As we’ve all heard by now, Skype Mobile is coming soon to Verizon’s Blackberry and Android phones. It sounds good, but how does it compare to Google Voice (GV) and why isn’t Verizon pushing Google Voice with the same enthusiasm?
Presumably, the Skype deal involves Skype giving Verizon a cut of the revenue earned selling Skype services to Verizon customers. Otherwise, there would probably be no deal. Skype has always been snubbed by carriers, but they’ve finally figured out how to get in the door… by paying the man! Meanwhile, Google has managed to leverage its Android operating system to get GV distributed.
Okay, Verizon is happy, Skype is happy and Verizon users can now call other Skype users for free so they are happy too. This appears to be the main benefit to Verizon users, calling other Skype users… while those being called are at their PC or have the app running on their smartphone. Sure, there are millions of Skype users saving billions of dollars calling internationally, and for these people it will give them the added benefit of calling from their Android phone, but for all other calling within the US and internationally (calling from the US), GV is the less expensive alternative… and with 100% Android integration.
Before going into detail on the cost savings, let’s first look at how Skype Mobile is being implemented for Verizon and how it is different. Skype is a voice over IP (VOIP) service that traditionally allows calling over the internet rather than the public switched telephone network (PSTN). All other mobile Skype apps on various mobile phones use the carrier’s data service rather than the voice service, i.e. does not use minutes. However, in the case of “Skype Mobile”, Verizon is carrying Skype calls, using its voice network, from the smartphone to Skype’s VOIP gateways and Skype routes the call to the destination over the internet. In doing so, Verizon is requiring a voice plan (and data plan), but has wisely chosen not to deduct minutes for Skype Mobile calls.
Wow, this sounds great! It doesn’t use monthly plan minutes, but to call someone on their cell or home number, users need to buy Skype credit for the minutes used. Sounds like a pre-paid cell plan, but I digress. It’s not that Skype Mobile is a bad deal, in fact it’s a real good deal for “Unlimited US/Canada” calling for only $3 per month. What makes it unattractive is that GV with a Friends & Family plan allows for unlimited calls (at least to the US) for free… without the $3/mo charge.
By simply setting the GV access number as a F&F number, users can make unlimited outbound calls without deducting from one’s monthly plan minutes. Of course, taking advantage of this requires a 900-minute individual plan or 1400-minute family plan whereas using Skype Mobile will not, hopefully. This may leave Verizon users wondering if it might be more cost effective to use Skype Mobile exclusively, opting for the least expensive, lowest minute voice plan. This plan blows up pretty fast after thinking it through, however.
Skype Mobile cannot be used exclusively the same way GV can to save monthly cell charges. Attempting to call regular numbers would generally require the use of caller ID and a Skype ‘Online Number’ for $60 per year. This doesn’t sound too bad, but here’s the kicker… using the Skype number means users will be receiving SMS at this number and according to Skype’s published SMS rates, sending SMS to/from US cell numbers is 11 cents per message. That’s $55 for 500 messages. Therefore, Skype Mobile may only be viable for calling other Skype users. For those with elaborate Skype networks, this is great news. For all other calls, Google Voice is still king.
While GV is great for Verizon users, what about the other major US carriers? AT&T has its A-List, same deal. As for T-Mobile, the original Android carrier, there are probably over 100,000 Nexus One users and hopefully many have a MyFaves account. Those who signed a new contract, thus giving up the My Faves feature, are not able to take advantage of GV to the same degree. Sprint? Well, Sprint doesn’t have a F&F equivalent, but users may already have an unlimited plan or plenty of minutes, which would make GV unappealing anyway. For international calling, GV is still a viable option, however.
When comparing international rates, GV is cheaper to nearly every destination by varying amounts anywhere from 5% to 50% or more. When calling more popular countries using GV, an across-the-board comparison shows calling land lines will cost 5-15% less while calling mobile numbers will cost 20-50% less. Be sure to check rates (for Swype and for Google Voice) for the country you are calling or see this comparison chart. There are, in fact, a few exceptions where Skype is cheaper. They are: Belgium, Austria, Chile and the Czech Republic -2.1 cents per minute using Skype vs. 3 cents using GV. Calling Finland is 3.1 cents per minute vs. 5 cents using GV. Sounds insignificant, but the savings percentage is 43% and 61% respectively.
Verizon deserves a round of applause for opening the door to a VOIP app even if it isn’t VOIP in the truest sense. Skype Mobile will serve avid Skype users very well and bring in more customers. This is good for users and good for competition making Skype Mobile a great companion to Google Voice. Meanwhile, we await Google’s integration of Gizmo5 or will it remain on the back burner?