T-Mobile's Bobsled Brand Offers VOIP Calling for Facebook

Along with new 4G devices, T-Mobile is introducing the Bobsled by T-Mobile brand-an app that makes it simple to place VOIP calls to Facebook friends.

T-Mobile is making a push to let consumers know that, while federal regulators take their time deciding whether the carrier may be purchased by AT&T-a process widely expected to take a year-it's still a viable option with competitive offerings. In addition to launching three new 4G devices, on April 19 it introduced a Bobsled by T-Mobile brand, geared toward bridging its more traditional services with Internet-based voice and data services.

First to launch under the Bobsled brand, and available now, is a Facebook application that lets Facebook users-who don't need to be T-Mobile subscribers-call their "friends" through Facebook's chat window. The first VOIP (voice over IP) app to integrate into Facebook Chat, according to T-Mobile, users can place a call by clicking on a friend's name. There are no screen names or numbers to remember. Should the friend be unavailable, users can leave a private audio message on the friend's wall.

And to receive a Bobsled call through Facebook, you don't need to download anything.

"T-Mobile's focus is to innovate to provide simple and affordable communications for customers, enabling people to stay connected wherever they are," Brad Duea, senior vice president at T-Mobile USA, said in a statement. "Bobsled by T-Mobile takes our communications services innovation to a whole new dimension, bringing simple and cost-effective connections to more than half a billion people overnight."

In the "near future" T-Mobile plans to upgrade the application to include video calling; to enable users to place VOIP calls to U.S. mobile and landlines; and to offer applications on smartphones and tablets across various mobile platforms-and regardless of the carriers powering them.

On March 15, T-Mobile revealed that it will soon be reissuing the much-loved Sidekick, this time with 4G capabilities, a touch screen and the Android 2.2 operating system. (Is it too late to hope they get Kristen Bell, aka Veronica Mars, to shill for it?) While the price and release date are still unknown (though a recent Radio Shack Tweet said April 20), it'll feature a 3.5-inch touch screen, a 1GHz processor and a front-facing camera for video chatting.

Bobsled by T-Mobile will also offer Group Text and Cloud Text applications on the Sidekick 4G. The former will let users create, manage and participate in reply-all group texts, while the latter will offer the option of texting with friends or groups of friends across platforms, and from either a PC or the Sidekick 4G.

T-Mobile is also offering the G2x, another 4G-equipped, Android-running smartphone, this one boasting a 4-inch capacitive touch display, a Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor and 3D graphics. With a two-year contract, and after a mail-in rebate, it's available now for $200.

Finally, T-Mobile's third new 4G offering is the G-Slate, its first 4G tablet. Priced at $530-after a mail-in rebate and with a two-year contract-it runs Android 3.0 (known as "Honeycomb"), features an 8.9-inch HD screen, has front- and back-facing camera, WiFi connectivity, Adobe Flash Player support and a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor. However, T-Mobile has yet to announce its on-sale date.

"Our new Bobsled brand will evolve in the coming months to provide even more ways for people to connect," said Duca, "no matter what platform, device or mobile provider they are using."

On March 20, AT&T announced its intentions to purchase T-Mobile from parent company Deutsche Telekom for $39 billion in cash and stock. Analysts have said that the move may fare poorly for T-Mobile customers, who may ultimately see a bump in their monthly statements-a claim AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has refuted.

Emphasizing its competitiveness and low pricing, T-Mobile introduced an $80 Even More unlimited plan April 13. While users get unlimited calling, texting and data on the plan, after they exceed 2GB of data in a month the service they receive is at "reduced speeds" until their next billing cycle. According to T-Mobile, however, the average customer uses about 1GB of data per billing period.