Google Talk for iPhone Shows Apple SDK Restrictions

A few days ago, Google released the official Google Talk app for the iPhone and it’s not exactly what you would expect. The problem I found with it was that in order to receive instant messages, the application needs to be open in your Safari browser. Otherwise, your status will be changed to “unavailable” when you head off to another browser window or app, only to have your Google Talk session restarted when you return.

It’s a web-based program that does not install onto your device. On one hand, that’s a great feature, on the other, it’s severely hampered. What at first seems like a great alternative to using text messages ends up being a useless application. I often find I have text conversations over the course of a half hour or so if I am planning an evening with friends or figuring out where my wife and I are going to go for dinner. Here’s the thing – I will work on plenty of other things during my “conversation” such as taking calls, browsing the internet, and more. I’m not confined to keeping my SMS program open.

Now, this isn’t Google’s fault. Rather, it’s a limitation of the Apple SDK. We all know that Google is not going to start offering this as a program you have to buy to get the full features. Their mobile team puts out the best app they can with what they are given. So what’s the deal? The Apple kit does not allow for applications like this to run in the background. My guess is that they are working on their own branded messaging client (iChat?) that people can buy through the App Store come July 11th, or later. Selling something for a few bucks that lets users stay connected to each other. Whether or not it would be only for iPhone users only is debatable at this point. AT&T has to be gnashing their teeth over something like this as they want to push their $20 unlimited text package on users. If Apple comes out with a viable alternative, that’s an awful lot of monthly revenue going out Ma Bell’s window.

Would an Android version of the same program act in similar manner? Probably not. An early version of the Android SDK has been hacked onto a Nokia n810 internet tablet. It’s already known that an XMPP service is running in the background at all times. This is promising, as it would have programs like Google Talk could be always on. Seriously, who wants their chat program set up so that the only time you can talk with friends is if both people have the exact same websites up on their phones at the exact same time?

A fully realized version would run in the background. It would also allow for VoIP conversation. I might be daydreaming here, but I picture something like this; A phone that jumps to Wi-Fi when it’s available and allows for conversations through GTalk much like the desktop version. Skype would also be a logical application to take advantage of phones capable of Wi-Fi calling. It’s a reach, but eBay is a founding member of the Open Handset Alliance and the current owner of Skype. Maybe Android could see an application coming that will do just those things. They spent over $2.5 billion dollars for it a couple years ago and have yet to do anything major with it.


  1. I have been using Jive Talk on the iPhone via ATT for quite some time now. Yes. It has to run when the Web browser is on but it takes you to the same window and session that you were previously in. (Just like iChat for the Mac). You can see your last conversation. And it remembers my info so logging in is easy and quick. We are NOT ON THE SAME WEBSITE. We log into AIM or whatever account we use. If you have to be on the same website to use google talk then that is a serious weakness in the Google app. Bee Jive works just like any chat program on your desktop (same with Meebo and a bunch of others) and I assume the new AOL chat will as well.

    When more cell phones get smarter and actually use chat, the need for text messaging will be blown away. The telecoms will have to start giving it away or drastically reduce their pricing which is skyrocketing at 20 cents per message.

    The iPhone is fast and nimble because it does not allow tons of applications to work in the background. Maybe someday the tech will exist to make phones much more powerful. Until then, Apple has this exactly right.

    Try out other available chat programs and you will see what I mean. So much disinformation these days. Can’t wait for July 11 so I can get version 2 software for my iPhone.

  2. Wow! Talk about not knowing three things, much less two or one.
    1. The Google Talk app is a WEB APP, not one that has anything to do with the SDK. It’s not downloaded to iPhone.
    2. AOL has already demoed their IM native app using the SDK, running on iPhone. That’s AOL. AOL. AOL. So I don’t know why you have to make up ulterior motives for Apple’s iChat.

  3. iPhone webapp is not same as an iPhone app, and neither are the tools used to create them. Google could have created a native iPhone app instead of, or in addition to the web/ safari version, utilizing the Push Notification Service (PNS) when it arrives in September. It’ll be similar to a process running in background from a user’s perspective.

  4. So why didn’t Google make a GTalk app then? We know that they would have if they could. We also know that Apple is working on their own stuff, likely a direct competitor to cost money. Google wouldn’t have confined themselves to a web only app if they had the option not to.

    The writer was not making ulterior motives. He was pointing out that iChat is probably the reason Google hasn’t put out a full install app.

  5. One would think that a site devoted to the Android platform would want it to prosper; which can only be achieved if it avoids the Windows Mobile problem of too many background applications sucking the life out of phones, resulting in horrible task management software. Apple’s Push Notification Service is an elegant solution to the problem, given the realities of the hardware one has to work with. As smart phones become more powerful, things will change; resulting in the idealistic visions Scott outlines. However, we have to deal with the limitations in front of us right now. The various carriers are already demanding modifications to Android to avoid (what they see as) problems. Articles like this, filled with little inaccuracies and wild speculations, don’t really help the situation.

