We don’t follow Android as closely as we probably should, so this is news to us: Today’s USA Today says that Google is using an entirely different VoIP neutering strategy at the behest of Tmobile. AT&T forbids Apple from allowing VoIP applications from running on their network. T-Mobile makes Android use theirs according to the report.
Apple does allow VoIP applications over Wifi (or at least they had until Google Voice came along), esentially because AT&T doesn’t control any part of that ecosystem. For instance, should Apple kill Google Voice functionality on the iPod touch because AT&T doesn’t want it on the iPhone?
Strangely, Tmobile/other carriers are forcing Google’s Android to take an entirely different approach. Instead of allowing full Skype VoIP access on Android, they are only allowing Skype Lite to work on the device. Skype Lite works a bit like Google Voice – which requires Skype to go over Tmobile’s voice line – which incurs voice minutes and often negates the benefits of VoIP.
Also, FYI, Tmobile doesn’t allow the Skype application to work in countries where it carries the iPhone.
This policy might even be worse than AT&T…which is why Google is now being investigated by the FCC as well.
Android "does not support a full-featured version of Skype," Skype told USA TODAY. "In order to make Skype available on Android devices, as well as hundreds of other regular mobile phones, we designed Skype Lite."In a statement prepared for USA TODAY, Google acknowledged that it "has the ability to filter," or block, VoIP. The search giant said it does that "at the request" of individual operators. Right now, there are just two Android devices in the USA: the G1 and MyTouch, both sold by T-Mobile.
Google’s explanation would seem to suggest that T-Mobile requested the block on Skype, but the carrier says that’s not the case. "T-Mobile has not asked Google to block that service," says spokesman Joe Farren, referring to original Skype.Google says the latest version of Android for developers would support full VoIP, but no developer has submitted an app.
It is good to see that the FCC is opening up the inquiry to the whole industry and not singling out Apple/AT&T. We’re pretty sure Verizon and Sprint could use a good looking over too.
Update: Andry Rubin of Google wants to clarify that the USA Today might have been speculating without cause (and takes a second to jab at the Apple/AT&T situation:
I wanted to briefly set the record straight about an inaccurate claim in Friday’s USA Today. The article stated:
"Consumers who use Android, the Google-developed operating system for wireless devices, can’t use Skype, a leading Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. A pioneer in free Internet calling, Skype allows you to talk as long as you want without draining cellphone minutes."
Here are the facts, clear and simple: While the first generation of our Android software did not support full-featured VoIP applications due to technology limitations, we have worked through those limitations in subsequent versions of Android, and developers are now able to build and upload VoIP services.
While individual operators can request that certain applications be filtered if they violate their terms of service, USA Today is wrong to say that:
"Google’s explanation would seem to suggest that T-Mobile requested the block on Skype, but the carrier says that’s not the case. "T-Mobile has not asked Google to block that service," says spokesman Joe Farren, referring to original Skype."
As we told USA Today earlier in the week Google did not reject an application from Skype or from any other company that provides VoIP services. To suggest otherwise is false. At this point no software developer — including Skype — has implemented a complete VoIP application for Android. But we’re excited to see — and use — these applications when they’re submitted, because they often provide more choice and options for users. We also look forward to the day when consumers can access any application, including VoIP apps, from any device, on any network.