Google acknowledged breaking the official rules of Apple’s iPhone software development kit when it created the latest version of the Google Mobile application for the iPhone, but denied a more serious charge.
A Google spokesman confirmed Tuesday that Google Mobile uses undocumented APIs (application programming interfaces) in order to use the iPhone’s proximity sensor to prompt a verbal search. iPhone developers were only supposed to use the APIs that Apple published in its SDK when they create their applications under the terms of that agreement.
Google has denied, however, a more serious charge that it was linking to private or dynamic frameworks in the Google Mobile application. That’s considered a big no-no in the development community.
The problem with using undocumented APIs is that your application code could break in the future as Apple updates its software, but a lot of developers appear to have taken that risk in order to deliver a cool feature, such as Google’s verbal search prompt.
Under the original terms of the SDK, however, applications using such techniques were not supposed to make it through to the App Store. As a result, other developers who played strictly by the SDK rules would not have felt it possible to create an application that duplicated Google’s voice prompt using the proximity sensor, whereas those who had the resources to quickly rewrite anything that ran afoul of the App Store gatekeepers could push ahead and test Apple’s limits.
Given Apple’s uneven process for approving applications onto the App Store, the question has continued to come up as to whether Apple’s ability to keep up with the flood of applications into the App Store has been stretched to the breaking point. It’s not clear whether Apple knew Google was using the undocumented APIs when it approved Google Mobile, or whether it simply missed that code.
Google might be forced to rewrite the code for Google Mobile or change the way the application uses the proximity sensor if Apple decides to enforce the terms of the SDK. A number of Apple representatives appeared to be on vacation this week, and so requests for comment are not likely to be immediately returned.