Is Skype the catalyst for change in the wireless world?

March 30, 2009 2 Comments

On the surface it’s simply a new feature for iPhone users – Skype on your cell phone. And why not. Apple promised you all the perks of computer-based Web browsing on a handheld device. But, heavy data consumers are hoping it will be the spark that ignites change in how we are billed by the wireless companies.

Skype announced today that it’s iPhone app will be a free download. But, Apple and AT&T are limiting when the app can be used. While the companies want to meet user demand, it seems they also want to protect their paid calling service. According to PC World, the app will only work when connected to a Wi-Fi network and not with the AT&T data networks.

So how can this little app inspire change? By changing how the phone companies look at the different information sent on a cell phone. Right now, most companies separate phone calls, texts and data when in reality all three are simply data sent from one device to another.

To me it’s similar to the evolution of landlines, or even in the beginning when most cell companies charged for roaming.

On one hand, the current system is likely to my advantage because I make very few phone calls but I’m a heavy data user. The iPhone plan comes with unlimited data, so while I’m making losing some money on the call side, I think I’m saving more on the data side.

Last year there were reports circulating that iPhone owners had up to 30 times more data usage than other smartphone owners. I just checked my bill history and I’m averaging about 100 MB per month.

It’s hard to believe, but data usage and pricing is still new. I think wireless companies are doing what many industries do – clinging to the familiar (voice usage) and trying to maintain strict control of the unknown (data usage). Maybe AT&T wants to keep Skype from cutting into it’s call volume, but if customers used the app on the data network instead of Wi-Fi, it would still count as data usage, right?

Maybe there’s some big piece I’m missing.

While I highly doubt the Skype app will be remembered as the catalyst that brought the wireless companies and their pricing plans to their knees, I do think it’s one of many future developments that signal a coming change.

As a heavy data consumer, I think I’m getting the better end of the deal, so I’m not in a big hurry to be charged for my data usage. I have unlimited text and data, which I use the most, and limited talk, which mostly goes unused.

So, what is the point to this whole story? Why am I frustrated that AT&T and Apple are limiting the Skype app? I think maybe it’s the rebel in me. Like most tech kids, I don’t like being told how and when to use my technology. I am a product of my generation. I want to use the program I want, on the device I want, where I want.

I’ve been following the outrage all day online, and I’m interested to know your thoughts. Leave a comment.

-jj

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  1. Greg says:

    Not sure why you are surprised that Apple is making decisions for you. Apple has historically always insisted on controlling their platforms and the iPhone is just the latest example. They not only have absolute veto power on all apps in the iPhone store, but they also strictly limit which developers have access to their iPhone development tools.

  2. Sarah says:

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