Today I’m testing a new service/software from iSkoot that you can install on your cell phone to make free calls to skype users, and some of the other skype technology. With iSkoot, Skype, a VoIP technology (VoIP is “Voice over IP” and simply put = voice over the internet) has been made to work with your mobile phone.
The iSkoot technology works in what I think is a bit of a roundabout manner. When you place a call, their software determines what local access point worldwide to direct your call to. Then, your phone dials out (via a regular cell phone call) to an iSkoot server which connects to skype to complete the rest of the connection to your destination phone number.
The quick & dirty:
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- You register on iSkoot.com and download the software that is compatible with your phone. There is a list of phones that will work here.
- Download their software directly to your phone from the link in the SMS message they send you
- Set up your login info for skype on your cell phone
- Call someone
Why it rocks:
User-friendly (at least compared to the others we’ve tried) Good Voice Quality Cheaper than “regular” international calls
Why it bites:
Uses switched phone network – should bypass it completely Their model will sustain costs to them for additional servers, etc. and therefore we guess there will be an additional expense on top of skype charges for users Uses your voice minutes in your cell plan Potential for roaming/long dist charges on your phone
Seat-of-the-pants rating: 6 out of 10
Long Winded Version:
The philosophy of using skype over your cell phone service’s data network is great, but there can be some challenges. One of the most important factors is cellular data speed, which varies greatly here in the US depending on your carrier.
iSkoot circumvents that data speed issue by making the initial connection to a server that is connected to the voice network via a regular cell phone call. However, this method opens you up to potential long distance charges to that server since you don’t know what number that will be until it makes the call. This means you will be charged at least minutes by your provider, if not long distance and potentially roaming charges, especially if you’re in another country and have not rented a sim card.
But that’s missing the whole point of VoIP, right? In my mind, it should be free or at least very cheap voice calls over a data network. And for travelers, the iSkoot service just doesn’t stack up. We need simple, reliable, and predictable. While iSkoot is both simple and appears to be reliable, the predictability is all over the place when you have to rent sim cards, potentially dial long distance numbers or be subject to roaming charges.
Using this at home where all you have to pay for is minutes and skype charges (if any) could work well. Just don’t try to take it with you on your around the world trip and think it’s going to be simple. You’re better off buying just a regular skype wifi phone which will cost you more, but be less of a headache.