Normally when Skype has made a major release, Skype PR will provide a heads-up to bloggers and other technology media a day or two ahead of time under an embargo until a defined time. This allows Skype to better manage the message to the market in terms of at least answering initial questions that may arise as a result of a pending release. However, when i returned home from a Saturday evening dinner today I started to find Twitter messages about Skype for iPhone over 3G becoming available.
Turns out that I had updated my Skype apps earlier today with no sign of a new version of Skype for iPhone. But when I checked again a few moments ago, sure enough, there was a new version of Skype for iPhone ready to download – the long awaited and much anticipated Skype for iPhone that works over 3G. But most interesting is the lack of the usual Skype blog post(s) announcing the availability of this release. Given that Skype does not have final control over Apple App Store releases, it should not be a total surprise that this has happened during the “quiet period” of a weekend. .
“Call using your 3G connection. Skype-to-Skype calls on 3G are free until at least the end of August 2010, after which there will be a small monthly fee (operator charges for data will still apply).” Update: according to the eventual press release, the free period has been extended to the end of December 2010.
Here’s the probable explanation: For Skype on 3 and Verizon’s “Skype mobile”, you need to be on a carrier voice and data plan that incorporates Skype calling, including free Skype-to-Skype calls. As was explained by iSkoot (who wrote the original code for Skype on 3) at eComm 2008, Skype receives a monthly royalty for each data and voice plan subscriber; effectively it is a royalty for licensing the Skype software.
But Skype for iPhone 2.0 is carrier-agnostic and involves no agreements with the various individual GSM/HSPA+ carriers. As a result it appears that Skype intends to charge a “small fee” for Skype-to-Skype calls after September 1, 2010. Some points:
- this eliminates the need for Skype to make agreements with individual carriers, who will already have the potential to benefit from the extra data usage (and new service subscribers) Skype for iPhone over 3G will generate.
- Skype already has a billing engine in place for acquiring Skype credits and Skype calling plans
- Skype for iPhone over 3G should also support SkypeOut calls over 3G with Skype using a Skype calling plan or Skype credits but paying no “affiliate commission” back to the carriers.
- Will the current calling plans incorporate an option for Skype over 3G?
- Question: will we see similar charges for Skype-to-Skype calls made using Skype for Symbian (which runs over 3G), a much rumored Skype for Android or, if we ever see it, a Skype for BlackBerry?
- Will be seeing a “less small” for Skype video calling over 3G, such as I experienced from a Nokia N900 user a few days ago?
- Be wary of using Skype for iPhone over 3G when roaming. Remember that those relatively expensive roaming charges will run up quickly during a Skype-to-Skype call made over 3G. This would even apply when you answer a Skype-to-Skype call via your 3G service.
- Stay with using Skype for iPhone over WiFi when roaming; after all WiFi is becoming the stealth carrier of choice.
- Skype for iPhone 2.0 with 3G support will be the true test of carriers’ willingness to allow IP-based voice communications services. My local test will be Rogers’ adherence to its previously announced support of Skype operating over any of their services.
Of course attempting to make a Skype-to-Skype call late Saturday evening presents one other challenge – most of my Skype contacts whom I would call at this hour (11:00 p.m. GMT-4 or EDT) are offline. But I’ll make an attempt during the day Sunday and report on the actual call experience and the other new features mentioned in the App Store overview screen.
Meanwhile you can download Skype for iPhone 2.0 at the Apple App Store.
Note: This post has been mildly updated from the original posting made at midnight Saturday; a few hours’ sleep tends to generate a couple of additional points.
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