Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Verizon - Skype Smartphone Deal

Verizon Wireless and Skype announced today that owners of nine of their smartphones will be able to make international calls at Skype rates and call Skype users on PCs with Skype Mobile, a new application available this March.

"This is an app that has been built collaboratively between Verizon and Skype from the ground up," said Verizon Wireless chief marketing officer John Stratton at the Mobile World Congress show here.

Skype users will be able to make unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls using their Verizon Wireless service plan and make international calls at Skype's SkypeOut rates, which are much lower than Verizon's. The app will run in the background, letting Verizon subscribers receive Skype calls on their phones as well. Users will have to have both voice and data plans to use the app, but Skype calls won't use their voice minutes.

"With the always-on state, you'll be able to make and receive calls in a very natural flow," Stratton said.

This isn't true voice-over-IP the way most people understand it. The Skype app will connect to Skype's server using a standard Verizon Wireless voice call, and head from there via VOIP to the international or PC phone on the other end. This ensures call quality, Stratton said.

"These [calls] are right on our primary voice network. The call quality is terrific," Stratton said.

Skype users will also be able to send and receive Skype instant messages and see their friends' status on the network. But Skype CEO Josh Silverman said he didn't know if you'd be able to IM and make a voice call at the same time.

For now, the app is exclusive to Verizon Wireless, though Silverman kept describing it as a "unique experience," as if allowing for the possibility of other experiences on other carriers.

Stratton said he sees this app as appealing especially to folks who make a lot of international calls such as "recent expats and people with families overseas." Skype plans to provide flat-rate calling plans for a range of countries in the future, Silverman said.

Initially, Skype will be available on the BlackBerry Storm 9530, Storm2 9550, Curve 8330, Curve 8530, BlackBerry 8830 and Tour 9630 phones, as well as the Motorola Droid, Motorola Devour and HTC Droid Eris Android-powered smartphones.

Future plans may include integrating Skype into FIOS TV or integrating Skype into Verizon's 4G LTE services, Stratton said.

"There will be an array of service and devices that will come with [the LTE] launch," Stratton said. "There's exciting stuff that we'll be announcing with our partners at Skype at the time."

Skype is working towards a "full Skype experience," which may include video and conference calling, Silverman said. Skype will be able to show more features closer to launch, he said.