    I would prefer that Android debut with a more modest feature set; so that Google avoids all of the negative press associated with angry carriers (demanding even more modifications) and users who are left holding a nice phone that has turned into a piece of crap due to too many background applications all demanding resources.

  6. Little inaccuracies and wild speculation is okay for an Android blog. These guys are obviously Android fans who still have much to learn about other platforms.

    Here are a few things that are becoming evident.

    A) Google doesn’t do themselves any good by putting out a web only version. You’d think they want a full program. What’s the reason?
    B) Apple is not allowing for certain applications to run in the background. Why?
    C) MacSurfer and Apple fanboys have nothing else to do on the 4th of July.

  7. I’m going to ask the Google Mobile team why they didn’t put out a full blown program. Is there one in the works?

  8. dws you idiot, Push Notification Service is not an elegant solution to the problem. If the IM app quits you’re not online anymore, your buddies can’t see you, how could they send you messages?

  9. Sebhelyesfarku,
    that’s just the point of the notification server, the app doesn’t need to run or poll a server on the net, which drains battery …
    The developer retains the state of the user on his application server … and pings apple’s notification server if something changes … sign in, sign out, new message etc …

    The apple server pushes out to the phone a notification message, and the notification daemon redirects it to the correct application (the app doesn’t need to be active …)

  10. Dude, with an iphone you’re always online, so push notification works perfectly. Think it through you muppet…

  11. For those wondering why Google didn’t release a native iPhone GTalk app the answer is simple: the app store is not online yet! Remember, there is a difference between not releasing and not developing. To know if Google is developing a native iPhone GTalk you’d either have to wait for the app store to come online (probably the same time as the iPhone 3G goes on sale) or ask Google developers.
    Any programmer worth his salt would see how easy it is to implement online/offline status updates to work with Apple’s iPhone push service: if the user activates push service for your app then he’s still online even after your app quits, just don’t send the ‘logout’ packet back to your server (or better yet send a ‘sleep’ packet so that your server knows to send notification to Apple’s servers, depends on how the push API works).

  12. Why Google Talk web app, and no Google Talk iPhone app today?
    1. AppStore is not open yet (assuming Google wanted to do it without push notification.)
    2. Push notification service is not available until September.

    And to Yassuh, if Apple so wanted to dominate with iChat (as Scott implied was Apple’s ulterior motive), then why did they give AOL a prime demo spot to show off their IM app at WWDC? Come on, this is too easy. Think before you respond.

  13. And by the way, Teh Goonz, did you know where I (“fanboy”) was when I commented?

    I could’ve been at the beach, or sitting on the Lawn, waiting for the fireworks to begin. I could’ve been in a plane, train, bus, or car, on the way to a summer house…

    The days of assuming someone is at home using a computer to browse the web are over.

  14. Glad you guys are all taking part in this conversation actually. Mark is right… could have been someone who subscribed to the posts and found it worth keeping an eye on.

  15. This particular implementation of GTalk is using the web kit tools today NOT the SDK. It’s available for the current generation and OS. If there were to be an actual GTalk application built on the iPhone 2.0 SDK then things would be different.

    Apple will run a single background daemon on the phone which will passively listen for background events, and fire up the app they were delivered for on demand.

    GTalk would no doubt implemented as such:

    1. GTalk is opened and signs on.

    2. GTalk registers for notifications (buddy presence, IM, etc.)

    3. GTalk is backgrounded (killed), but remains online until the phone disappears from the notification server (no network connectivity, turned off, etc.)

    4. If messages, etc., come in, an alert is displayed; if the user wants to respond, they touch a button like “Show”, just like SMS works, and GTalk starts up.

    5. When some event causes the user to sign off (disconnect, turned off, dead battery, etc.), they show as offline to buddies.

    That framework is perfectly usable for ANY comms app. At worst, you need to write a gateway to translate server-side events into Apple’s events standard.

  16. I don’t get it? Everytime a website sucks you’re going to say that it’s beause of Apple SDK restrictions?? Especially on a 1.0 iPhone that doesn’t even have the SDK installed?!?!?!


  17. Jobs made it clear IM programs will always be listening for events. GTalk isn’t even a program it’s a website.

    Who is this article directed to?

    I’m all for Android’s openness and Apple’s closed OS, but guys, not like that. The fact is, iPhone 2.0 SDK is amazing. It’s easy and beautiful. The hardware is amazing, fast and attractive. It is a serious threat to the HTC Dream, of which we know nothing.

    June 6th and nothing leaked about HTC’s Android handset. Unbelievable.

  18. At that minuscule amount of RAM speculated for HTC Dream, I doubt it will be able to handle more than 2-3 programs with some dignity intact. Not to mention running desktop widgets. iPhone may have made the right decision not allowed 3rd party apps to needlessly run in the background, while allowing only a few (music, fring, IM… etc) to run.

  19. I think the restriction comes from the fact that Google WOULD have put out a full install application if they could.

  20. wasted time, or wasted writing. much of…

    it you’ll be able to recycle and reuse in your final write up and what you can’t will provide you with valuable writing experience.the parts of the writing which you can do, if you want to, and i would recommend making…

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