Google Hacks the iPhone

As you may recall, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) recently refused to let Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) publish a Google Voice application for the iPhone.

Despite a plea to reconsider the rejection and untold scores of angry users who had been looking forward to adding Google Voice to their otherwise top-notch phones, Apple never budged, and Google Voice still won't run as an application on Apple hardware. If you want the fully integrated Google Voice experience on your smartphone, it had better be a Google-sanctioned Android model like the Nexus One or Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) Droid, or else a Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) BlackBerry.

But Google found a magic bullet that can resolve the dispute -- right in its own vest pocket, close to Google's heart. The power and ubiquity of modern Web browsers like the full-featured Safari found on iPhones allows Google to build a Web application that comes pretty darn close to emulating a real app installed on the phone.

And so it is that an update to the mobile version of the Google Voice website provides very nearly the full polish and functionality of the locally installed software application. Longtime Google Voice and Gmail users are rewarded with access to the same contact list they use from their computers, replacing the phone's own address book.

Other than that, you get the whole shebang, including free incoming and outgoing SMS messages and cheap international calls (though you'll still use cell phone minutes unless you're talking to other Google users via Google Talk, which is integrated into the Google Voice service).

This update brings all of that functionality to owners of iPhones, Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) Pres, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows Mobile phones, the latest and greatest Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) smartphones, and just about any other mobile device with a calling plan and a Web browser. It's not perfect -- Google can't hook directly into all of your phone's functions through this interface -- but it should be good enough for many users and also easily used on whatever new mobile platforms might emerge next.

Google worked around Apple's limitations using online tools, which is kind of like Tiger Woods solving his troubled personal relationship with a 30-foot putt. In other words, Google is doing what Google does best, and that's a powerful skill set.

Have you been holding off on buying a smartphone until Google Voice was fully functional on your preferred model? Are you going to the store today? Discuss in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Microsoft and Nokia are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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