The first official Skype client for the iPhone is expected to be available in the iTunes App Store on Tuesday. Before you go jumping for joy, or downgrading your monthly minutes, there are a few things you should know.
Skype has been developing a flurry of clients for mobile phone platforms recently and the iPhone is their latest release. There was already a client for Windows Mobile and the Nokia tablet and a Blackberry version is expected to come out later this year.
The Skype client for iPhone is built using Apple’s developer tools and so it looks much like virtually every other application on the device. It has tools for managing your Buddy List and IM chats, but most people use Skype for the Voice over IP calling.
However Skype for iPhone, like many of its competitors, only works over a Wi-Fi connection and not the iPhone’s EDGE or 3G connection. This restriction helps the carriers to ensure their monthly minute plans still get sold.
Many similar applications work within this framework by allowing you to use minutes to make calls when there is no Wi-Fi connection available. While this approach is annoying for users, it means that you can still get in touch with your contacts while away from a wireless connection.
Skype lacks any use while you’re out and about, causing you to lose touch with Skype contacts just when you might need them. It’s quite disappointing that Skype didn’t allow either of these methods to work without Wi-Fi access.
The most notable competitor to Skype for the iPhone is Fring. In its IM and calling application, Fring managed to enable VoIP over the 3G connections of the iPhone. With Fring you can also set up other SIP VoIP providers other than Skype.
It’s possible that Skype will release enhanced functionality as this is only the company’s first release for the iPhone. However, Skype’s engineers pride themselves on rerouting calls in order to maintain sound quality.