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Will Skype on iPhone be great? I’m sceptical.

Rumour has it that Skype for iPhone will be unveiled next week.  I’m excited, because it would be great to be able to chat with my Skype buddies via iPhone, but I’m not super excited. If the rumour is true, there’s no reason to believe that Skype for iPhone won’t fall prey to all the same issues that every other presence and VoIP application on iPhone experiences.

How do you run a mobile presence client without real push services?  You can’t, obviously. Presence from the cloud is only available when the application is opened.  Useful context can’t be generated and pushed to the cloud unless an application is running.  That makes it very difficult for your phone to do things like send your location, change status in response to calendar updates, or notify you when your buddies status changes.  Neither Fring, nor Truphone, nor any of the myriads of twitter clients on the market can do this, and it seems unlikely that Apple would treat Skype any differently to overcome this hurdle.  iPhone OS 3.0 promises to solve part of the problem – push notification – but apparently doesn’t implement any meaningful multi-tasking.

How do you really save money with Skype?  VoIP, of course.  But Apple and the carriers contracts prohibit vendors from using 3G for VoIP.  It’s Wifi only, or a local dial with VoIP backhaul.  That’s a good start, but doesn’t go far enough.  What it means is that you can save on international long distance, but you’re still burning the same number of nationwide minutes as you would without Skype. And unless you’re willing to unlock your phone, you won’t be using Skype on iPhone to save money when you travel. Bottom line – it’s likely that the cost savings will be much less than they could be. 

How do you experience Skype’s excellent wideband audio when you have to run the signal through the GSM network?  It’s likely that you’ll get Skype wideband audio when you’re in a Wifi hotspot, and then have the audio degraded to 3Khz when you’re on the mobile network, all because of the carrier and Apple prohibition of VoIP on 3G networks. 

It’s exciting that Skype might be coming to iPhone.  I’m not holding my breath, however, that Skype on iPhone will be a game changer for the platform. 

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