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.