Third party applications offering access to the Google Voice VoIP service have reappeared on the iPhone app store.
In July last year Apple infamously rejected Google's own Google Voice application for the iPhone, effectively banning it from ever appearing on anything but jailbroken iPhones. The application allows sending of texts and making calls over the iPhone's data connection which will can save users considerable amounts of money.
Such applications stand to impact profits of mobile carriers and Apple has previously shown willingness to disable features at the behest of carriers such as USB tethering capability. The rejection of Google's Voice application ultimately lead to an investigation from the US FCC on anti competition grounds.
Rather than fess up to the fact the application was blocked due to pressure from carriers, Google revealed in a letter to the FCC that Apple had blocked Google Voice because it replicated the dialer of the iPhone. Apple bans replication of existing functionality regardless of any new capabilities provided.
Apple's change of heart regarding application publishing rules has been widely attributed to the mounting number of investigations in the US and by the EU into anti-competetive practices.
Google's own Google Voice application has yet to appear on the App store but at least two third party applications have since appeared including the $3.99 GV Connect. These apps use Google's open APIs to provide much the same functionality as Google's own application.
Google Voice is still not available outside of the US, 15 months after it first launched. The company has given no time line when it will be available outside of the US.
However the new rules pave the way for other third party applications which implement standard VoIP protocols such as SIP which can be used with any number of provides around the world, each of which offering local phone numbers and typically much cheaper calls than the mobile carriers provide.