The mobile voice over IP (VoIP) game is about to get a lot more interesting. That’s because VoIP leader Skype is set to unveil new, free mobile clients for both the iPhone and BlackBerry that will allow Apple and Research In Motion (RIM) smartphone owners to place free and/or cheap voice calls to other Skype users.
Skype will launch its new iPhone client on Tuesday at the CTIA Wireless Spring 2009 event in Las Vegas, but it will wait until May to release the BlackBerry version, according to Reuters. RIM’s largest event of the year, its Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES), is slated for May 5 – 7 in Orlando, so it stands to reason that Skype for BlackBerry will be shown off at that show–perhaps along with the much anticipated Bold/Curve 8900 hybrid, the BlackBerry “Niagara” 9630.
Rumors of a Skype for iPhone app hit the Web last week, but it wasn’t until last weekend that Skype’s Chief Operating Officer, Scott Durchslag, confirmed the news.
There are already third-party services that give both iPhone and BlackBerry users access to the majority of Skype’s VoIP and IM functionality, such as Fring for iPhone and IM+ for Skype for BlackBerry; however, those app’s are somewhat unwieldy and can be expensive.
Additional VoIP services are available to both BlackBerry and iPhone users, but U.S. wireless carriers traditionally limit the availability and features of such applications due to the potential cannibalization of voice traffic they represent. In other words, customers who employ Vo-Wi-Fi apps to place free calls aren’t using the allotted monthly voice minutes their contracts dictate, and therefore, are less likely to run up overage charges.
Skype, which has some 400 million customers who use its services via desktop, wants to expand that user base to include a chunk of the vast smartphone space. Smartphone market share is expected to more than double its current levels to roughly 20 percent of the total mobile phone space by 2013, according to In-Stat. Skype wisely wants in on the action.
Few details are known about either of the new applications, but the iPhone version is thought to integrate with users’ iPhone contacts for easy access to address books. It’s likely that the BlackBerry version has a similar address book feature.
And both versions are expected to be free.
The Skype for iPhone app will also function on the second-generation iPod Touch, which unlike the first-gen Touch, has a built-in microphone.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.