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Apple Approves Another VoIP App, Rebtel

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310755560.jpgI just learned that Apple (s AAPL) has approved yet another VoIP application, this time from Stockholm-based company Rebtel. You can download it from the iTunes Store. The service also works over AT&T’s (s t) 3G network, making it less necessary to have a Wi-Fi connection. But in my experience, WiFi-based calling is always better. AT&T announced earlier this year that it was going to permit VoIP calls over its 3G data network.

Rebtel joins a growing rank of Internet telephony applications including Skype, Truphone, Nimbuzz, Fring and Vonage. Given that Apple and AT&T are giving the nod to almost all VoIP applications, I wonder why exactly Google Voice isn’t getting the go-ahead? Any theories, people? (Press release from Rebtel below the fold.)

It took nine months but Rebtel’s iPhone application for making ultra-cheap or free international calls around the world is finally out of AT&T jail.

“We’ve been waiting on this one a long time – but as they say, the best things in life are worth waiting for,” said Andreas Bernström, CEO of Rebtel, which pioneered mobile VoIP calling in 2006. “We were thrilled when we got the email from the iTunes Store with the subject: Your Application is Ready for Sale. Our app is free, of course, but we couldn’t be happier.”

On October 6, AT&T reversed course and said that it will allow Internet phone software applications on the iPhone. AT&T had previously prevented iPhone Internet phone apps from using its wireless network.

Rebtel’s app allows iPhone owners to make calls to anywhere in the world for just pennies per minute without having to search for a WiFi hot spot. And free calls are possible between any of the 50 countries where Rebtel is available.

Using the new Rebtel iPhone app is super easy and fast. Just open the app, select the phone number of an international friend from the onboard address book or type in their number, tap the Call with Rebtel button, and Rebtel takes over from there to connect the call straight away.

“The lowest calling rates in the world, no cards, PINs or hassles, you only pay for the time you talk, and great sound quality – it doesn’t get any better than Rebtel for international calling,” said Bernström. “Try it. You’ll like it. Everybody gets a free test call to get started.”

20 Responses to “Apple Approves Another VoIP App, Rebtel”

  1. @Craik Pyke Yes, that’s correct.

    @user, GigaOM We describe it as being a VoIP App as we do still route the international leg of the call over VoIP. However, I do agree with you that there is no VoIP involved per se from the users point of view.

    Also, let me reiterate that what Apple considers as being VoIP and what an end users actually is exposed to are, as you know, two different things. Our 6-7 months waiting time for approval surely is a testament to that.

  2. Why is everyone (not just this site – dozens of them) reporting it as a voip app? From the description of the app, they give you a local number to call and you use that to call your intended destination. Does this mean the address book is a voip app? It helps you make phone calls too. Of course the address book is not voip app.

    There is no voip involved (from the user point of view). I can’t believe so many sites repost this inaccurate stuff without checking the details.

  3. @Tony Yes, in it’s current iteration our App works by setting up the call and routing it over VoIP.

    @Manor We identified a bug late last week relating to OTA contact sync. Unfortunately is causes the App to crash but an update is on it’s way.
    I would highly appreciate if I could get in touch with you to get the details of the crash. Want to make sure this actually does relate to that specific bug we identified and not something else. I’m alexander [dot] drewniak [at] rebtel [dot] com

    Thanks in advance!

    • Todd

      We have been looking for some actual proof of that including photos and Google is being pretty tight lipped about it. If it is anything like the Android experience, I am not surprised Apple is pushing them down.

  4. I downloaded the iPhone app. This is tool just helps you dial your contacts over your regular mobile service as any Rebtel call you make. You are not in fact making a VOIP call per se. (Rebtel indeed routes the calls over the Internet on their end but as a user you are making a 100% normal but local telephone call).
    The app looks promising but in my case it kept shutting down when I tried to open my phonebook. I could still make a call but I’d have to dial the contact number from memory, couldn’t browse my phonebook.

  5. Until now, Rebtel was a callthrough app which gave local numbers to your international contacts. Calls where made over normal mobile phone networks, no VoIP over Wifi or VoIP over 3G necessary.

    Is it different on the iPhone?

    Or why do you stress that the service also works over AT&T’s 3G network, making it less necessary to have a Wi-Fi connection?

    • Hi there Marcus,

      Alex from Rebtel here. It sure has been a long time coming (to say the least). Now we’re finally there. Since we got the green light from Apple we’re really excited and look forward to executing on some of the ideas we have planned for future updates.

      To try to answer your questions, Apple stipulated in their developer guidelines that no VoIP application was allowed to initiate a call over a carriers 3G network and then subsequently “leave it” to route the international part of the call over VoIP. This is being referred to as “VoIP over 3G” as well, even though it’s not true Voip2Voip over a 3G network.

      • So Alex,

        Does this mean Rebtel do or dont offer VoiP over 3G on the iPhone now?
        Either by setting up the call and routing it over VoIP or by actually setting up a true Voip2Voip call over 3G?

      • Craik Pyke

        So the bottom line, inferring from your post, is Rebtel creates a circuit side connection between the mobile and your local “service node”, and you then route the bulk of the session over a packet infrastructure – correct?

        In other words, you’re not creating a packet side connection to the mobile, right?

      • Rebtel doesn’t offer VoIP over 3G on iPhone. That’s a simple fact.
        The application initiates 2 calling legs. One is setup directly to a fixedline number via a normal GSM call, the other one is setup by calling the other party over PSTN.

        The are exactly the same as Jahjah. Only the way how it’s presented is different.

        So in other words to be clear: There is no VoIP traffic going from the iPhone over 3G data pipeline and connects to a server to terminate the VoIP call to a PSTN / normal phone number.

  6. Google Voice comes with voicemail – a feature that makes that visual voicemail redundant and like Apple said, it mimics iphone core features. I have slowly come to believe that its that only.

    • Exactly ! I think AT&T hasn’t really opened 3G for VOIP. Both Vonage and Rebtel seem to be using voice call to their local access number which then forwards the call to the number you desire. 3G is only used for call setup.

  7. The big rumour (and this is a rumour) is that GVoice for iPhone copies the whole address book from the iPhone and uploads it to the Google cloud. Kind of a cool feature but a big threat to MobileME and to the iPhone in general.

    Mobile phone manufacturers (Apple would have learned this from their partnership with Motorola) covet the Address Book and in recent years have attempted to leverage this to keep customers using their brand of phones as they upgrade every couple of years — the philosophy is that if there is an easy migration tool to get data from their old phone to the new one then they’ll be disincetivized to switch manufacturers.

    I think this can put to bed once and for all the notion that this is about Google Voice’s VoIP or presence implementations, however… so huzzah for Rebtel! And for once it’s not AT&T’s fault. :)

    • veggiedude

      Google Voice does not do VoIP. Its competitor, RingCentral, is available in the app store, but even RingCentral does not offer VoIP, even though VoIP is one of their core services. RingCentral has another app, known as ‘AT&T Virtual Receptionist’ under the ATT brand, and it does what Google Voice does.