Skype on Verizon: Coming This Thursday

By  |  Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Last month, Verizon and Verizon Wireless announced that they were working together to bring a mobile version of Skype to users of BlackBerry and Android handsets on the Verizon network. Today at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas, they’re divulging the details, including the precise timeframe: Skype Mobile will begin to  be available for download this Thursday at 3am ET.

Russ Shaw, general manager for mobile at Skype, told me that the version of Skype that BlackBerry- and Android-toting Verizon customers will get has been optimized for the Verizon network and the devices in question. For instance, it runs in the background in always-on mode, but won’t drain the battery too quickly, he said.

I got a sneak peek at the app on BlackBerry and Android, and it looked…well, like Skype. As long as you have a data plan, you can make Skype-to-Skype calls and use IM over 3G at no additional cost. You can also make Skype Out international calls at the same cheap rates you’d pay via Skype on any other device. The brief test call I made sounded good.

But this version of Skype isn’t without meaningful limitations. You can’t make Skype Out calls to U.S. numbers–if you try, the app will let you route your call over Verizon’s voice network, where it’ll use minutes from your plan. You also can’t use Skype In to receive calls from landlines and cell phones: Incoming calls must come from other Skype users. And for reasons I don’t completely understand, Skype Mobile works only over Verizon’s 3G network, not Wi-Fi–which is the opposite of the situation on the iPhone, where you can only call over Wi-Fi, not the AT&T network.

Oh, and it doesn’t do video calling–which is no surprise considering that none of the handsets in question have front-facing cameras.

Shaw told me that this initial version of Skype Mobile for Verizon is the beginning of the Skype-Verizon relationship, and it’s possible that Wi-Fi calling and other features will come along later. Support for other smartphones on Verizon is in the works. And Skype hopes to have an Android app available later this year that it will distribute directly to consumers for use on carriers other than Verizon.

When I first heard about the Skype-Verizon deal, I had visions of using Skype Mobile in tandem with Google Voice to create a sort of supernumber–a phone number I could use in virtually any way that suited me, including on my Droid without using up all my Verizon minutes. That’s not going to be possible, and that helps to explain why Verizon sees working with Skype as an opportunity rather than sleeping with the enemy.

It still looks useful, though–I’m looking forward to trying it out day after tomorrow.

 
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7 Comments For This Post

  1. bstr Says:

    It’s official, Google Voice is cheaper and more practical in every respect, except to call other Skype users who happen to be at their PC or with a Skype capable handset. This announcement of no Skype-In or Skype-Out to US numbers pretty much slams the door shut. No interest in using resources to keep skype running.

    Maybe the light will come on some day and Verizon will allow cheap data-only plans (like Sprint & ATT for $30/mo) and let Skype use wifi too. This arrangement is reminiscent of the old days of locking down blackberry GPS.

  2. Aviator168 Says:

    You can get data only plans from Verizon for $39.99/m

  3. FB Says:

    wait till Vonage’s true wi-fi product comes out.

    this skype/verizon deal is a joke!!

  4. heulenwolf Says:

    In looking at VZW’s site on the deal, they don’t mention the capability to call other Skype/smartphone users, only other Skype/computer users. Is there a limitation on mobile to mobile calls over skype? If so, I think that would be a mistake making the deal pretty useless if who you can call depends on what device they’re using.

  5. Billy Pierce Says:

    Since you are not using the web to make the call from your BB or to receive the call to your BB, Skype Mobile on your Verizon Blackberry will
    only work on the BB end in the US. In other words, if you are out of the US with your BB, you can not send or receive a call via Sykpe Mobile.
    In the US you can Sykpe other non-Skype Mobile users in the US on their computer, or internationally on their computers and land-line/cellphone
    (with a charge). That’s the only good thing about Skype Mobile on your BB.

  6. Paige Price Says:

    Asbestos would really crap your lungs if you inhale bits of it.:;;

  7. callingcard Says:

    Calling non-Skype numbers is rather difficult and there is very little guidance, you have to buy phone credits via Skype online rather than directly via the mobile app, you basically have to set up all preferences on Skype.com rather than the mobile app itself: this includes passwords, credits, setting up caller ID, and all paid features

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