Could Skype in Your Pocket Beat the iPod Touch?

1Executive Summary

VoIP is a hot form of communications for the savvy mobile consumer. Skype has millions of users, which shows how important VoIP has become to folks. While many mobile phones are capable of VoIP communications, many handset makers don’t promote that fact because of concerns about crossing the mobile carriers. The recent Google/Apple tussle over the banning of Google Voice from the iTunes App Store was reported to be instigated by AT&T.

The premiere iPod in Apple’s line of media players, the iPod touch has been described as an iPhone without the phone bits, and that’s pretty accurate — but it is capable of placing VoIP calls. The ability to have voice calls over the Internet for low cost or even free is easily done with the iPod touch due to the Wi-Fi functionality, but you don’t hear Apple selling that function. Doing so would raise the hackles of AT&T and Apple’s other carrier partners who, as a rule, don’t like the competition VoIP provides for their voice networks.

But do callers really need a carrier? If a company stepped in with a gadget similar to the iPod touch, equipped with heavily-promoted VoIP capabilities, such a device could be well received by the mobile crowd. A handset that trumpeted its ability to put “Skype in your pocket” (or a similar promotion) could be an instant hit with today’s cord-cutting consumers.

So, what would a compelling device look like?

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  1. James Kendrick Friday, August 21, 2009

    Technically, there are quite a few companies that could handle making this device. There are a number of them in Asia too. The key is to get the courage up and actually do it.

  2. VOIP Device combined with an iTouch. Interesting. I feel only Apple is capable of something like this. Google is a good second bet. Not many other firms have the smarts to do this right. It requires a non-trivial hardware and software solution and an ecosystem of WiFi roaming agreements.

  3. Kiran Nataraj Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    Couple of points
    – the iPod touch (2nd Generation) does have Bluetooth support (3.0 OS)
    – One way (and this maybe a product idea) is to have MiFi kind of devices (essentially data cards that create local wifi spots ) and integrate them into say – the skin / cover of devices like the iPod touch (you could perhaps add a microsphone as well into that).

    There – that’s the perfect product you are looking for…

  4. I think the ubiquitous wifi argument is important. The wireless players (the one’s we are trying to escape) are largely getting into this realm because it’d be an obvious missed revenue opportunity (or business evolution) for them.

    Perhaps the wired internet is moving to the sky? Maybe then the VOIP-only phones will work? Of course, we’ll still be paying AT&T, Spring, et al for the privilege to connect, not necessarily for the minutes.

  5. James Kendrick Monday, August 10, 2009

    Definitely a bargain. Plus, if such a device came with a roaming hotspot provider like Boingo, the calls could be absolutely free.

    1. I have a Boingo account for my iPod Touch, but I have found it surprisingly unhelpful because I frequently cannot get a signal from the parking lot. In fact, for my area, I more often use a business or a church with open or guest accounts. A church will often have a locked signal for guests, but you can find the password on their web site. I wish I could grab a guest password for the local school district because they really bang a signal to the parking lot.

  6. texasyellowdog Monday, August 10, 2009

    So if you carried a WiFi router with you costing $60 for 5GB, if my math is correct (which it often is not) and using Skype’s worst case estimate of 16KB/second:

    .016MB/sec x 60sec/min = .96MB/min
    5000MB / .96MB/min = 5208min
    $60 / 5208min = $.012/min

    You would pay 12 cents a minute for VIOP calls? If you typically have lots of left over bandwidth, it’s a bargain.

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