Nov 11th, 2009

If you scour the Android Market for a Skype Android Application you’ll find only one option – Skype Lite Beta. The combination of “Lite” and “Beta” is a good indication that this version is missing a lot of goodies but also gives hope that a non-lite version that has passed the beta stages will add a bunch of features. It looks like 3 Mobile in the UK may be offering/testing these features for customers who purchase the HTC Hero.

If you visit the HTC Hero page on their store and click the “Mobile detail” button, check out the blurb that pops up:

skype-premium

Let’s take a closer look at that language:

Plus, the HTC Hero comes with built-in Skype – so you can make free Skype-to-Skype calls from the UK on 3.

Interesting… this is a huge deviation from the warning Skype provides on the description of their Skype Lite Beta app in Android Market:

Put Skype Lite Beta on your Android Phone

  • Local rate Skype-to-Skype calls.
  • Call from anywhere* WiFi or 3G not required.
  • Send and receive instant messages from your mobile.
  • Save money calling landlines and mobiles abroad.

*Calling unavailable in some countries. Please visit www.skype.com/go/mobiledownload for more info

FREE Skype-to-Skype calls and Local rate Skype-to-Skype calls certainly seem like a deliberate difference to me. Does this indicate Skype testing their premium Android application on 3 Mobile in the UK and doing it a bit “under cover” without a formal announcement? This would be a HUGE advancement in Skype on mobile and with 50,000 to 250,000 downloads already… it looks like an actual production release with premium features will be a real Android Market juggernaut.

The current Skype Lite application forces your phone to place a call over a local number so, regardless of what contacts your touching base with or where you are, you’re still using minutes from your service plan. This would seem to indicate that you can use a data connection or Wi-Fi to make calls since this would be required for an actual solution to be dubbed “free”.

This isn’t the ONLY feature that people are eagerly anticipating Skype add but its a very, VERY big one. I’m reaching out to both Skype and 3 for a response, hopefully they can clarify and in a perfect world, we’ll learn when this will hit other areas if it is indeed what we think it is. Of course maybe 3 Mobile just weren’t as careful as they should have been in their wording… but we’ll find out soon. And I wouldn’t be surprised considering these folks officially market and sell a WinMo based “Skypephone“.

A couple months ago Andy Rubin himself responded on the issue of VoIP Android Applications… I wonder what his thoughts would be on this? He is a hard man to get ahold of, but since I have YOUR attention already, share with the group!

UPDATE: A representative of the firm handling 3 Mobile’s PR has gotten back to me with the following update: “I can confirm that the HTC Hero when bought on 3 comes with a specific Skype on 3 application which allows you to make completely free Skype to Skype calls. The application is easy to find and download via the My3 portal on the handset.”

local_offer    3  HTC