Skype iPhone app comes with 3G calling

31 May 2010

Skype has launched a new version of its iPhone application which introduces 3G calling functionality. Skype-to-Skype calls on 3G will be free for a trial period that will run until the end of this year.

Available to download from the Apple App Store today, the update allows iPhone users to make and receive Skype-to-Skype calls, and to call mobiles and landlines around the world at very low rates for the first time over their 3G data connection.

Details of pricing will be announced in the coming months. Skype-to-Skype calls over Wi-Fi will still remain free.

The move comes weeks after it emerged the voice-over IP firm is also considering new services, like advertising and five-way conferencing.

“Using Skype on 3G has been the No 1 request among our iPhone customers. This new version is a great step towards enabling our customers to take and use Skype everywhere they go”, said Russ Shaw, general manager for Mobile, Skype.

“Using Skype on iPhone without being restricted to the availability of a Wi-Wi-Fi network will open up new ways for Skype customers to stay connected and make free or low-cost calls whenever they want, wherever they are in the world.

Additional new features of the Skype for iPhone application include:

·        Near CD-quality sound for Skype-to-Skype calls using wideband audio on iPhone 3GS or second-generation iPod touch and onwards.

·        Enhanced call quality indicator, which will help customers choose the best moment to call.

·        Improved start-up time.

·        Rapid access to the dial pad from the home screen.

The new version is compatible with the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPod touch and iPad. Skype requires iPhone OS version 3.0 and above.

Calling functionality is available on iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and second-generation iPod touch onwards. iPod touch requires a compatible headset with a microphone. The Skype for iPhone application is available to download for free from the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch, and online.

“We have a group of young tennis players that are constantly travelling inside Spain and around the world,” said Alexei Starkov, the physical/fitness coach of the Federación de Tenis de Madrid.

“One of them is my daughter, she travels a lot and we use Skype to communicate because it’s easier, faster and cheaper. The change of having Skype on the mobile phone has been crucial for us.

“Before we had to look for a computer in the tennis clubs and hotels and it was a real problem because it was very difficult to find one. Tennis is an individual sport and when you travel by yourself at times you feel very lonely. Now with Skype for iPhone also allowing for calls over 3G you can call anytime and anywhere without having to find a Wi-Fi spot,” Starkov said.

It is understood that Skype CEO Josh Silverman plans to make internet telephony giant Skype integral to the fabric of the real-time web.

Last year, eBay sold 56pc of its share-holding in Skype and now holds around 30pc of the company. A new board led by Silverman is preparing new premium offerings to drive the company’s future.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years