Skype has released a version of its calling software for Android smartphones and more than 100 Java-capable cell phones from LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson.
The mobile Skype is a scaled-back version of the PC version of the calling service, and it enables mobile users to make Skype-to-Skype calls, send and receive instant messages from Skype contacts, see when your contacts are online, and make Skype calls to landlines and cell phones for low rates. The mobile service uses local airtime minutes and data to make the calls, which may disappoint some who wanted to use Skype to make free calls over Wi-Fi.
"Making the Skype experience available for download to Android-powered devices, as well as hundreds of other mobile phones from the world's leading handset manufacturers, is a major step forward for Skype," COO Scott Durchslag said in a statement. "Nearly half the world's population are mobile phones users today, and we know that many people who already use Skype want the option to use Skype on their mobile phones."
The service may be useful for mobile users who make international calls often, as Skype's prices are often less than what a wireless carrier charges. The cost will be deducted from a user's Skype Credit account, but Skype-to-Skype calls won't cost anything besides the local airtime minutes.
As 3G networks get better and more smartphones get integrated Wi-Fi, there has been a growing demand for software that enables customers to make free or low-cost VoIP calls. But the mobile operators aren't keen on this notion because it could potentially lead to fewer minutes used and less revenue. There does appear to be a compromise emerging though, as services like Trufone are enabling limited free calls between users but only over Wi-Fi.