The wait is over. After weeks of rumors and speculation, Skype has confirmed it will partner with Verizon to bring a Skype app to a range of Verizon-powered smartphones, including the BlackBerry Curve and the BlackBerry Storm. For anyone unfamiliar, Skype allows for calls over the Internet rather than through traditional phone lines – and therefore avoids phone bills and mobile minutes.
According to Skype, this new app will run on Verizon's 3G service, and not just on Wi-Fi, which means the app will be more easily accessible on the fly. Expected roll-out date? Next month.
Of course, a 3G-enabled Skype app is meant to be coming to the Apple iPhone, too, but Skype has been vague on the release date. (iPhone owners can currently only access Skype through a Wi-Fi connection.) As Kevin J. O'Brien writes today in the New York Times, service providers are traditionally cagey about green-lighting Skype apps:
[M]any operators still block its calls, prohibit its customers from downloading Skype’s software or outlaw the use of VOIP [voice over Interner protocol] service in standard sales contracts. Some are imposing fees to undermine Skype’s attraction. In Germany, customers of T-Mobile can place calls using Skype, but only if they pay an extra €10, or $13.80, per month. At Vodafone in Germany, the extra charge is €5 per month.
The Verizon deal could be an exception. The Skype 3G app will allow free and unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls. Well, maybe free is the wrong word – you'll still be sucking up your data plan when you use the Skype app. (Better opt for the unlimited data package before downloading Skype.) So how big of a deal is this Skype announcement?
There's nothing inherently historic about Skype being available on phones -- it's on the iPhone (albeit over Wi-Fi only right now) and I first used the service on a Windows Mobile handset years ago. (Only briefly, though -- it taxed the phone to the breaking point, and voice quality was pretty miserable.) But a major carrier such as Verizon not only grudgingly permitting Skype but buddying up with it as a selling point for its phones is an interesting twist.
Indeed. Drop us a line with your thoughts, either in the comments section or on Twitter.
Editor's Note: AT&T does offer a handful of VoIP applications for various 3G and 2G and Wi-Fi-equipped devices. The 3G Skype app for the iPhone, however, has not yet been released.