Talking tech since 2003

One of the most prominent features in the Apple iPhone 4 is the ability to make handset-to-handset video calls between other iPhone 4 users through a built-in application dubbed as “FaceTime”.  While this is a great feature – especially seeing as how the device has both a front and rear-facing camera – many people have been quick to point out one major flaw in the concept; FaceTime only works over WiFi. This means users that are not in range of a wireless access point cannot take advantage of FaceTime via their 3G data service.  While some people have learned to live with this limitations, others have circumvented the issue altogether by using jailbroken iPhone firmware.  However, amidst their recent meltdown, Skype has managed to revamp their mobile application for the iOS platform, which now allows users to conduct video calls between other Skype users – over WiFi or 3G.

While the Skype application is not as “native” as FaceTime in the sense that it’s developed by Apple, the fact of the matter is both Apple and Skype have the potential to benefit from this sofware update.  You see, this introduction will likely add new users to Skype’s user-base (or refresh current users), meaning Skype will be seen as a larger and more “standard” network to conduct business on.  From there, I’m sure Skype will see an influx of users on the PC and Macintosh platforms in a snowball-type effect.

Even though the new Skype release will allow iPhone users to look past the limitation in FaceTime, I think that Skype has a lot more riding on this development than Apple does.  Having said this, we’ve already established that Skype has been having a number of widely-publicized issues lately, all of which are directly hurting the company’s image and will likely have a residual effect in the near future as well.  If Skype is successful in allowing their new and improved application take off on the iOS platform, they have a chance at offsetting their negative press with more positive news.

Interestingly enough, I think that this is going to be a perfect time for Apple to evaluate buying Skype.  With Skype (as a company) arguably more vulnerable than it has been in years, Apple has a much better chance at successfully swooping in and “salvage” Skype and its existing infrastructure to further develop FaceTime and build upon Skype’s standing progress.

However, when looking at this issue, we really have to ask ourselves why Apple didn’t allow for 3G video calls on the iPhone to begin with.  This could be attributed to the fact that Apple didn’t want to congest the already sluggish AT&T mobile network by promoting bundled bandwith-intensive applications.  If this is the case, I am definitely going to be interested to see how Skype’s video functionality on the iPhone (and more importantly the AT&T network) is going to pan out.

What’s your take?  Will you use Skype on the iPhone or iPod Touch now?   Do you think this will increase your use of Skype on other platforms as well?  Let us know in the comments!

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