to wonder if this will ever make it to Australia before we stop using the POTS.


Is this all native? Parts of it feels like javascript.


How do you feel JavaScript???!


Easily: poor scrolling, slow, shadows at the end of the web views (that the iPhone SDK forces in there (!)), etc. It's fairly easy to tell on an iPhone if something is JavaScript or not, it's one of the reasons I don't use anything that's been near PhoneGap or whatever.




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