Skype for iPhone App Coming Soon, Says Company
Skype is close to offering a solution that will let iPhone users
place voice over IP calls over 3G networks, the company announced on its site on Feb. 3.
Writing that Skype fans have been wondering when such a solution would arrive, Skype answered, "Well, the simple answer is soon."
Skype released Skype for iPhone, a VOIP (voice over IP) solution that works over Wi-Fi networks, in March 2009. Apple, however - or some suspect AT&T, the exclusive U.S. provider of the iPhone - was less welcoming of a solution over 3G. Such sentiments spilled into a snub of the Google Voice app, which eventually got the Federal Communications Commission peering into the matter.
On Oct. 6, 2009, however, AT&T - in a move applauded by the FCC - announced it had reversed its previous network policy and would allow VOIP iPhone applications that bypass its voice service. It added that it additionally offers other devices that allow VOIP applications on 3G, 2G and Wi-Fi networks.
Regarding Skype's recent announcement, analyst Neil Mawston, with Strategy Analytics, told eWEEK, "The iPhone represents another distribution channel for Skype and an opportunity to grow its revenues and customer base. Skype will be hoping that iPhone users, who tend to be very active in exploring new apps, represent an inflection point that will drive higher usage of mobile Skype. Google, with its Voice app, will be watching closely."
Skype said its 3G-capable Skype for iPhone app was imminent since Apple, with the Jan. 27 introduction of the iPad, updated its software development kit (SDK), which previously restricted VOIP calling over 3G.
The same day, iCall, a privately held VOIP company, which declined to confirm to eWEEK whether or not it is owned by Apple, announced the release of an iCall app that allows VOIP calls over cellular networks.
"I applaud Apple's decision to allow iCall to extend its functionality beyond WiFi and onto the 3G networks," iCall CEO Arlo Gilbert said in a Jan. 27 statement. "This heralds a new era for VOIP applications on mobile platforms, especially for iCall and our free calling model."
Skype, for its part, says it's waiting until it can offer the "very best audio quality we can. When our 3G-capable Skype for iPhone app is released, it'll let you make calls in wideband audio, giving you greater clarity and fidelity."
In simpler terms, Skype said, the audio on the app will be "CD quality sound." It's also offering a call quality indicator, which will turn from green to yellow to red, depending on one's network coverage.
"We want to give you as much feedback as possible about what's actually going on with your call," David Ponsford, who leads the Skype for iPhone team, said in a video on the company's site.
What will Skype's considerable presence mean for AT&T - and iPhone users - once the app arrives?
"For AT&T and other carriers, iPhone Skype will create additional downward pressure on the prices they charge for cellular voice calls. Many carriers will continue to try to delay the introduction of mobile Skype, but they are unlikely to stop it altogether," Mawston told eWEEK.
"Amid the hype, it is worth noting that Three in Western Europe has been promoting mobile Skype for some time," he added, "but it has not yet led to a meltdown of the European mobile industry."