Apple will allow VoIP over WiFi
If there’s one thing we were hoping to get from yesterday’ iPhone SDK event, it was VoIP support. I really didn’t expect Apple to support VoIP, as their agreement with AT&T is already showing its weaknesses, and letting customers forgo the network entirely seemed unlikely. Luckily, Apple went ahead and proved us all wrong, announcing that developers would have access to VoIP technology over WiFi on the iPhone.
What’s the catch? Apple will only allow VoIP to function if the iPhone is connected to a WiFi network, so it won’t work over EDGE. Basically, what this does is prevent AT&T customers from transforming their unlimited data plan into an unlimited phone plan. Despite that limitation, it’s nice to see Apple addressing a common request from developers and customers.
There is no app that allows the use of a cellular network’s data connection (be it Edge or 3G) for VoIP voice transmission in the US today. Besides the bandwidth issues, the latency inherent with these networks is too high to allow an acceptable phone conversation. So this limitation is not a really huge deal.
The bigger limitation is that the SDK does not allow third-party apps to run in the background. This makes it difficult to keep your phone available for incoming VoIP calls. As soon as you switch to any other application, your iPhone’s registration with the VoIP server would be lost.
We are working on a solution, however, and are reasonably optimistic.
I’ll admit, I was wrong about this and IM. It’s cool of Apple to allow it.