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When Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) introduced Google Voice (GV) for the iPhone last month, it was a brilliant stroke for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) .

Allowing GV to exist on iOS devices eliminates what may be the biggest reason a heavy user of The Big G's services (e.g., me) would switch to Android from the iPhone.

Battle of the brands
To be fair, the majority of iPhone owners never get that far. Germany's Gfk Group recently surveyed 2,653 smartphone owners and found that 59% planned to stay with the iPhone when upgrading.

Users of Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) BlackBerry ranked second, with 35% of users saying they'll stay with RIM. Only 28% of Android users said they wouldn't switch, while 24% of Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) owners said they'd stick with the brand.

Judging by the numbers, Apple is clearly the brand leader. But 41% of all iPhone owners would still equal tens of millions toying with the idea of switching. Not long ago, you could have counted me among that group -- despite my history as a very happy 2G user.

Why? I've invested too much in Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Voice to not get the very best versions of these apps working on my smartphone. With GV now available for the latest iOS, this is no longer an issue.

Here's what the app gives me that I've long been craving:

  1. Free texting. Now that AT&T (NYSE: T  ) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) embraced more tiered data plans based on usage, supporting GV and services such as Skype aren't as painful as they might have otherwise been. I win by paying just the bare minimum in texting charges.
  2. Integrated contacts. Before, if I wanted access to my Google Contacts on the iPhone, I'd have to customize the settings -- and even then I'd only get access to those on the "My Contacts" discrete list in Gmail. GV includes a search feature connected to Gmail that finds any contact in the database, regardless of how they're categorized. Call it a touch of Google doing what Google does best.
  3. Simple access to recorded calls and voice mail. The GV menu has links to every type of call I make or receive with the service. That way, I can get to recorded calls, voice mails, etc., without having to sync with iTunes.

I'll grant that Google Voice isn't for everyone, but the service is free to use through at least the end of 2011. Millions have adopted it already. Thousands more may adopt it now that it's on the iPhone.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Are you using Google Voice on the iPhone? Please vote in the poll below and then leave a comment to explain your choice. You can also rate Google in Motley Fool CAPS.

Interested in more info on the stocks mentioned in this story? Add Apple, Google, Research In Motion, Nokia, AT&T, or Verizon to your watchlist.

Both our Motley Fool Inside Value and Motley Fool Rule Breakers services have recommended that subscribers purchase shares of Google. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy needs someone to shovel the driveway. What do you say, Fool?

Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (9)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 21, 2010, at 9:00 PM, prginww wrote:

    RIMM just keeps going down. Apple is definitely the real winner here. RIMM will probably be back at $42.00 by the end of this year, but for sure by next quarter. This is RIMM's last good quarter and the stock only went down. There is a lot of downward momentum in this stock.

  • Report this Comment On December 21, 2010, at 9:08 PM, prginww wrote:

    With all due respect, I cannot see how any rational person would get so tied to a system that ever wanted to mine your personal emails for marketing information - which is what Google proposed at the advent of gmail.

    I use their search engine, but would never use their email service.

  • Report this Comment On December 21, 2010, at 11:45 PM, prginww wrote:

    @xmmi: Yes, Google is a big evil...

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2010, at 9:59 AM, prginww wrote:

    @JJBull1. You're a big Fool! You know absolutely nothing about RIM. Please explain to me why you think RIM is going down and why this is their last quarter? They beat and guided higher and you say they're going down. You truly are a Fool!

    The Apple iPhone totally sucks. It's totally worthless crap and people are slowly but surely realising this. It's nothing but that iPod that can sometimes make phone calls. Don't count on it on saving your life in an emergency though! When will people wake up and realise that Apple is controlling them? They control what apps can and cannot be installed. Why did Apple ban Google Voice in the first place? This is the question people should be asking. Who gives Apple the power to ban any app, especially since apps can't be freely downloaded from any web site like on BlackBerry? Apple forces you to use their App Store which is another way Apple is controlling all you iPhone users. Very sad.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2010, at 11:06 AM, prginww wrote:

    I gotta disagree, Tim. Approving Google Voice is one more concession by Apple that it can not retain its closed universe of applications and services. Or to put it in simpler language, they're making the iPhone just another device that does everything that every other smart phone does.

