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Skype for iPhone: What’s the point?

Updated April 3, 2009 at 11:00 am PT with more questions and answers.

Skype(Credit: Skype)

You’ve had a lot of questions about the new Skype for iPhone (download)–how it works and even why anyone would want to use it.

I’m going to answer some of the most frequently asked ones here, but if you’ve got more, you know what to do. Put ‘em in the comments.

First of all, some context. Skype for iPhone is a voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, communications application that lets you chat with other Skype members for free, plus call landlines and mobile phones when you buy Skype Out credit. It is available in every country in which the App Store can be found, and it has already made a splash in the United States, Japan, and Europe.

Apple requires Skype and other voice applications to use Wi-Fi to place iPhone calls, not the hardware phone. Now without further ado:

1. If you’ve already got an iPhone, what’s the point of having another calling application?

At least at first, Skype was primarily used to place international calls for free to other Skype users, or to landlines at a reduced rate on par with a calling card, for example. If you’ve got family and friends living abroad, the application’s potential is a no-brainer.

Sure, you might not need to use Skype if everyone you know and love lives within a 500-mile radius of you. Yet users have already chimed in with examples of domestic uses, like if your home has a weak cellular signal but strong Wi-Fi; or if you eat through your free-talk minutes, a low-rate VoIP service like Skype will cost you less than the carrier’s charge for each minute you go over your plan.

Also, don’t forget that iPod Touch owners can use Skype and other VoIP applications (like Truphone and Fring) to make calls, even though the iPod has no telephone hardware–you just need earphones equipped with a mic.

2. If you’re on the road, you still can’t use your iPhone to make free calls with Skype, unless you can track down a Wi-Fi connection somewhere.

If you’re in the United States, AT&T allows iPhone users free access to AT&T hot spots without incurring extra charges, though if you’re attempting a call, you might not want to start it in the middle of Starbucks.

Also, even when you’ve got a laptop or desktop handy, and could use VoIP on the desktop, a calling client on the mobile phone gives you the freedom to wander. You won’t be able to see your pals with the Webcam from the iPhone, though, so there is a trade-off.

Originally posted at CTIA show

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