Skype Mobile for Verizon to Launch March 25

Ashesh Shah
March 24, 2010

The Verizon Wireless Skype application will be available starting Thursday, March 25, the two companies announced Tuesday.

Skype mobile for Verizon will initially work on nine handsets, including the BlackBerry Storm, the BlackBerry Storm2, the BlackBerry Curve, the BlackBerry Curve 8530, the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition, the BlackBerry Tour, the Motorola Droid, the Droid Eris, and the Motorola Devour.

The Devour will also launch for Verizon on Thursday in conjunction with the Skype mobile release, Verizon said.

The app will provide free, unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls and instant messaging, which will not count against Verizon customers’ monthly minutes or data usage, John Harrobin, senior vice president of digital media and marketing for Verizon Wireless, said during a call with reporters.

There are several ways users can access the app: all users can visit to download; Droid, Droid Eris, and Devour users can download it via the Android Market; existing BlackBerry customers can click on a Skype icon that will be automatically pushed to their home screens on Thursday; new BlackBerry customers can access the icon via the download folder; or users on any of the phones can text “Skype” to 2255 and Verizon will send a link on Thursday.

The app will run in the background and be “always on,” Harrobin said. “There’s no longer the need for appointment calling.” It will also import your phone’s contacts.

Calls made using Skype mobile will be routed over the Verizon network.

“The same coverage quality and reliability that you expect from Verizon applies to Skype mobile,” Harrobin said. “We made a decision to route all voice calls over the Verizon wireless network that all other calls go over. We did this to ensure that it was a great experience [and] that Skype mobile worked wherever and whenever customers needed it to work.”

“Data networks weren’t designed for voice,” he said. “We have the capacity.”

That might evolve with the launch of 4G LTE, but for now, Skype mobile calls will be routed over the circuit-switch network, Harrobin said. After it goes over that circuit switch, it comes to a Skype gateway and is routed through Skype’s IP network.

Verizon and Skype have worked with the necessary regulatory officials to make sure the app is compliant, Harrobin said.

Harrobin was not concerned that the move might result in decreased revenue for Verizon, and said that any loss would be recouped from new customers attracted to Verizon because of the Skype offering.

“We really don’t expect dilution,” he said. “There may be dilution on long-distance revenue, but that’s immaterial. Where we create value is new subscribers on Verizon Wireless smartphones.”

This app will be very attractive to customers who place international calls or currently use calling cards, Harrobin said.

But will other carriers just strike their own deal with Skype to hold on to customers?

“Skype mobile … is an exclusive app to Verizon,” Harrobin said. There are other Skype mobile apps available, but the “features and functionality that you’ll see [on Skype mobile], you won’t see anywhere else. It’ll be the best mobile experience out there.”

Skype has “prioritized our development … with Verizon here in the U.S.,” said Russ Shaw, general manager of mobile for Skype.

Skype has other over-the-top apps, but the Verizon app, which Shaw said provides deeper integration by running in the background and offering improved battery life, is better. The Verizon app is “where we’re spending a lot of time right now,” he said.

Harrobin said Skype’s core client makes porting to other RIM- or Android-based phones “relatively easy,” so they could add more handsets in the future. As for adding additional Skype functionality, like video, Harrobin said Verizon will “work with what we have today” and does not want to “over-promise something until it’s ready.”

Verizon and Skype first announced plans for their joint venture at last month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The companies made today’s announcement at this year’s CTIA trade show in Las Vegas. PCMag mobile analyst Sascha Segan is there, and took Skype mobile for a spin. Check out his hands on with the new app.


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