For the first time in a million years, Google Voice got an actual update. While the changelog is, as usual, of no help whatsoever ("Improved the reliability of SMS delivery"), a teardown teases out an eyebrow-raising tidbit: Google Voice’s configuration settings can now be read by other apps.

The GV update comes packing a new service for handing out this info, called “GoogleVoiceConfiguration,” and a new permission, "com.google.android.apps.googlevoice.permission.FETCH_CONFIGURATION."

There’s an explanation of the permission in the strings file:

<string name="google_voice_fetch_configuration_permission_label">Read Google Voice configuration</string>
<string name="google_voice_fetch_configuration_permission_description">Allows applications to read the configuration of Google Voice, including your Google Voice phone number.</string>

That's about it for the cold, hard facts. So it's speculation time. Why would the Google Voice Android app need to pass its configuration around? This would probably be for importing GV settings into some other app. But what other app? I don't want to spread rumors or anything, but boy, that is interesting.

It’s also strange that they did this on the Android client, and not the usual route, which I’d imagine would be just sharing data about your account on Google’s servers. This means they want not only the GV account data, but phone specific stuff too, like ringtone, sync, and notification settings.

I think it all points to another app taking over Google Voice’s duties. Google is either baking in special support for its own app, or they're going to start supporting a 3rd party Google Voice ecosystem about a million years too late. GV is, at least partially, readying to transfer data to something, we just aren't sure what.

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • elias iseid

    Can I say Google Babel ? Google might make it possible to text Google voice contacts from inside babel

  • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

    Babel integration maybe?

    • http://twitter.com/kaydpea kaydpea

      this is exactly what it is.

  • ProductFRED

    Hopefully it's for better integration into the stock messaging apps. I hate having to reply to random numbers. They need to update the interface of the app itself to make it usable.

    • schale01

      A UI update for Google voice has been long overdue. I'd be happy if they cloned the Gmail app interface.

    • Jason Smith

      Download 'Messaging + Google Voice' from the play store and it will be completely seamless. No random number is displayed if you use this.

      • ProductFRED

        I've used it but it's not completely perfect. It's gotten stuck sometimes.

      • Eric Maycock

        There is also Fusion messenger. In beta right now, but it is working great for me.

  • Julio M

    Babel it is! Case closed everyone.

  • CristianoAdiutori

    What's it means? App(arently) nothing...

  • http://googleplus.VoluntaryMan.com/ William Thieme

    I sure hope I'll be able to ditch that piece of garbage app soon.

  • sprior

    I think that Google Voice is a killer feature - I love that with Google Voice Locations (an add on application) I have Google Voice set up to ring my home phone and my cell phone when someone calls my Google Voice number. I give out my Google Voice number instead of my cell phone number so now if I wanted to change carriers I wouldn't even bother to port my cell number anywhere. But Google Voice is not a talked about Google product these days and the lack of updates has been noticeable so after Google Reader I've been very concerned that Google Voice might not survive a Spring cleaning - I hope that doesn't happen.

    • lljktechnogeek

      I don't see that happening, personally. If nothing else, Voice provides Google with a LOT of useful data for improving voice recognition.

  • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

    Is "Babel" some sort of forbidden word in AP? =)

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      What the Babel did you just say, Babel?

      • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

        Oh no, you didn't! =O

  • jaitaiwan

    Hopefully to provide Australia with some google voice goodness they've hid from us for years.

  • Chris Noland

    would it help for when you receive a call and want to send an SMS back and it actually uses your GV number and not the "regular" number of the phone. That would be nice to also have.

  • mgamerz

    Babel integration so you don't get multiple notifications.

  • Skripka

    How about integrating to display SMS with a car media system?

    Car in-dash nav/media systems as a rule have abysmal Android integration....sure lots of features are listed as possible, but usually 70% of those features do not work-by the manufacturer's own admission.

    • blunden

      CM has support for the Bluetooth MAP profile that you seem to be looking for. We used to have AVRCP 1.3 (though not 1.4) too but it needs to be updated to work with the new Bluedroid bluetooth stack in 4.2.x.