    Having Google voice on the iPhone is one factor in deciding to stay with Apple/AT&T or switch. But if you can get everything you want on an Android or WP7, a lot of buyers are going to look at the price of the device and the price of the plan. If the features are equal, then the deciding factor is going to be price and service. Neither bodes well for Apple or AT&T.

    I've been saying this for months: Smartphone service is becoming a commodity for devices and providers, and in that environment it's damn hard to charge $200 more for a handset because it has the Apple logo on the back.

    Also, the loyalty rates in that survey won't affect each brand equally. How many people do you know who have a Blackberry for their personal use? If you have a BB, it's likely that the decision was made for you by your employer. Individual user preferences won't have any meaningful affect on sales.

    Android is a strange case because no one is married to it. Device makers have non-Android products and carriers have all of those options to show you. Even Google doesn't have real skin in the game because they give away the OS. If you continue to use Google search and apps on your non-Android phone they still make money as they do from an Android user.

    Apple is the total opposite. Their user base is almost entirely non-commercial, and both Apple and AT&T are totally committed to this one device. If 25% of Android users switch to another platform it doesn't necessarily hurt HTC or Verizon. But if 25% of iPhone users switch it's going to be a huge hit for Apple and AT&T.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2010, at 11:44 AM, prginww wrote:


    Right on.

    Migration of features (and eye candy) to lower-priced devices is going to happen, and this can't make Apple happy (but you never know :-) )

    Fads come, fads go, what stays is the backbone technology and whether it responds to real needs (and of course, for what price).

    as for the JJBull1 aka JamesApple aka Nguyen the pokerturd... this is a hopeless case -- the article is about Apple and he rants away on how RIM is going to go down (and this at a moment when they have just guided up :-) )

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2010, at 11:54 AM, prginww wrote:

    I'm not sure this was a business move related to keeping users as it was a concession made after the inquiry into Apple's app approval process from when they first rejected the Google Voice app.

    As you even point out, you are using the iPhone because of the GV app which introduces the question of, why bother keeping the iPhone if you can get that with any Android based phone? If anything, it would appear approval of the GV app eats into the competitive advantage Apple had with the iPhone's exclusive user experience.

    I see this as a forced move on Apple's part.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2010, at 1:14 PM, prginww wrote:

    YES, Tim Beyers.....good for you. Now you can have IT all. your nice cozey little iphone with your g-mail, you g-calendar and so-on. All the TOYS you want. Meanwhile your in your cozey little i-house, you are missing and GOING to miss all the superior fuctions that a BB has in terms of current phones, future devices and os's, ie: playbook, etc. but, hey, enjoy your little i-world. Hey, what about google maps... i can get traffic, and "streetview" on every turn for directions... but awwh, your beautiful little i-phone can't GET that. Only Android and BB can. Awwh, to bad there Timmy. Don't cry.... Santa may come up with another freikin useless APP for ya !

    But its ok, your just another FOOL ! Hey, i got this from an "ad" at a (a much better site than this). It is knocking your beloved Apple Stock. WOW ! Its entitled "APPLE CAN'T WIN" and I quote "These days, it seems like Apple can do no wrong. But it's light-years behind the competition in the high-tech industry one Microsoft executive calls "bigger than music, movies, and YouTube." While Apple is blowing it, two fast-growing companies are dominating this $43 billion industry.

    Analysts predict this industry will double in size in two years -- with these two companies profiting most. Hurry! Get their names (while shares are still cheap) in a FREE report from The Motley Fool, "Top 2 Plays for the Coming Tech Boom."

    Click here for instant access to this FREE report!

    " I wouldn't have figured. but than again, you guys are Fools, right ? Just like Motley Fools and Advertised the "Demise and Bankruptsy of Walmart" Hah, what a joke....good Ad, Fools. Like i said before, your website name is Completely appropriate for you guys !

    Oh, and "jjbull1" Your just and IDIOT and a FOOL ! no further need to comment on your lame opinions.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2010, at 3:08 PM, prginww wrote:


    -1. Maybe try contributing something useful next time?

    Foolish best and Happy Holidays,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

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