Skype iPhone App Is iPad Compatible, but Lacks 3G Calling

Skype released an updated version of its free iPhone app with iPad compatibility on April 6, but the program does not include support for 3G-enabled Skype calls. While a WiFi-only version of the iPad is currently available, a version of the device with both WiFi and 3G will go on sale later in April. The updated Skype app includes boosted stability for functions such as switching between tabs and handling unread chats. More than 1 million apps have been downloaded for the iPad since the device's April 3 release, along with 250,000 ebooks.

Skype released a free iPhone app with iPad compatibility on April 6, although the updated software still does not include support for 3G-enabled Skype calls. Termed Version 1.3.1, the Skype app includes boosted stability when switching between tabs, as well as handling unread chats and incoming calls.

While the WiFi-only version of the iPad went on sale April 3, a version of the device with both WiFi and 3G will be released later in the month.

"We don't yet know how our app will behave on the iPad," Peter Parkes, a spokesperson for Skype, wrote in an April 3 posting on the company's official blog. "Some journalists who had early access have reported that the existing Skype for iPhone app works just fine on the iPad hardware. This is great news, but certainly doesn't give us enough confidence to be able to announce and release an app today as we want to give you the best Skype experience possible."

Now that the iPad has been released into the wild, Parkes added, Skype intends to "start tuning and testing" the application for optimal compatibility. The Skype app allows free Skype-to-Skype calls on the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and the iPod Touch (with a compatible headset and microphone) via WiFi, in addition to sending SMS messages.

Apple mobile products' inability to make 3G-enabled Skype calls is notable given Verizon's recent agreement to extend Skype's mobile services to its 3G network, with nine 3G smartphones-including the BlackBerry Storm 9530, Storm2 9550, Curve 8330, Curve 8530, 8830 World Edition, Tour 9630, Motorola Droid and HTC Droid Eris-enabled to make and receive unlimited Skype-to-Skype voice calls to any Skype user. That agreement includes the ability to call international phone numbers at Skype Out calling rates, as well as send and receive instant messages with other Skype users.

Skype claimed in February that an iPhone app with 3G-capable calling was in the works and would be released "soon." At the time, the company claimed in a blog posting that the holdup was due to quality control: "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-because that's what you expect from Skype." Currently, however, the iPhone app is only capable of leveraging 3G for Skype presence and chat; an attempted Skype call using 3G returns an error message mentioning "contractual restrictions."

The iPad presents a potentially substantial market for third-party developers, especially considering that new owners of the device downloaded more than 1 million apps-along with 250,000 ebooks-by midnight on April 3, the iPad's first day of general release. In a company statement that day, Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggested that the average iPad owner downloaded three apps and "close to one book" within their first few hours of purchase.

Some 74 percent of initial iPad purchasers already own a Mac, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, while 66 percent own iPhones. Munster determined that number based on his own survey of 448 iPad buyers soon after April 3. Although other analysts suggested in the weeks previous to the iPad's release that the device could cannibalize market share for the iPod Touch and iPhone, Munster's study found that only 2 percent of eventual iPad purchasers considered buying either of those devices before settling on the tablet.