I'm not sure if this is just an intriguing partnership or a major moment in phone history. But at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Verizon Wireless and Skype announced that they're working together to bring Skype to nine BlackBerry and Android phones on the Verizon network. A version of Skype Mobile will be available next month, permitting free Skype-to-Skype calls, chatting, and Skype Out calls to any phone number, including cheap international rates. And it'll all be done using flat-rate data plans rather than phone minutes.
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. I look forward to trying Skype Mobile on my Droid when it's available. And I have a few questions in the meantime...
Is there any integration with the phones' standard phone features? Say, access to the phone address book from within Skype? Or-dare I wish for it-the ability to route all calls through Skype, as Google's Google Voice app permits on BlackBerry and Android handsets? (Yes, I know that Google Voice isn't comparable to Skype-it uses phone minutes, and Skype doesn't)
How well does it work for incoming calls? Skype Mobile can run in the background, and I presume that you can use a Skypein phone number to permit people to dial a standard phone number and reach you in Skype. But does all this work smoothly enough that you could comfortably use Skype to take calls rather than the phone's standard phone features?
How's the quality? As good as a standard cell call? Better?
Are there any gotchas? On paper, this whole deal sounds...suspiciously enticing. The better Skype Mobile works, the more likely it is that lots of Verizon customers will do most (or all?) of their calling using it. Even if Skype cut Verizon in on any revenue it made, that couldn't be good for Verizon's bottom line.
More thoughts once the app's available.
This story, "Skype on Verizon: A Big Deal or Not?" was originally published by Technologizer.