Skype Over 3G Comes to the iPhone. It's Not All Good News.
* By John C Abell Email Author
* May 29, 2010 8:56 pm
Skype on Saturday released an upgrade to its iPhone app that allows calls to be made and received under AT&T's 3G network, but there's a catch - they won't be free for very long, even for Skype-to-Skype calls or for people who have all-you-can-eat calling plans with the internet telephony company.
No specific pricing or even timeline was announced, but the release notes of version 2.0.0 (to the right) say this feature will be free only "until at least the end of August 2010, after which there will be a small monthly fee."
All of this became possible only after Apple changed its iPhone SDK in anticipation of the iPad.
Skype pronouced on Feb 3 that 3G calling would happen "soon." But the additional cost was not trumpeted and does come as a surprise, though perhaps not a terribly big one given the revenue possibilities and the additional strain on AT&T's already-vilified 3G network.
Skype calls are generally free or at least much less expensive than those made on minute-counting calling plans. But wireless minutes have become largely commoditized and, from most wireless carriers, available in unlimited plans that eliminate the traditional profit center that used to be overages.
Skype's migration from the desktop on to mobile devices has created the potential for a dramatic shift in calling behavior. We aren't quite there yet. But when you can receive calls from an VoIP provider like Skype on a portable device in either an WiFi or 3G network it almost completely blurs the line between an interesting alternative to a telephone and the very definition of a telephone mobile phone. And because mobile phones are increasingly becoming "the telephone" this could revolutionize things everywhere calls are made and received.
Taking that one small step further: In a world with ubiquitous broadband, internet telephony with push notifications and location awareness could make traditional telco and wireless services irrelevant, even for the equivalent of enhanced 911, where the operator automatically knows where you are.
There are still some pieces missing to this puzzle, but the availability of VoIP under 3G - also true of Fring and for international calls on some Android-powered handsets provided by Verizon - is a big step forward.
And, one last thing: iPhone OS 4, expected in weeks, will enable non-core apps like Skype to operate in the background. Which means that you could be online with the internet telephony service all the time on any 3G enabled device like the iPhone and some models of the iPad.