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The speculation, teasing, and waiting is over. Just as GigaOm predicted, Skype, the VoIP client that lets users make phone calls through the internet, is coming to the iPhone and Blackberry. News of Skype’s smartphone ambitions was released going into this week’s mobile-centric CTIA conference in Las Vegas. According to the Wall Street Journal, the VoIP client is due on the iPhone and iPod Touch as early as Tuesday, with the Blackberry version due in May.
This comes as big news, as the popular data-based application is likely to offer more flexibility and value for mobile users. By allowing ‘Skypers’ to make and receive calls via a data connection (instead of the cellular network), the application could take root with Blackberry and iPhone users wanting to sidestep hassles like calling plan overage and long distance fees. Skype launched a similar client for Windows Mobile handsets last December.
Aside from a facelift for the iPhone, Skype’s mobile iteration shares a lot of core similarities with its desktop cousin. The software will be offered as a free download, and allows users to call other Skype devices (both mobile and computer-based) for free. For calling old fashioned landlines, users will pay a nominal fee of 2.1 cents a minute. The SkypeIn feature, which allows Skype users to receive phone calls from regular landline and cellular callers, will also be included along with group chat and conference calling.
The rollout has its share of limitations, though. The mobile app is slated to use WiFi exclusively for its calls on the iPhone, cutting 3G out of the equation. Of course, given AT&T’s 3G issues during the iPhone-heavy SXSWi conference, that could arugably be a bonus. Regardless, the reliance on a WiFi hotspot is likely to be a minor setback for users. Also, it’s worth noting that SMS capabilities, call waiting, file transfers, and native voicemail access are also missing from this native voyage.
Today’s announcement definitely raises the profile of the eBay-owned Skype. However, it will be interesting to see if the other wireless providers respond. Though Skype has a rabid following, the mobile VoIP space is already inhabited by competitors like Nimbuzz, Fring, and Truphone. Furthermore, giants like Verizon Wireless have already started disabling WiFi in some of their smartphones. It’s tough to say how much salt Skype can truly throw into its competitors’ game, but given the cross section of popularity between the application itself, along with the Blackberry and iPhone, things could be looking up for the VoIP client.
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