The rumours have been flying about the iPod Touch equipped with a camera and microphone built-in. Yesterday Andy Abramson talked about the potential for this device on WiFi networks as a communication product. Andy’s thesis is that this new iPod device is the disruption that will unleash Voice on WiFi, and as an early adopter points out that he has been doing this for a couple of years now with Truphone on Nokia and Apple devices. He’s predicting a flurry of SIP applications through the iPhone store when this new iPod Touch comes to market.
Me, I’m not so sure. After all, wasn’t that the premise of Skype on the Sony Mylo?
Consumers expect always-on connectivity, and WiFi doesn’t deliver. With ubiquitous inexpensive 3G the norm, WiFi has become a backup network rather than a mainstay data network for many people. Take me, for example. I pay for a Boingo subscription each month because when I’m in a hotspot, it’s faster and more responsive than the 3G on my iPhone. But I also have 6G of service on my iPhone for $30/month, of which I’ve never used more than 400M.
Travelling, however, is a different story. As Andy notes, you can talk for free on WiFi when you’re travelling, versus whatever the outrageous roaming rate that your carrier might charge. Savvy travellers use products like Truphone and Skype to avoid roaming charges.
In my opinion, the real value for telephony in WiFi is in fixed mobile convergence – phones that know the cheapest / highest quality networks, and use them seamlessly to give the best overall experience to the customer. My iPhone should (but doesn’t) automatically pass my calls over WiFi when in a hotspot, and seamlessly hand off to cellular when I leave that hotspot.