You probably thought it already existed but Skype has just released a software client that runs on Symbian and Nokia S60 handsets. Skype is planning to enhance this version by porting it to other Symbian phones such as those from Sony Ericsson. Crucially it will work over a mobile data connexion (GPRS, EDGE and3G) as well as Wi-fi.
Given that Informa Telecoms and Media reckons there are some 200 million Nokia handsets in existence that could run this app, that's a big leap in potential users. Nokia is obviously using this to promote the fact that apps can be downloaded from its Ovi store. However, if you visit Skype here, then you can get the correct URL sent to you as a text. That enables you to download the Skype client direct to your handset and in doing so cuts out Ovi.
The big question is, will some operators try to block Skype as they did with Truphone, for example? Apparently Vodafone UK isn't doing so since Techeye managed to make a Skype Out voice call to another UK mobile via the data connexion. It was even more impressive since the SIM card in question doesn't actually have voice calls enabled.
Of course, placing such calls affects your Skype out credit and you may have to pay data charges, too, if you're not on the right tariff. Plus you can send texts, too. Theoretically, you can save money on calls and texts while abroad. However, the biggest savings will probably come by placing voice calls to overseas telephone numbers. This client does appear to support Skype In as well since the blurb says you can receive calls to an existing online number.
It's obvious that Nokia really does view this new Skype client as helping Ovi out. " We're seeing around 1.5 million downloads a day on Ovi Store now and believe that the Skype client for Nokia smartphones will have wide appeal to Symbian users," commented Jo Harlow, a vp with Nokia.
Techeye asked 3 UK how it viewed this development given its extremely close relationship with Skype and the fact that free Skype calls form a major part of its marketing drive. Particularly since 3 even has a dedicated 'Skypephone' handset. David Kerrigan, head of Internet services at 3 UK, commented, "We welcome the release of the Skype client for Symbian devices via the Nokia Ovi Store. While 3 customers don't need this application as we already make Skype freely available for all Symbian phones, broader availability of Skype for mobiles is a positive step."
So 3 UK actually welcomes the move as it will not only serve to highlight its own Skype offerings but it will enable 3 users to call more mobile phones without the need for 3 to pay termination charges to the other mobile network. Kerrigan continued, "We've spent years developing the optimum mobile experience for Skype in a way that means we can offer it on a completely free and unlimited basis"
He pointed out that anyone interested in trying mobile Skype can put a 3Pay As You Go SIM into any unlocked 3G handset and download 3's Skype software for free. Skype on 3 requires no top-up and incurs no data charges. A list of compatible phones can be found here.