Thursday, 17 July 2008

Skype on N95

I got a 'free' Nokia N95 handset from 3 a few weeks ago. It came with a 3 Skypephone client, which offers free Instant Messaging (IM) and skype-to-skype voice calls. The 3 Skypephone client was developed especially for the mobile operator 3. Therefore, you can only use the 2.5/3G network as the transport layer. The client does not offer any option to choose the access point. So if you are not a 3 subscriber, this skype client is useless.

A better option is to use Fring available from Fring combines several IM clients into one - Skype, MSN, SIP, Google Talk, etc. It offers free IP calls between Fring and Fring (or native IM clients) and instant messaging. You can even make mobile calls from within the Fring client. It allows you to choose which access point to use - it can be GPRS, 3G, WiFi connections, so you are not tied to a particular operator. A problem with Fring (probably a Skype server problem) is that it sometimes does not load all the contacts from all the IM servers - e.g. some of my Skype contacts are consistently missing in the Fring contact list. Otherwise, Fring is a pleasure to use.

A similar product to Fring is Nimbuzz, which offers pretty much the same user experience as Fring.

Not yet published by Skype, Skype is also working on mobile versions of Skype client. A beta version is available for N95. Installation is easy, simply connect to from N95 and follow the instructions. Like Fring, it allows you to choose the access point, so you can use WiFi if you wish. This client gives you the capability of instant messaging between skype contacts. However, making voice calls is not supported. What makes it worse is that it can charge you skype out rates without you even knowing it. What happens is that at installation and login time, it forces you to enter your mobile phone number. When someone makes a skype-to-skype voice call to you (when you are on mobile skype), it diverts the call to your mobile number and you get charged for the skype-out (yes, the receiving end pays)! Therefore, this client is only good for chats, definitely not for voice calls.

From the partnership with 3 and this new mobile skype client, it is evident that Skype does not want to compete with the Telcos, but rather works with them. This is contrary to the thought that IM vendors are a threat to telco. I think this is partially because VoIP is heavily regulated/restricted by authorities in many countries and VoIP operators usually have to pay a hefty fee to the incumbent telcos. Therefore, Skype seems to be hedging their bet both ways.

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