Skype for iPhone Gets Official, Details Revealed

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Last week we got news via our very own sister site, GigaOM, that Skype would finally being releasing their own official app for the iPhone and iPod touch, and that the release date was imminent.

Skype has since officially confirmed the upcoming free app, releasing a slew of screenshots which were published over the weekend by SkypeJournal.com, among others. App usability and technical details were also made known, so we pretty much know exactly what we’re getting when the app drops tomorrow at CTIA ’09.

First of all, in case you were hoping to circumvent your carrier’s talk time rates by using Skype over your 3G connection, you will be unable. Honestly, that’s not really a surprise, but I suppose there was no harm in hoping. Like any other VOIP application currently available, you’ll have to have an active Wi-Fi connection to place voice calls with Skype.

skype21 Skype’s UI on the iPhone is a pleasant surprise, at least in my opinion, since it resembles Apple’s own Phone.app interface. All phone features look the same, including the call screen and call history log. The chat interface is simple and clean, and resembles AIM or iChat for the Mac.

The new Skype app also integrates with your iPhone’s existing address book, allowing you to call any of your contacts from within the app (as long as you have SkypeOut credit). Another iPhone-specific feature is the ability to change your avatar using a photo taken from your iPhone’s camera, or one stored in your phone’s photo library. You can also participate in conference calls, though you can’t initiate them, only join in to those initiated by others.

skype3Second-gen iPod touch users will also be able to use Skype for iPhone, so long as they have a headset or mic attachment. Unfortunately, first-gen users like me are out of luck, but Tom’s Guide thinks that’s only temporary, since iPhone OS 3.0 should activate the iPod touch’s Bluetooth chip for A2DP support, meaning we’ll be able to have all the fun of our newer counterparts. I remember the brief period of excitement when a teardown revealed hardware Bluetooth support on the 1G Touch, but I’d completely forgotten about it over time. Let’s hope it doesn’t remain just a vestigial limb.

There are some significant oversights in the 1.0 release of Skype for iPhone, including the ability to top out your SkypeOut credit directly from the app, and SMS support. I’m hoping to see those in later versions.

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