by Al Sacco

Verizon BlackBerry, DROID Users to Get Skype App…Is There a Catch?

Feb 17, 2010
Data CenterMobileSmall and Medium Business

U.S. carrier Verizon Wireless yesterday announced a new partnership with Skype which will give piles of Verizon BlackBerry and DROID users access to a "free" app for unlimited calling to other Skype users. But's Al Sacco suspects there might be a catch...Here's why.

Verizon Wireless and Skype yesterday announced a deal that will produce a new, exclusive mobile Skype-calling and -messaging app for Verizon customers with select 3G BlackBerry handhelds, as well as Motorola DROID and HTC DROID ERIS users.

Verizon BlackBerry and DROID with Skype App
Verizon BlackBerry and DROID with Skype App

Verizon BlackBerry 8830, Curve 8330/8530, Tour 9630, and Storm 9530/Storm2 9550, along with Verizon DROID owners, should be able to download the app in March, according to the companies. And it will be the first “official” Skype app for the BlackBerry platform.

The new Skype software, which will be available initially only on Verizon, will let users make and receive unlimited “Skype-to-Skype” voice calls to any Skype user around the globe on Verizon; call international phone numbers using “Skype Out” calling rates; send and receive instant messages to other Skype users; and see friends’ online presence.

Sounds cool enough, yes? Well, sure…but if you’re familiar with Verizon Wireless, right about now you may be asking yourself, “What’s the catch?”

I know I am.

Verizon is the same company that until a year or so ago purposely crippled the GPS functionality on nearly all of it devices, so you were forced more likely to pay for its own GPS navigation service. And then there’s the whole Wi-Fi-in-smartphones deal, which Verizon avoided like the Swine Flu for as long as it possibly could, to ensure that its customers were using, and possibly over-using, their monthly allotments of minutes and/or data–and not taking advantage of VoIP calling. Just one more example: Verizon’s recent attempt to shove the Bing search engine down BlackBerry users’ throats by removing all additional options from the BlackBerry browser’s Home navigation screen.

In other words, Verizon does not always seem to be looking out for its customers’ best interests, despite PR claims to the contrary. So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical of Verizon’s sudden willingness to offer up “free” unlimited calling via this new Skype mobile app.

I’m guessing there’s some catch. Like the need for an unlimited calling plan or something like it. In other words, it’s likely that you’ll need to meet a requirement in order to employ the new Verizon Skype app; owning one of the compatible devices might not be enough.

Verizon isn’t providing specifics about the application, required service plans or other restrictions at this time, if there are any. The only hint that specific terms and conditions will apply–beyond Verizon’s reputation–is some fine print located at the bottom of Verizon’s signup page for additional information on the Skype app. That text reads:

“IMPORTANT CONSUMER INFORMATION: Subject to Customer Agreement, Calling Plan & credit approval.”

So, use of the new Skype app may be subject to a specific calling plan or other restrictions. We won’t know for sure until next month, when Verizon says the app will become publicly available. Such a requirement may be a moot point for you, if you’re already on a Verizon plan with data and unlimited calling. And the promise of free Skype-to-Skype calling anywhere on planet may be enough to warrant a plan upgrade anyway. But if not, I wouldn’t get too excited about that new Skype app until all Verizon’s cards are on the table.


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