Twilio, the cloud communications platform, is arming app makers with the ability to add Voice over IP (VoIP) features to their iOS apps. With a new Twilio Client for iOS, the company is making it easy for any app with connectivity to incorporate Skype-like functionality.
This should help give rise to even more VoIP apps that can offer free or cheap Wi-Fi calling and even replace traditional phones. But it can also can help transform existing apps that want to add voice interactivity.
This is a natural extension of Twilio’s goal of providing communications tools to developers so they don’t have to have deep telecom skills. The company started out hooking into the old copper-based phone system to help developers add voice and SMS. Last year, it added the ability to support VoIP calls but that was from the browser. Now, it’s extending support for VoIP calls to mobile developers, starting with iOS devs.
“I think this is going to be even bigger (than the previous VoIP Twilio service) because there are so many compelling use cases and activities around mobile application development,” Thomas Schiavone, Product Manager at Twilio told me.
Schiavone said the SDK could be used in gaming apps to help competing players communicate in real time or through voice messages. Or a commerce company could use it to add customer service support to their shopping apps. Perhaps, a developer could build a social phone connected to Facebook and Twitter that allows people to just dial using names. A call center could just arm its workers with an app and an iPad to handle calls. Twilio Client for iOS offers support for presence detection and also has tap-to-call features within apps that can feed information to CRM, advertising or analytic partners.
So far, 2,000 of Twilio’s 75,000 developers have signed up for Twilio’s mobile SDK beta program. Pricing will remain the same as the previous VoIP offering: a quarter of a cent per minute. Not every app will be able to add this functionality but it’s going to be interesting to see what kind of added pressure this pust on the existing mobile voice business of carriers. Operators are already seeing more pressure from VoIP alternatives and they’re testing out their own VoIP options. Now, there’s going to be even more need to figure out how to move forward in a world in which all kinds of apps will have cheap VoIP calling.