Skype the voiceoverInternet company is now directly offering mobile phones to go with its free Internet calling. The company introduced four new Skypecompatible WiFi handsets. These are the first phones directly from Skype.
The phones are being manufactured by four different companies: Belkin EdgeCore Netgear and SMC. They operate when in the presence of a WiFi hotspot do not require a computer connection and automatically synchronize with a Skype account. The phones also include several Skype features such as enabling the user to take Skype Contacts with them and see who is available to talk.
The phones are expected to be available in this quarter and will be sold directly from Skype online. Prices range from $ to $.
Some industry observers see this development as leading to a wide variety of WiFi phones. "We're going to see improvements in quality types and ease of use for these kinds of phones" said Will Stofega an analyst with technology research firm IDC.
He said the market may offer more choices of dualmode phones with both WiFi/VOIP and cellular service. "There are some dualmode phones currently" he said "but they're expensive." It would be at least another year he said before more reasonablypriced dualmode phones are available.
Stofega said Skypecompatible WiFi phones other kinds of WiFi phones and dualmode phones might continue to coexist with cell phones for the indefinite future. "It's rarely eitheror" he said. "You might want to carry your Skype WiFi phone while you're traveling to save money" he said "but you might want to keep your regular cell for other times."
WiFi Market Booming
The WiFi phone market is booming. A recent Infonetics Research report said the market has increased by % between and to about $ million. There are other Skypecompatible WiFi phones such as one from Linksys as well as noncompatible WiFi phones.
Skype's competition in the VOIP market is heating up as well and a tech blog VOIPWIKI BLOG recently reported that Skypecompatible software has been cloned.
Skype offers free calling to any user in the world who is connected to a computer or a Skype WiFi phone with an additional fee required to talk to landline phones or mobile phones. In May Skype announced that any calls within the U.S. and Canada to any kind of phone would be free.