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Using the iPhone for VoIP

Updated on July 1, 2010

The iPhone - Fettered?

The iPhone is probably the single most popular handset in history. As such, it's a case study for many issues that still existed before, but never really shot into the limelight. One such example is the use of mobile phones for VoIP applications.

VoIP has been viewed by carriers with a mixture of dread and apprehension. They're not sure whether they can leverage it properly and at the same time, they're afraid of it messing up their status quo. Apple was also unique in insisting that they approve every application before it becomes public.

In this environment, many wondered how Apple/AT&T would react to the "Skype" application for VoIP. After all, here was an application that bypassed the need to use AT&T completely using a legitimate Internet connection that was already available. The outcome didn't really surprise anyone. Apple prevented Skype from using the "Always on" Internet connection - relegating its usage to wifi only.

However, the FCC viewed this a violation and began investigations into the matter. After a while, when it became obvious that the issue wasn't about to just go away, Apple finally allowed VoIP on the iPhone using the regular "Edge" Internet connection.


There are many VoIP applications for the iPhone now
There are many VoIP applications for the iPhone now

So what are the options now?

There are now literally dozens of VoIP applications that can run on the iPhone. If you have a business VoIP service from a provider, you need to find an application that allows you to connect using the SIP protocol. Skype unfortunately doesn't allow you to do this since they use their own proprietary "Skype" protocol.

But the plethora of VoIP applications on mobile phones have made it quite difficult to choose one that suits your needs. Most of the VoIP applications on the iPhone are paid apps and one can't go around trying out each one. In a series of articles, we will be reviewing various mobile applications for VoIP that will help users figure out which clients match their requirements.

Limitations

One limitation that hasn't yet been fully addressed is multitasking. However, the latest iPhone 4 comes close enough and you can use applications and receive notifications from VoIP apps at the same time. This is much more like a real mobile phone - and indeed, one can hardly tell the difference.

On a side note, users who have an iPod touch can still use the wifi along with headphones and a microphone to make calls. This won't do for regular usage obviously, but might just cut it in a pinch!

The days of VoIP have truly arrived.

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