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Voxofon is angling to be the first native VoIP application for the Palm Pre later this year, but a new Web version of Shape Services‘ IM+ can already access the more-familiar Skype.
IM+ for the Palm Pre, spotted today by JkOnTheRun, can be reached by pointing the Pre’s Web browser to s4palm.com. (This actually works on my iPhone as well, but it’s redundant with a native app available.) There, users can call other Skype contacts for free or use pre-paid SkypeOut minutes to reach any mobile phone or landline. Germany-based Shape Services’ IM+ Web app, which works over 3G, GSM or CDMA networks, is free for 10 days and costs $10 for lifetime use thereafter.
Houston-based Voxofon has a different focus. It doesn’t allow for free calls between users, but positions itself as a way to make cheap international calls. It’s important to note that Palm — and Sprint, for that matter — hasn’t approved the app yet. Chief executive Alexey Goloshubin said Voxofon wanted to get an announcement out now to let people know the company’s working on a solution for Pre owners. The app will be free to download, and rates will start at 1.3 cents per minute.
As with Voxofon’s existing apps for iPhone, Android and Blackberry phones, the Pre app would use a local access number to place calls, so it still eats minutes from the carrier. Goloshubin said the Pre’s application interface for programmers doesn’t allow the low-level programming required for pure VoIP. That’s also why a Pre application wouldn’t be able to intercept outgoing local calls from the main dialer and offer Voxofon dialing instead.
As an alternative to local access, Voxofon can use a callback system that comes in handy for travels abroad. It uses a small amount of Web data to ping the receiving line, which can then call back to a local landline that won’t incur charges for incoming calls.
Voxofon doesn’t have any special deal with Palm or Sprint, so there’s no reason we won’t see other VoIP applications coming along, provided Palm approves them. Given the glacial pace at which Palm’s app store is growing, that could still take a long time.
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