Skype Expands to Most Android Phones, Wi-Fi Only in U.S.

skypeandroid

Skype has expanded availability of its Internet calling service to most Android phones, though U.S. users will be forced to make calls over Wi-Fi. Skype said today that a new client for Android phones running 2.1 or higher is now available for download in Android Market or at skype.com.

In most countries — with China and Japan notable exceptions — Skype will enable free Skype-to-Skype calls over 3G and Wi-Fi. You can make cheap calls to non-Skype users with Skype Credits and call people through your contacts list on your phone.

Skype said the service may work on earlier versions of Android, but there are no guarantees. Skype is also working on addressing issues with Galaxy S phones. The news comes a day after Skype announced that Cisco executive Tony Bates is taking over as CEO of Skype.

The expansion of Skype on Android will be welcome news for many Android users. Skype first appeared on Android phones (and others) from Verizon phones in March, but was limited to 3G calls. It was also only on Verizon, and hasn’t been available on Android phones from other U.S. carriers. Initially, my colleague Om Malik feared the Verizon deal was engineered by the carrier to combat the iPhone and would prevent other carriers from getting Skype for a couple of years. It’s nice to see that other Android users will be able to use the app, even if it’s only via Wi-Fi here in the U.S..

The iPhone has had Skype over Wi-Fi since last year, and earlier this year, 3G calling was enabled. It’s unclear why we’re still saddled with Wi-Fi restrictions here in the U.S. with Android phones. When 3G calling functionality was enabled on the iPhone, Skype said it was a result of the operators’ move to tiered pricing. We might have to wait until all carriers move to that model in the U.S. before we get Skype calls over 3G on Android devices.

While Skype on Android is good news for sure, I’m still waiting for the day Skype adds mobile video calling. The recent success of Tango suggests that video calling from Skype would be a hugely popular feature if the company made the obvious move to enable it.

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