With the introduction of the iTunes App Store some time ago, the iPhone and iPod touch became even more useful devices. Anyone could be an iPhone developer and get their software onto the App store, and thousands of people have done just that. My iPod touch has five pages of Apps ranging from Pandora, for free music streaming; to Air Sharing, which makes the iPod essentially a wireless hard drive and network browser; to TextGuru, a full-featured text editor that includes copy and paste functions.
Skype released its own App late last night, and the blogosphere is buzzing with reviews and commentary. Skype has been around for quite some time, and is a robust instant messaging, video conferencing, and voice over internet protocol (VOIP) phone service with software available for Mac and Windows users. The Skype App allows you to place free calls to other Skype users on your iPhone or pay a nominal by-the-minute fee to call any landline in the world.
Initial reports suggest that the Skype App works well. It is not as fully featured as the computer-based client software, however. For one, there is not a video conference function. Also, it is not possible to have Skype remain active in the background while your iPhone is sleeping, making it impractical—useless, really—for incoming calls.
And, presumably to appease the mobile carriers worldwide, Skype works only while connected to a terrestrial Wi-Fi network. It will not, and probably never will, work over the phone companies’ 3G networks, even though the networks could handle the additional traffic with aplomb. After all, the phone companies are essentially the ones buying the iPhones!