  • Carlos Lopez

    ShortFuse here, developer of Fusion Messenger.

    I took a look at the APK. There are some other changes. The JSON parsing is a bit different.

    There have been some added internal APIs that deal with login. I don't think they are being used. This might just be a new internal JAR package being updated, but if you care there are more details of Google Talk, Google Apps and Google Plus accounts.

    The Google Voice API has not been touched at all in any way.

    What I do find interesting is that the internal package of Google Utils has been rolled back from 1.13.0-beta-SNAPSHOT to 1.12.0-beta.

    As for thet UI changes, the "Click to Call" dialogs have been changed to dialog fragments.

    Pre-Eclair device support has been nixed.

    'CallLogObserver' has been removed (not sure why).

    Google Voice seems to require Google Play Services (com.google.android.gms) now, probably for authentication

    As for the what the new permission is, you can pass an intent to com.google.android.apps.googlevoice.IGoogleVoiceConfiguration and you'll get the subscriber number back. That's it. It also runs in a separate process.

    It's also worth nothing this isn't for Babel. Just like Fusion, all you need is the embedded auth tokens from the android device. Fusion doesn't need this at all, so neither will Babel.

    It seems more like an in place update to restrict Google Voice from being installed on devices that don't include or disable the Play Store. The rest should be treated as mostly remnants.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      I put this on reddit but I guess I'll put it here too.

      For the past month or so, every Google has had its turn being updated to use Google Play Services, and this update was Voice's turn. So anything different having to do with GMS/login/oauth is probably just Google rewiring everything to use Google Play Services. This is like the 300th time I've seen it, so I felt it was really not worth mentioning.

      Other than that, what exactly does the new permission do? Is the "subscriber number" your Google Voice phone number?

      If it's just your phone number, why would they specially update the GV app to hand that out? And what would it be handing that out to?

      • Carlos Lopez

        I revised the post a bit. It could be for device manufacturers (like Sprint) to use. Or maybe it is for Babel and Google wants to keep things more separated. I guess it can make sense since Glass and Search does use the Google Voice app to send messages instead of just doing it themselves.

        Pulse could very likely be Babel's new name. I was going to call Fusion "blip" to signify the same thing. A short blip or pulse to somebody else.

  • pete

    Any word on potential integration with Glass?

  • Ray

    Anyone got the latest Google Voice apk?

    • Aron Glazer

      I have it, am I allowed to post a link here?

  • elijah kirsch

    If you read the permissions on the MyGlass app you'll notice that it asks for permission to read Google Voice texts. It's probably for this.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      Different permissions. GV added "com.google.android.apps.googlevoice.permission.FETCH_CONFIGURATION"; MyGlass uses "com.google.android.apps.googlevoice.permission.RECEIVE_SMS" and "com.google.android.apps.googlevoice.permission.AUTO_SEND."

      • elijah kirsch

        Well even more reason to hold out hope then...

  • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

    God i hope Google pulls their heads out of their rears soon on this. The time is ripe. Now that they are really pushing the unlocked phone/carrier mobility option with the Nexus (at $300 sans contract its no longer a developer phone but a quad core, HD "budget" phone).

    With a service like Voice really working it would go a long way, phone number portability wouldnt be an issue anymore because it wouldn't really matter what phone number you had on the phone itself, its just a forwarded number from Voice.

  • Guest

    It's getting ready for Babble, silly!

  • AJ Sorenson

    It's getting ready for Babble, silly!

  • nxtiak

    Guess it's the new MyGlass app

  • http://www.plan8.tv Roanhouse

    google glasses app integration for sms or mms?

  • http://www.facebook.com/kellinwood Ken Ellinwood

    It took a little digging, but I was able to figure out how to use the permission and make the call to fetch the Google Voice phone number from our app. Here's how I did it: http://kellinwood.blogspot.com/2013/05/api-for-fetching-google-voice.html