Use Skype from anywhere (providing you have GSM coverage) - Skype releases "3Skypephone" and joins the mobile game
The big news out today in the world of Skype is that Skype and the mobile carrier called "3" have released the "3 Skypephone" that lets Skype users take Skype truly mobile. Skype-to-Skype calls and IMs are "free" provided that you are on "3"'s mobile network. I say "free" in quotes because of course you have to have a wireless plan through 3. There are actually two options in the UK, which is the only country in which it will initially be available:
- Monthly - With this plan, the 3 Skypephone hardware itself is free and the rates are 12-17 British pounds per month. Apparently you have unlimited data connectivity with this plan, so you can in fact make unlimited numbers of Skype calls or IMs.
- Pay-As-You-Go - With this plan, you pay 50 pounds for the 3Skypephone phone itself and then keep your account filled with credits. Apparently data usage decrements this account (but it's not clear by how much), so you have to wonder how often people will need to recharge the account. (UPDATE: Julian Bond, who is in the UK and has a 3 Skypephone to experiment with, informs me that there is apparently no charge for data usage on the Pay-As-You-Go, but it is only available for "30 days after your last top-up". So as long as you top up each month you would apparently get the data usage for free.)
These plans also factor into your non-Skype calls, i.e. calls to regular PSTN phone numbers. The phone does work just like a regular cell phone, but calls you make do not go out via SkypeOut but rather through 3's mobile network. So if you are: 1) calling other Skype users; and 2) on 3's wireless network; then all your calls are "free" (subject to your calling plan).
All in all an interesting play. We won't see it in North America for some time (and I probably won't see it in Vermont until the next millenia) but it will be available in the UK on Friday and by the end of the year in Australia, Italy, Hong Kong, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Republic of Ireland.
The phones themselves look quite nice. There are three colors (or two colors with one of the colors having two different color bands):
Luca Filigheddu also notes that the 3 Skypephone has a "Web 2.0" component to it in that you can easily access various social networking services:
I understand from folks who were at the launch event in the UK this morning that 3 Skypephones were made available to reporters and bloggers this morning, so we can expect to see more articles appearing in the hours ahead. In the meantime, here are some links to other sites that have been covering the launch:
- Skype Journal: "3 Skypephone for 50 pounds on 2 November"
- Skype Journal: "The 3 Skypephone is a test"
- Alan Williamson: "The 3SkypePhone Arrives ... first thoughts
- Blognation UK: "Skypephone unvieled - an interview - includes an audio podcast
- Engadget: "3 Skypephone is free in the UK"
- ZD Net: "Skype and 3 launch mobile phone"
- Tech Crunch UK: "Three to launch Skype phone today"
- CNN Money article
Information directly from Skype or 3:
- Skype blog post
- Skype product page
- Buy 3 Skypephone page
- 3's page on the Skypephone
- 3's "Fast Guide" for the Skypephone
- 3's information about the 3skype.mobi website
Naturally, YouTube videos are starting to appear. Here's a 9-minute overview from an Italian Cellular Magazine (in English):
Stay tuned for more info in the days ahead.