Nokia and Skype: VoIP and Smartphones Together At Last

Earlier today, at the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2009 in Barcelona, Skype announced its partnership with the world’s largest cell-phone maker, Nokia. It’s a marriage made in business technology heaven—for those who are able to purchase the phones. Starting this June, Skype will be integrated into Nokia’s high-end N-series smartphones.

According to CNET, Skype will allow phone users to import their Skype contacts into their phone address book and utilize Skype’s instant messaging client. But more importantly, users of the new phones will be able to make free and low-cost calls via their phone’s internet connection, or VoIP as it is now commonly called.

VoIP has been lauded as cost-effective means to call internationally, as the rates are much less than they would be on traditional international phone plans. Hot on Nokia’s heels, Sony Ericsson has also announced plans to integrate Skype into their own line of smartphones. Ready to get your hands on one of these phones? Not so fast. As of now, the phones will be primarily available outside of the U.S., where Nokia and Sony Ericsson have bigger pieces of the market. The reason? Domestically, where AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile are major players in the cellular phone market, there hasn’t been much enthusiasm for integrating VoIP services with phone plans—at least not from the service providers.

The only provider who seems to be embracing VoIP (willingly or not) is Apple, whose iPhone App Store website now sells some non-Skype VoIP applications to iPhone users. So, why should cell phone users here in the U.S. care about the Nokia-Skype partnership? Well, because sooner rather than later, cell phone users in the U.S. are going to be sitting around, fiddling with applications, wasting more time and money, while their European counterparts are saving a ton of money and time which will eventually be used in one way or another to figure out how to take over the American markets. And then we’ll all wish we had Skype to begin with. I admit I’m exaggerating a bit. But, actually, if you read the comments posted on websites now, you’ll find statements like the following:

  • “Skype need to be in iPhone” (from Berke.h)
  • “After this announcement, I believe “official” Skype is a must on iPhone even i support this” (from friends_forlifetime)
  • “Skype should replace the entire world’s phones. It may be a monopoly, but it’ll be better than our situation now, right?” (from JetStone)

While, I’m sure the majority of Americans would not be as disposed to the idea of a monopoly as the last commenter, I’m quite sure they’re just as peeved about the fact that we can’t find a way to work out the VoIP issues. And what if the major U.S. phone companies aren’t willing to work it out? In that case, instead of “Have my people call your people,” let’s just say, “Have your VoIP people call our VoIP-less people.”

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