Skype's Mobile VoIP Comes to Nokia, Symbian
Skype, the popular VoIP service, is now coming to Nokia's Symbian-based phones through an agreement that will see Skype appearing on Nokia's Ovi mobile downloads store.
Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and Skype said the mobile app, Skype for Symbian, will handle VoIP calls over both Wi-Fi and wireless data (GPRS, EDGE and 3G) networks.
Skype Mobile VoIP App for Symbian Goes Beyond Wi-Fi
"You can call, text, IM and everything else whether youre on a 3G or Wi-Fi connection, so when youre abroad, just pop in a local SIM card with an unlimited data plan -- or find a Wi-Fi zone -- and you'll be able to avoid those pesky roaming charges," Skype spokesman Peter Parkes wrote in a blog post.
The new Skype for Symbian will work on all Nokia phones that run Symbian ^1, the most recent version of the mobile OS. Parkes also said that the app will be updated "soon" to run on Symbian phones from other manufacturers, such as Sony Ericsson.
Skype, like a number of other VoIP services, rose to prominence thanks to its offer of free calling among PC users and discounted rates for VoIP calls from PCs to domestic and international landline or mobile phones.
Skype's Mobile VoIP Controversy
But the company caused friction when it began to port its software to mobile phones such as the Apple iPhone, which initially supported Skype calling but only over Wi-Fi connections. This prior policy of limiting Skype on the iPhone to Wi-Fi was widely seen as a concession to Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) exclusive carrier partner AT&T, for whom voice calls represent a chief source of revenue.
AT&T ultimately relented on limiting Skype to Wi-Fi, and in October, said that it took "the steps necessary so that Apple can enable VoIP applications on iPhone to run on AT&T's wireless network."
Other major U.S. carriers are similarly following suit to embrace Skype's VoIP service over 3G. Last month, top U.S. mobile operator Verizon Wireless said it would begin supporting Skype VoIP over 3G connections starting this month. That potentially gives Skype access to millions of Verizon's customers -- the carrier claims 90 million subscribers, but not all of its customers have 3G-capable phones.
Now through its deal with Nokia, Skype is poised to add still more users: Nokia claims a whopping 200 million customers, though it's unclear how many own devices capable of supporting Symbian ^1.
The deal is also something of a win for Nokia, which gets to crow about the growing importance of its Ovi Store. Jo Harlow, senior vice president for smartphones at Nokia, said in a statement that Ovi Store is seeing about 1.5 million mobile app downloads per day. Still, that total comes up short in comparison to Apple's App Store -- the most popular of the current crop of mobile download stores, with its more than three billion downloads over the past 18 months.Christopher Saunders is senior managing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.